Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Editorials: Dos and Don'ts and Xmas Deadlines

Why is this time of the year so crazy busy? Each year I promise myself that next year will be better. And it NEVER is.  The problem is that here in New Zealand the long school holidays - a whole six weeks - coincide with the Christmas break, so not only is work closed, schools are also shut. This makes this time of the year a time of deadlines.

This post is about editing. I thought, rather than provide a long summary of What to Do, I would instead provide a list of Top Tips, in the hopes that you, dear reader, do not make the same mistakes as I. Because I am in a seasonal mood, you may find this list rather random. For this, I apologise.  If you have questions, feel free to post a question on twitter or Facebook. (Or here, if you must).

I've set this out as DIY editing - things to do yourself. Then suggestions on how to engage a professional.

DIY Manuscript Editing 

  1. I roughly follow the practise set out in this earlier series of blog posts. I do my first draft, set it aside for about six weeks, take a deep breath and then read it again. I start a new folder called Draft Two_Structure. 
  2. I move events and characters around to make sure the narrative flows. This is the Structural Edit and is filed in the new folder.  I set it aside for a few weeks.
  3. Take another look. Check for consistency, continuity. Word repetition, sentence structure, clarity. Changes go in another folder: Draft Three_Copy. 
  4. Set it aside again. After about two weeks I look at it. Now I consider at the whole thing. Is it any good? Do I like it? Characters make sense? Is it funny? Is the voice engaging? Does it read well? At that point, I find myself a critique partner. I make the changes he/she recommends. Decide on US or UK spelling. Do a spell-check. Set it aside again.
From Inky

Professional Editing

  1. Use as good an editor as you can afford. Do not try and do it yourself; do not try and cut corners. Smashwords says 'spend money on your editor before your cover'. Basically, if you're self publishing, you'll need an even better editor than a trad publishing house. That's partly because traditional publishers do a lot of vetting at the acquisitions stage, so there's less editorial requirements. It's also because reviewers do look very critically at indie books. You want as good a review as possible.
  2. With traditional publishing, you don't have to pay an editor - the publishing house does. But if you're self publishing you're now a quasi-employer. This comes with complications. Especially money ones. My editor lives in Australia; I do not. A small business-person who likes books, she doesn't have a paypal account. I can't pay her by credit card. This meant I had to figure out how to do an international transaction. Allow for foreign exchange and transaction fees in your budgeting.
  3. Stipulate your deadline to your editor. They need to know your urgency factor so they can juggle other jobs. If it is actually urgent, tell them. Publishing houses often have contracts and so on that enforce compliance. Usually, you won't, so you need to be very clear on your requirements. 
  4. Speaking of contracts: You can ask a lawyer to draw up an agreement, heck, you can draw one up yourself using an on line template. But even when I worked for a large government agency our editorial contracting was fairly adhoc. Common practise seems to be basically an email saying 'Can you do job X by time Y and I will pay you this much'. Technically, this is probably okay, although personally I think it's risky. But you don't want to alienate your amazing editor by insisting he/she signs an ten page agreement for a three hundred dollar job. Plus, it will cost you more than that in legal fees for the drafting. So just be aware that with editorial services it's probably wise to spell out your expectations, your time frame, your payment rates in advance and make sure your editor agrees to this in a return email. Editors usually appreciate this, too, as it offers them just as much protection as you.
  5. Most editors seem to charge per hour, although some charge per word count. If you have an editor on an hourly rate you might want to say 'I'll pay you up to a maximum of say ten hours and then if you need more than that, please let me know first.' That way you'll know in advance how much you'll have to spend.
  6. This might be obvious, but be POLITE to your editor. Apart from this being just ordinary human courtesy, remember you may wish to use their services again. In the self-employed sector, reputation is extremely important. If you develop a name for being hard to work with it's very possible you'll find it difficult to source good editors. 
  7. Good editors get booked up real fast. One way of finding a great editor is to keep an ear to the grapevine: which publishing houses are disestablishing their in-house editors? That way you may be able to grab an amazing editor who's just starting out as freelance, so is looking for clients. Fortunately for us indie authors, there's an awful lot of publishing houses doing just that. Failing that, ask your writing buddies. Usually they'll have a few people that they would recommend. (Sometimes, they won't. Sometimes they want to keep the good editors to themselves :))
  8. You might want to consider two editors. With Inner Fire I used a structural editor first, then used a copy editor to check for spelling errors/typos. I found this helpful, as after I'd looked at the manuscript so many times I couldn't spot the mistakes, but a fresh pair of eyes did. Alternatively, you can give the final(ish) manuscript to someone who's a really, really slow, critical, reader.  Although this can be problematic, especially if you don't appreciate their feedback, because at this stage in the game it is a little late to be making major changes.
  9. Then, BEFORE THE MANUSCRIPT IS FORMATTED FOR PRINT, do a final proofing. (I say this in capitals is because I never listen to myself.) The reason I emphasise this is because editing after the manuscript is formatted into a print-ready proof is expensive.  I ended up paying an extra $200.00 for CreateSpace to do exactly that. Check chapter headings are formatted consistently, that they are spelt correctly. Write your back matter (the bits after the book is finished, like 'About the Author') and your back cover description.
  10. You'll find things that need to be changed at each step in the process. There are always typos, always sentences that aren't right, often spelling mistakes. My editor at harperCollins told me once that it's impossible to be a hundred-percent error free. But ideally, you want to have as few mistakes as you can.