Getting It Right

red-inked manuscript

(C) 2008 Nic McPhee, used under Creative Commons

Northcoast Shakedown and Second Hand Goods were edited. Road Rules and Bad Religion were heavily beta read.  Now, as I prepare to publish Gypsy’s Kiss, the final Nick Kepler story, I need to see how to handle that. To that end, I’ve started speaking with an editor.

The rates are extremely reasonable, and I’m already familiar with the lady’s work. So it’s not like I scraped the bottom of the barrel to find a starving college student.

This part really concerned me as Gypsy will likely not see traditional publication. I also have two novellas and a novel written as Dick that need editing.

I’m not naming names yet as we haven’t agreed to rates or even figured out what work the manuscript needs. There were two that I wanted to hire, but I could not justify the expense. (It would be money well-spent, just hard to explain to the wife when we have car payments, a mortgage, liquor tab utlilities, etc. to pay.) The first was Seattle freelance editor and writer Jim Thomsen. (And I highly recommend him just based on some editing advice he’s given me over time.) The other was Bryon Quertermous, who went freelance for a while after Exhibit A Books folded. I know both by work and by reputation, and if I was selling more copies, I’d have likely picked Jim for the Kepler and possibly Holland Bay (Historical fiction writer Brian Thornton stepped up in a barter deal for that.) and Bryon for Dick’s scifi adventures as Bryon used to do work for an SF imprint. (Incidentally, Bryon, if you’re still taking clients, by all means, chime in.)

I still want to work with these guys at some point, but the pump needs to be primed. Good editing is an investment and not something you want to do on the cheap.  I’ve found someone with proven ability who is building a client list. So it’s a convergence of needs. What would I have done if I didn’t have this opportunity?

Barter. Heavy beta reads. Sometimes, you have to do that. The reality is that indie pub is, as Chuck Wendig puts it, a shit volcano. There are things you can do to make your work standout: Good covers, social media blitz and blog touring, recruiting street teams, etc. But in the end, you have to write a good story. I’ve heard a few people question the value of freelance editing, including a couple of once-successful midlisters who should know better. (They’re not exactly hurting going independent.) I’ve taken it as a given that the worst person to edit or even proofread something is the person who wrote the work. Too much of the work is still in your head, and we can’t read your mind.

Heavy beta reads can work. They got Road Rules into an agent’s hands and a couple of sniffs away from publication. But full editing, be it developmental or copy/line editing, is better. An editor is tasked with taking what you wrote and making it do what you wanted it to do better. The best editors are like Rick Rubin, producer extraordinaire, who makes suggestions and lets his artists handle the creative heavy lifting. This has let him work with everyone from Johnny Cash to the Beastie Boys to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A good editor does not rewrite your work. They tell you what needs rewritten, cut, added.But you’re the one that does it and fixes the rest so the changes fit seamlessly. It should be that way. It’s your work. They show you how to be you better than you were before.