Now that my vacation is over, I’m switching back to my series of RT 2015 inspired discussion posts. These are thoughts that were inspired by specific panels, or by books from RT, or just by random passing things that happened there. So far, I’ve written posts on Faith in Blogging, Reading and Writing Diversity and how meeting an author makes you so much more eager to read their books. I love that events like this help me to think critically about books, blogging and the publishing world in general!
Today’s post is about editing in the self-published world. I attended a really informative class called Your Proofreader Is Not Your Editor, which I thought gave some fantastic information, but I left feeling like it was a bit unrealistic when it came to the self-publishing world. (It was run by an editor at Carina Press, who did a fantastic job and is obviously very knowledgeable – but perhaps not so much on the realities of self-publishing?)
First off, let me say that I am a firm believer that self-published authors should hire an editor. Of course, I’m a little bit biased because I am an editor (and I work with self-published authors), but I truly believe that you can tell the difference between a book that’s gone through the editing process and one that hasn’t. We’ve all read self-published books that have definitely been lacking and thought, This author could have had a great book if they’d only hired an editor!
Most of the time, though, when people are lamenting the fact that a self-published book hasn’t been edited, they’re really complaining that it hasn’t been proofread (or at least copy edited).
There are actually four stages of editing (and I took these stages directly from the class, though they’re pretty standard, even if not everyone knows their names):
Developmental Edit – This is the stage where true editing is done. A good developmental editor will help the author with things like voice, consistency, plot holes, timeline issues, pacing – and they’ll point out the good things in the story too! The editor will point out places where the story could be strengthened or the characterization could be solidified. The editor is NOT just looking for grammatical and spelling mistakes. Often the Developmental Edit is done simultaneously with the Line Edit (the next stage).
Line Edit – Like I said, this is often done at the same time as the Developmental Edit (even in the traditional publishing world). This is where the editor helps the author with awkward phrasing, POV shifts, misused words, overused words, etc.
Copy Edit – The third stage of editing is where the eye for detail comes in. This is where all of the little punctuation and grammar errors get fixed and any remaining issues with misused words and such get caught.
Proofreading – Proofreading is really just a final read after formatting has been done to make sure that nothing has been missed or introduced in the editing process (you’d be surprised how often the accept/reject changes process introduces little issues like skipped words, etc.). The proofreader actually shouldn’t have all that much to do!
Now, here’s where I thought that the panel got a bit unrealistic for self-published authors. The editor who ran the panel said that you should have separate people for these jobs (well, the developmental edit and line edit could be done by the same person, but there should be a separate copy editor and proofreader). I definitely understand where she was coming from – and in an ideal world this would be true, but I just can’t see it being all that practical for most self-published authors because of the costs involved. I would love it if I could say, “I do developmental and line editing only, and you’ll have to go to someone else to make sure that all of those commas are in the right places.” (Let’s face it, the nitty gritty details are the least fun, right?) But I don’t think most authors would go for that – and I don’t really expect them to. The costs quoted also seemed like they’d be pretty disheartening to most self-published authors – I think that she mentioned that a good developmental editor would cost somewhere around $1000 for a 90,000 word book (which seems high to me). I know you get what you pay for and all, but I would imagine that most self-published authors were thinking at around that time, $1000 PLUS the cost for a copy editor and a proofreader?
It just doesn’t seem feasible.
When I edit, I do all of these stages myself (though I do have my mom do a final proofread in addition to myself – just for a second set of eyes). I usually read the book through once to get an overall feel for it, then do the developmental and line edits in a first pass (with some copy editing thrown in – I can’t just ignore incorrect punctuation – it goes against the very grain of my soul!). And then I do a second pass after the author has made edits based on my feedback (sometimes this ends up going back and forth a couple of times). Then there’s a final read-through for the proofread (which I do on my Kindle, so it’s as much like “regular” reading as possible). This means I read the book at least three times. I admit it – in an ideal world, someone else would do those last steps for me. But then I’d have to pay them, which would mean I’d have to charge more.