Saturday, July 10, 2010

Any Editing/Vetting Opportunities in the Kindle Error? Era?

With ebook publishing opening up whole new avenues and revenues for Indie author/publishers like myself (2000 books sold in past 2 months), it SHOULD open up whole new avenues and revenues for Indie Book Editors! Why not? It has spawned a whole new business of Cover Art graphic experts, and experts at manuevering the digital platform requirements and html conversion work, so why not more editors?

I recieved (i before e except after c sometimes?) a request from a nice person other day asking me of all people "How does one succeed as an editor in the world of book publishing?" when in fact, I am possibly perhaps maybe the worst person to ask this of, but since "Nice Person" asked, I did not want to simply say, "I'm like the worst person to ask".  Instead I wrote the following, which took some doing, which makes me a nice fellow too (insert a Lewis Black wink here).

Who makes more errors in a manuscript than I? Further for Farther, lay for lie, YOU'RE for YOUR, suit for suite and suite for sweet even. At any rate, I have had some experience with teachiing, speechifying, editing, proofing, rewriting, rethinking, restructuring manuscripts (40 some odd years) so here is what I had to say in response to Nice Person's inquiry:

First, I thought sure, dear, you were going to talk about some errors you found in Children of Salem--whew! Dodged that bullet. There is hardly a work of fiction or nonfiction that could not use yet another vetting as errors are like gremlins....they exist, they are real, they are everywhere!!! Boo! No matter how many times I editr...errr edit my own work, and send it to others to edit, something slips through....and quite often it is an error while fixing an error.

Now about making a living as an editor, especially freelancing it....this is a horribly tough row to hoe. There are some fine, wonderful editors available that I have found willy-nilly online just by happenstance and trial and error. But my first editor was a great friend who was Chief Overall Editor on my high school newspaper at Wells High, Chicago--and I still use lessons learned from Margaret Givhan such as work in active voice as much as humanly possible. So there is that. You may have people close to you who can do more than simply say of your book, "That's nice."

 I also have been so put upon over the years since '79 by New York City publishing copyeditors that I had to soak up some truths about writing and rewriting.  I have also become an editor myself and have proofed and ghost written my share of books via my Knife Services found at my website.

However, for the past year that business has absolutely dried up for me, despite the praise I get from clients. It is a gift that goes unrewarded and extremely hard to convert into funds. Most editors purely love the work, but unless attached to a magazine, a publishing house, working with a college PR department, or a PR division of a company or other group for steady work, there simply is nothing steady about freelance work. In short, one can starve worse than the writer starves while building a clientele.

Building a clientele can take years and look at me--no gaurantee of work the next day, week, month. I liken it to being a novelist or freelance writer. Complete uncertainty as to where the next job will come from. So I do not paint a pretty picture here.

With the onslaught of "Indie Author/Publishers" coming into being due to Smashwords, Kindle, and many other avenues open to writers today, this picture I paint above ought to change for editors hungry for work; in fact, the Kindle 'revolution' ought to open up whole new doors for editors as it has for a plethora of people now charging to do cover art and/or to place work up on digital platforms such as Kindle ( for the uninitiated.

Editors ought to be in extremly high wingnut demand (one reason they are often not in demand is the hubris of writers who think they don't need an editor! Fools that they be!). If I were seriously going to pursue an editing career as a young person today, I would go out into this Brave New M-M-Marketplace Online, and this means find where authors hang out online at such places like  and of course , the Kindle Boards at Amazon, various other Yahoo groups. I would Boogle...ah Goofle...ah Google for more places and introduce myself as the person who can make a Kindle title perfect in diction and detail before the author's GAFFs are speread to the forewinds of internet publishing. I would Play Up the fact that it is a well known that kindle readers are immediately turned off and will not return to an author whose work is not perfectly polished, and that a great editor is as important as great artwork, great title, great expert advice on guns, and a great resource librarian. That vetting and editing the book is essential.

I likely scare people off with my style of advertising for editing work with my "complete book autopsy" talk, and talk of slabs and dissecting the work. I mean who wants to go under the knife and do you have the guts, etc. By the same token, an editor needs a logo and a motto and advertising savvy as any other business on the web. Turn your editing business into a metaphor for instance of sewing, knit-one, pearl-two..."We keep you in stitches" or "We do great seems, ah seams, ah scenes!"

In any event, it is difficult to get people to part with money for any service but particularly editing. I think many people see it as the last item to spend money on...kind of like having to pay for air to put in your tires. Sorry but that is the sad truth aka reality of it...a reality that people who love editing deal with every day.

Now as to pricing: it is all over the map. The high end editors who worked at one time for NYC publishers often are out of sight at six or more dollars per page, or they will bill by the hour and you can 'take it or lump it' as they say. The average bill I see is four an hour, but I have known at least one NYC based editor charging eight dollars a page! No one, in my opinion, rates that but some people buy their coffee at Starbucks too, thinking the higher the price, the better the quality, and I don't get that. Certainly not true with price of books on Kindle! All my titles are 2.99 save for 3 books I don't control.

The average at low end is 3 bucks per page and I have charged in the past as as much as 5 and as little as 2.50 per page depending on difficulty of the work. Some jobs mean a near ghost writing effort, some develop into ghost writing! while others are a breeze. I never charged by the hour, because it sets up all kinds of questions in the client's mind as to how you do your bookkeeping, can I really trust you, etc., whereas in charging by the page everything is out in the open.

I routinely work with first chapter or first 30 pages before committing to the entire novel or book--like the one entirely from the point of view of a Bonsai tree (client has passed away, so I figure it is OK to speak of it here and will not be attacked by a lawsuit). This way either party can back out if unhappy with the circumstances--as in: you learn too late that you're dealing with someone on a certain medication that makes her think herself an angel or worse!

I hope this has been of some help, and that it has provided you with some guidance, and wish I could be more upbeat about it. Still perhaps the new avenue for writers--ebook publising--will open up new avenues for editors as well it SHOULD!  Thanks -- and happy writing, editing, vetting all...

Rob Walker
Children of Salem, Killer Instinct, Cutting Edge

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she
meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again." Rick Polito's
single-sentence summation for the Wizard of Oz.


Morgan Mandel said...

First I have to finish those darn books percolating in my head and partially started. Crazy how I get new ideas to distract me while in the midst of trying to finish a book.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

I happens to most of us, Morgan, which is probably how the "spin-off" got started. :)

Jean Henry Mead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norman Wilson said...

I find your article entertaining and informative. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is always appreciated.

Hitch said...

Hey, Rob:

I have to say that my experience has been almost exactly the opposite; yes, there is a plethory of new, errr, "writers;" but not only are they apparently immune to the concept that they require editing, when on rare occasion they admit that such an unthinkable thing could be possible, they want it for about $1.50 a page, TOPS.

I had a developmental editing gig--well, maybe that was the problem, the master genius behind the thing thought it needed proofing, whereas it badly needed developmental editing--for which I was barely paid, and then to add insult to injury, he blithely ignored all the hard work replacing homonyms, et cetera. Gack!

I think I'm going to stick to producing lovely ebooks; at least then I don't have to argue about whether "there" and "their" and "they're" are actually interchangeable. Or why it really isn't "would of." - Hitch (

Maryannwrites said...

There are a host of freelance editors over at The Blood Red Pencil blog and most of them are charging on the low end.I still find that writers are reluctant to pay. Probably for all the reasons mentioned in the post and the comments. I am a professional editor, but I will still pay someone to edit my work in progress when it is finished. No matter how good we think we are at this writing and editing, we need a fresh eye to look over our work.

Sharon K. Garner said...

Great post, Rob. I do editing for writers who are planning to self-publish. When they see the Track Changes in their file, I often get an e-mail apology for all the errors they'd made! Fresh eyes on the work are a must. I always tell clients I'll miss something, and I always miss things in my own writing.
Sharon K. Garner

Kindle said...

This is a significant upgrade–particularly for those who use a notepad or task list eBook on their Kindle.