Friday, July 30, 2010

Early Readers, Editors Worth Gold

Wat the Editor Know

Recently, I read this line on a chat group I hang with: An editor who does not charge is not a true editor. That sort of logic if taken to writing would say that an artist or writer or composer is not a true WHATEVER unless he or she is making money at it; unless and editor is making money at editing, he or she is not a real editor. This sort of snobbery has existed in NYC book business forever as they pay editors so well (HA!). I have had many many editors, some who woud place a comma between many many and some who would not, and I have as yet to find one properly compensated by anyone. I have also operated my own editorial services (Knife Services) from my website, and I charge half or a third of what some editors charge, and lately, the business is slow as molasses.

No one wants to pay for editing services. To this I can attest. To qualify that, few want to pay for editing services, but one way or another every author needs a great editor or two or three in order to truly get a MS to sing.

An editor for your work is worth his or her weight in gold, even if he or she edits your work for nothing but the opportunity and "privilege" and charge you nada...for no charge. Despite the line this blog began with, there are capable and surprisingly fine editors among those who do not charge a fee; I know because I have availed myself of some excellent editorial help at no charge over the years. These people are my early readers. People I have cultivated a strong friendship with as a result of our making great books together, people who wind up in my acknowledgment pages.

It may upset some pricey editors (some priced at ten dollars a page if you can imagine it) to hear such talk from a professional writer and published author, but I have relied all my life and career on people who have a sixth sense about what works and what does not work in a manuscript, items you want OUT before the MS goes to press or release to Kindle or Smashwords or wherever you are publishing nowadays.

My Children of Salem, my highest grossing Kindle title, was put through the grist mill by two editors in particular who suffered and struggled with me like Jonah and the Whale until we GOT it. My work in progress, Titanic 2012 has had the tremendous help of two editors in particular who have wrestled that one to the mat where they MAKE me wring out rather than ring out the right words and save me countless embarrssing moments as well as point out plot weaknesses and sags. They are simultaneously copyeditors and developmental editors these folks.

I go back as far as 1965 or 6 working with my Wells High School managing editor on the school newspaper for editorial advice, and damn but she was good with langauge and writing; one lesson she taught me then stayed with me all my writing career - Acitve over Passive. I get cudos for making my work "compelling, fast-paced, a page-turning roller-coaster ride" etc. etc. due in great part to my editorial board -- and now that I am a writer turned publisher putting out Original to Kindle titles, I rely even more on my early readers, my editorial board. They have recently truly impressed me, digging damn deep to make the work the best it can be to the point it is no longer about me but the novel itself that comes first. Of course, it helps that the publishing industry has long, long ago beat the living ego out of me.

My apologies to those who consider themselves legitimate editors because they charge a fee, whether fair or exorbitant, but sorry as I am, I must say that there are people who are not just willing to be early readers for an author but who become invaluable editors an author can and does TRUST, often just as much as he trusts an editor within a publishing house or with a logo. I love editors, love them all, and feel they all deserve a raise but the practice of authors cultivating two, three, four early readers is not likely to stop but increase as we go to press as Indie author-publishers. Certainly been the case with me, but then I had always cultivated early readers. By the same token, over the years, I have learned a great deal from my contacts with all editors, those who were paid--even if poorly by the publsihing house--and those who have graced me with thier help out of the goodness of heart and understanding and unfettered desire to be a part of the process of creation.

Sneak peek of Children of Salem and/or Titanic 2012 is available at

Thanks so much for coming by and do leave a comment, good, bad, ugly, indifferent but leave some word....

Robert W. Walker (Rob to my friends)


Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Thanks for writing this in plain English and not as an editorial or commercial. It helped me to understand some things I questioned.
Giggles and Gunsx

Norman Wilson said...

You vent so well. I know what you mean about the 'snob' appeal. I wish had had the wisdom to cultivate a good editor years ago. Save me a lot of headaches.

Morgan Mandel said...

No matter what you do, there's always people out there who think they're better.

I for one like people who don't think they know everything. There's always room to learn.

Morgan Mandel

Rob Walker said...

I had a NY editor once write a note addressed to the acquisitions editor and it was left in with the MS when it came back to me... It read: This guy needs all the help he can get. Well I called up my acquisitions editor and said yes, I am Hemingway, I know I need all the help I can get." So where are the MAX editors?

Honestly, since I have had to find my own editorial board, I have had far more congeniality and better editing in the long run. My early readers may get snarky but it is always mixed with humor and a gentle touch. I grew up in inner city Chicago and not with a silver spoon in my mouth, so yeah, I did not get a decent early education as survival was uppermost in my mind in those days...but somehow I got into the back door of Northwestern University and an pretty much self-taught on many areas where even my college professors could not convey the answers to WHY...why this and not that in language.
Not until I discovered Transformational Grammar in college did any of that stuff make any damn sense. Finally able to visualize how language constructs itself and builds on itself whereas all my earlier teachers DEconstructed sentences, this linguistic look at how sentence get crafted changed my whole outlook.

thanks everyone for the comments!