Last updated on May 4, 2017
Welcome to the first part of my new weekly series on methods that indie authors can use to save money on editing.
The first question that you might have is why would an editor want to tell an author how to save money on her services. The reasons are many, but here are just a few:
1. I am an author myself. I plan to self-publish the two novels that I am currently working on as well as those that come after. I understand how big that number can look when you get an estimate from an editor to polish up your manuscript (”Be nice to my baby!”). I have no desire to bankrupt writers just so they can publish books that won’t send readers away screaming about errors. (But I also know that most professional editors, myself included, charge reasonable fees with the goal of earning a comfortable, living wage.)
2. It’s more enjoyable for me. As an editor, I enjoy editing books that start out in better shape. If I’m not fixing things that it would have been easy for the author to fix, I get to really enjoy the story and concentrate on using those professional skills that I have spent years developing, unique skills that authors hire me for.
“But, hey, doesn’t that mean you’re charging me the same amount to do less work?!”
No, actually. Like many editors, I have a range of rates that I charge for each of my services. I charge per word. For manuscripts that are already well polished, I charge the lower end of the range. For manuscripts that are messy and will take me more time to clean up or analyze, I charge the upper rate of the range. Currently, there is a 1.5 cent per word difference between my lower and upper rates for copyediting. For an author, that could mean the difference between paying $750 for a clean 50,000 word manuscript and paying $1500 for a messy one.
3. It won’t take me as long to finish. If your manuscript is clean, I will spend less time on it. You will get it back faster, and I can accept another job during that time. So, instead of spending four weeks copyediting one messy manuscript, I can spend those same four weeks copyediting two clean ones, so I get to read more great books and interact with more wonderful authors. It’s a win–win, if you ask me.
The Value of Patience
So how, you might ask, will patience save me money on editing? When a manuscript is accepted by a publisher, it goes through a series of tried and true steps, only one of which is editing. If publishers skipped those steps, they might soon be out of business.
Take the same care with your own book. Make yourself a checklist of the steps that you think or know are necessary to create a great product. Yes, your book is a creation and a work of art, but if you want to sell it, you must also see it as a product. The makers of car seats and packaged foods pay dearly for skipping quality-assurance steps, and so do independent authors.
Almost everything that I will suggest to you in this series to save money on editing will require patience, but here are a couple that you can start with. I will cover more steps in future posts.
1. Don’t send your first draft to an editor. Let it sit for two to three months and then self-edit it. Trust me, after you haven’t laid eyes on your precious baby for a while, it won’t seem as precious, and you’ll be able to catch a lot of mistakes. Why pay an editor to do this part if you can do it yourself with just a little patience and space away from your manuscript?
Does this mean that I won’t take your money if you send me your first draft? Of course not. When we’re under contract, you are paying me to apply my skills to your book. I can do that anytime. If you want me to start earlier on in the process, I will, but I don’t recommend it.
“But, Janell, what am I supposed to do? I want to publish. I can’t just twiddle my thumbs for two or three months. I’ve got to get this baby on Amazon now!”
If you only plan to publish one book, you’ve probably been working on this book for a while. Two to three months in the long run will only make it better. For those of you who want to publish more than one novel, see point 2.
2. Establish a cycle. While manuscript one is “stewing,” start writing manuscript two. Getting all caught up in a new book is great for putting distance between you and the project that’s been consuming all of your energy for weeks (if you’re a NaNoWriMo style writer), months, or years. As an indie author, you also have other things you can take care of while your brain takes a much needed vacation from your first manuscript, especially once you have more than one book in the pipeline. You could be doing any of the following and still stay productive as a writer:
• Self-editing another manuscript.
• Preparing an edited and formatted manuscript for launch.
• Building your author platform (the dreaded marketing!).
• Writing a new book or short story.
Basically, you need to build up a cycle of Write–Revise*–Publish–Promote for all of your titles and overlap them something like this:
1. Write first draft of Title 1.
2. Write first draft of Title 2.
3. Self-edit Title 1.
4. Send Title 1 out to alpha readers.
5. Self-edit Title 2.
6. Send Title 2 out to alpha readers.
7. Review alpha reader feedback on Title 1 and self-edit again.
8. … and on and on, working in a third or fourth title as you wish.
*Revise is not a single step. It includes self-editing, getting the help of alpha/beta readers and/or critique partners, and hiring a professional editor and proofreader along with lots and lots of revision on your part. I didn’t say this was going to be easy.
As with any worthwhile endeavor, you won’t reach your goal overnight. You don’t earn a black belt in a month, and you certainly don’t become a successful, established, selling author that quickly either, so take your time and do it right.