Now, don’t go bug-eyed about the price tag in this post’s title. Before I share my story, here’s the lowdown–that’s the 411, the skinny, or the scoop for those of you in Rio Linda–of what edits and editors are and what they do–and what they aren’t and what they won’t do.
A developmental edit is a deep content edit. This is the most thorough of the edits throughout your story, and where your editor will find plot holes, inconsistency, what’s working and not, and so on. This is also the most pricey–you’re paying for time, insight, and expertise. Choose this editor wisely, since you’ll have a working, professional relationship with this individual who specializes in this style of editing. What this means for your budget: a DNA sample, your firstborn’s genome, a fraction of your home equity loan, a portion of royalties . . . I’m (slightly) kidding, but the price tag for this is $$$$ to $$$$$.
A copy edit is a step above proofreading, but just under developmental editing. It’s another way to say line editing, more or less. These people work to make sure you’re consistent in weather scenes, word choice and what it means either in character or author intention; character names–your MC Steve in Chapter 2 isn’t Jude in Chapter 6–or if you’re in Monday midnight DST in a chapter, that same chapter’s not a snowy Wednesday afternoon EST by its end (unless explained); accents are consistent, etc. It’s also more a consistency in verb tense/1st POV or 3rd POV and other overlooked nits not caught by you or the dev editor than anything else. A dev editor can do light copy editing if he picks it up from time to time, but it’s not a must–especially at the rate you’re paying for the job! Budget for this: $$ to $$$.
Proofreading, or also known as a proofer, ONLY checks for irregularities in punctuation, facts, spelling, times, dates, places, and otherwise flags too many mistakes left in or left out. Some would debate grammar should be checked also, but depending on what some in your cast are doing in dialects, location and the like, that really comes more to a developmental editor choice, a copy editor knowing this about your MS–and, of course, you, Ms. Author :). This edit takes the least time, and thus, the least strain on your writer budget ($ to $$).
What Editing & Edits Are NOT
• Copy edits aren’t developmental edits. Proofing isn’t a copy edit. They blend, yes, BUT, since both take a chunk of time vs. a little time, that’s why they’re divided as such. Think of it like this: More time = more money.
• Inexpensive, so budget accordingly.
• Your personal cheerleading section–that’s more for writing coaches, crit groups, and writing buddies, if you have them and find them. Get them, if you ned this, too, which I cannot recommend enough. And find the right crowd for this, too . . . but another topic for another post :).
• Aren’t yessing you to death or a doomdayer, “you suck, quit writing this minute!” inputter, either (to be fair, they may think it, which is their prerogative, but you won’t know it).
• Aren’t a taskmaster.
• Will insist you stick with his or her changes to your work.
• Will do beyond what’s paid for or past deadline without an additional charge.
• Aren’t your psychiatrist (yes, Virginia, there’s an app for that–so use it).
• Won’t change your writing voice (conversational, bossy, dark, light-hearted, preachy, etc.), style (staccato or run-on sentences, cold, flat, boring, clinical, etc.), but rather, they may, and should, offer constructive criticism and alternatives.
• Aren’t mind-readers, so communicate your specific needs, results expected, timeframe turnaround, feedback explained, etc.
• And for the love of everything holy, get one suited for YOUR personality type, please! You’ll save so much aggravation and heartache for it in the long run.
• Ultimately, you and the editor are in a working professional relationship, so keep it that way.
“Okay, Missye, You’re Just Bats! Convince Me Why That Price Tag’s Justified!”
Thank you. Be happy to.
After she blew a virtual gasket why I thought a $1,500 dev edit for my specific MS is reasonable, my writer friend pouted and still disagrees, but sees the logic. The argument I gave her, I’ll share with you.
• My 2nd mystery is a plot-within-a-plot, includes an ASTORIA FOXE ONE Casebook #3 sneak peek, a ToC, dedication, acknowledgements, and another large cast, so I’m looking for another set of eyes for overall content, continuity, clarity, cohesiveness, consistency, logical time flow, pacing, what’s too much or too little, etc. That, unfortunately, ain’t gonna come without some financial sacrifice.
• The last time I’d paid a hefty edit tag was on JERSEY DOGS (42 dead and alive member cast, ToC, dedication, acknowledgements, story, and a four chapter Casebook #2 sneak), and I worked with an editor formerly with Scholastic and Penguin Putnam. This price of admission alone I’d shell more for, and some of his previously edited books hit the NYT’s, Amazon’s, and WSJ’s bestsellers lists. This aside, he went above and beyond my expectations: he was sweet, answered all my silly and serious Qs, was thorough, fast turnaround, encouraging, insightful, and did things for my book–cast in order of appearance, questioned sentence murkiness, asked what I meant here/there, and included a solid summary–a nice touch I didn’t ask for or expect. Annnnnd,, dude had been schooled under Sol Stein a few years before the iconic editor’s passing, so that’s definitely saying something. He resided in L.A. at the time of JERSEY’s edit–still may, as of this post, and not cheap in CoL–so his asking rate reflected such.
• Time isn’t replaceable when money is; I’m paying for said time and expertise.
• I’d rather have keen eyes and keener expertise in an edit, and pay that rate for said experience, than brag how cheap this edit was, only for my work and his reflects said edits. It’s disgusting, I’m sad to say, how often writers in free and paid writing listservs, gloat and preen how little they paid for an editing service. Sadder still: there’s absolutely talking NO sense to them how lowbrow, high-minded, and just triflin’ this comes across. Yet if you point this out to the sweetly delusional dreamer in the name of vocational-shaming–yes, kids, that’s a thing, now—you’re the baddie. Okay, then. #SorryNotSorry #NotMyCircusNotMyPonies #CarryingOn :).
• The editor should only edit for a living. This is far different than knowing how to edit when you’re also writing and not writing. While both talents really are two different hats at the same time, they’re also symbiotically intrinsic. I’m proud to say I’m taking a nit comb to Casebook #2 and deleting some of the hefty, but I’m also doing it to deflate some of that dev edit price tag.
• Going in with JERSEY, I knew I’d author a meaty mystery series. That reading time takes dough. As many charge either by the page, word, or a flat rate, there’s no getting around paying more for a bigger output. I’m really working to cut content, but it ain’t easy :).
• Some editing services I won’t pay a dime to due to their inflexibility on receiving payments–most of us don’t have deep pockets, most of us like having lights on, and a key to turn into a lock that’s not a vehicle to call home. Although one came highly recommended for my needs, she wasn’t willing to work with a tight budget, so I politely declined. There’s too much competition around to happily move on more than okay to work with my needs, budget, and timeframe, and I’ll stand by my convictions steadfast. Many writers really don’t think this financial angle through, especially if they’re being supported by ones other than themselves, and sadly go with the first one squealing over their MS, sure, let me help you polish this for that Midas price tag. The peripherals making money from the authors who aren’t yet making enough to cover this, likely know this, but won’t tell them that. Lowdown dirty shame, that is.
• I’ve edit-skimped before: from the proverbial free/need to earn stripes tale of woe to the “it came with the house” deal, regardless of house. Don’t edit-skimp. Ever. Akin to wearing pre-owned day-of-the-week undies even laundered in the hottest water and strongest lye soap available, I felt emotionally and creatively tarnished and second-rate, as that time left me disheartened, frustrated, angry, and outright head-scratching if this person and I read the same damn book. A free or low-cost edit simply isn’t worth the emotional roller-coaster–you may genuinely never know if they truly enjoyed the work, or were they blowing smoke saying they did (You can always run a polygraph if you’re unsure, but if you have the money for such services, use that dough for a professional edit, okay? You’re welcome :). ). Listen, if you believe in your writing efforts, you and it took the bumps and lumps needed to grow as an author and storyteller, then be serious enough to make sure a service is professional enough for their eyes–and your dough!–to have your final draft put its best foot forward. If you don’t sell yourself short on other big important things in life, your MS shouldn’t be treated any less when edit time arrives.
So it boils down to where and how your dough goes, not so much that you’re spending it, regardless. Research like hell, go with your gut voice, DON’T second-guess that voice or yourself, ask scads of questions, and in general, be bold to be informed. It takes time to earn that coin, so no way will I spend it on stupid-awful edits I’ll horribly regret later; it’s enough I’m still scolding myself on a pre-owned Jeep Laredo purchase lasting a whole eight months before its mid-June end. And as my man’s funding my writing life for the better part of the entire time he’s known and been with me, durn tootin’ I’ll make sure our money and time is spent discriminantly. Ultimately, with God expecting me to be a good and prudent stewardess in all I do with the time, talent, and funds He’s granted me, it’s the least I should do. And I’ve been blessed–as of this post, I’ve an editor on retainer willing to work with my budget for my Casebooks! Squeee! But should this post mean you as it does me, you’re justified. Your book is destined to be even better than you’d imagined through another set of careful, caring eyes as yours are.
Back to NaNo, already in progress. Wishing you all a lovely, safe, blessed, and joyful Thanksgiving!