Friday, February 17, 2012

Letters to the Editor

When I wrote JOE VAMPIRE, I self-edited, and to be brutally honest with myself and everyone else, it probably shows all over the book.  But I gave myself that latitude, for a few reasons.  Working with a newbie writer’s budget of, oh, nothing dollars and zero cents, the constraint was mostly financial…but it was also based partly on ignorance; having never worked with an outside editor, I had no idea how to shop for one.  Plus: I was in kind of a hurry, chomping at the bit to get the book out to the world.  Not necessarily a wise decision on my part, and one I’m not likely to make again.

Live and learn.

To be certain, the Holy Internet abounds with editors offering their services for a wide range of prices, so there’s no doubt that some smart shopping can hook an author up with something affordable AND creditable.  But how do you negotiate finding such a thing?  And what are the benefits for you and your word candy?  Having no experience with editors to draw from, I appealed to someone who did, to see if he could lend a little guidance to anyone out there in Joe Vampire Blogville who might be facing the same decision.  After hearing what he had to say, I’m convinced that outside editing is a must for anyone trying to present a fully-polished piece of work on the indie market.

I know I’m on board for my next book.

Matthew (M.R.) Merrick, is a rising YA talent and the author of the excellent and much-loved action-fantasy PROTECTOR series titles EXILED and its newly-released sequel, SHIFT.  Matt is also something of an indie rock star…dude’s got himself an online fan club going on, folks. 

I’m proud to call myself a member of it.  

If that isn’t awesome enough, he’s an all-around good guy who graciously agreed to shine a light on the subject of editors.  Our Q&A below fleshes out the details of his experiences and explains how working with editing services was the right decision for him – and maybe for you as well.     
  • How did you find your editor?
    • For Exiled, I went through the Canadian Editors Association.  I went through more links than I care to count, and began sending out a plethora of e-mails to them with sample pages, word count, quote requests, etc.  After I’d narrowed it down to two, the one I was leaning towards had to back out for personal reasons, but referred me to someone they’d worked with that they thought would be a good fit.  I sent her an e-mail, she replied with a sample of her work, and I was sold.  She had the background, experience, and education I wanted from an editor, and I loved the work she had done with my sample. Oh, and she was only a little higher than my budgeted price, which helped. Most of the quotes I got were triple and quadruple the allowance I gave myself.
  • Have you worked with your editor more than once?  
    • No. I changed my editor for the second book, SHIFT, mostly because of cost.  I paid a lot to get EXILED edited. A lot.  Still, there were a few readers who were frustrated with grammar errors.  I’ve passed EXILED through a few different editors to proof read since then, and it turns out it was edited well originally. That being said, I wanted to put SHIFT out sooner than later, and I couldn’t invest the same amount of money as before.  I didn’t want to have product of less quality, so I used some of the contacts I’d made, worked with some amazing beta readers, and put it through two different editors at a lower rate, with experience, but not publishing house experience, to cut down on costs.
  • What was the impetus for your deciding to work with a professional editor?
    • I chose to go self-published for a lot of reasons, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice quality for my readers.  When someone picks up my books, without looking at the copyright page, I don’t want them to be able to tell the difference between a traditionally published book and a self-published one. This is a business, and I want the best product on the market. 
  • How much self-editing do you do before handing your MS over to an external editor?  
    • Probably more than I should.  I write the first draft, edit it.  Edit it again.  Do another read through, fixing errors as I go.  Let it sit for a few weeks to a month, then do another read and edit of the story.  After that, I’ll do one more proof read for minor errors, and then I pass it off to beta readers.  Once they’re done, I do one edit, considering all their suggestions, and then lastly, I proof read it one last time before my editor sees it.
  • Do you find yourself in sync with your editor’s suggestions? 
    • Absolutely. When it comes to grammar, without question.  When it comes to story, the editors I’ve worked with are wonderful.  They’re all about keeping the voice of the story while at the same time, helping me keep the pacing and characters in line with my vision, so to speak.  They know my writing style, and they call me out when they find me slacking.
  • Is the editing you received full-service (story structure, character development, etc), or more of a mechanical proofreading/clean-up service? 
    • Both. With Shift (and for future books) I worked with two editors. The first does story, structure, pacing, and character development, as well as mechanical.  The second goes through multiple times and error checks for mechanical.  Also, after all editing is done, I send my books out to two more betas, and they ALWAYS catch at least half a dozen minor things.  A typo, a repeated sentence, etc.  The more eyes that can proofread your work, the more polished it’s going to be.  After someone has read the story more than once, it’s impossible not to miss the occasional error.
  • How long did the editing back-and-forth process end up taking?
    • The editors I use are both incredible.  I’m going to continue using SHIFT as an example, since that is the process I’m going to maintain, but from the time I sent the book to my first editor, it was officially done, within 8 weeks.  Keep in mind that a lot of that time it was in my hands for revisions, and this was over Christmas so I wasn’t quite as focused as I normally would be. I think in total she spent a month or so working on it.  The second editor had it for a week.  She read through it multiple times and tore into it with her red pen, catching any of the little things we missed.

And there you have it, folks, from a guy with experience.  Judging by the finished products, all the extra attention to detail from author and editors has helped him deliver top-notch, professional works to the indie publishing world and his readers.  Huge thanks for weighing in, Mr. Merrick...much appreciated! You can find EXILED and SHIFT on Amazon, and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@MRMerrick).  There's also a link to his blog on the right-hand side of this panel under Other Tellers, Other Tales.  Hopefully his insight will be helpful for anyone out there balancing the pros and cons of seeking professional editing services.  As for me, I'm headed online to learn more and will no doubt have more to share as I learn.  I'm fully sold on using an editor for my novels.

Wonder if any of them wood would be up for editing a blog to too. 

Could be worth the extra expense. 


  1. It's really great finding your blog! I have to thank Marni for that one.

    1. Thanks Michelle - glad to have you following! I need to thank her, too, for sending you in this direction :)