Sunday, October 16, 2011

I don't believe you

When you tell me "This manuscript has been professionally edited and is now ready to be published" I don't actually laugh, but I also don't believe you.

For starters, unless I know the editor and have seen projects they've edited, I'm always (ALWAYS) a skeptic.  It's very easy to set up shop as a freelance editor these days. Some editors are great, some are good, and I've seen work from some that made me wonder if they read books let alone edited them.

In other words, anonymous editors are like anonymous references: useless.

And honestly if you think a publisher will just put your manuscript into production as is, well, you've got a horrible surprise ahead.

What you're trying to say here is "my manuscript is ready to face the world" but you don't need to actually say it.  I assume when you are querying me, your manuscript is in the best possible shape you can get it.  You don't need to tell me how it got that way. In fact, it's better if you don't.

Just tell me about the book. Honestly, it's really the only thing I care about right now (unless your query is so condescending and rude that I wouldn't want to work with you no matter how good the book, but that won't ever be one of this blog's readers, I'm SURE!)

13 comments:

Keisha Martin said...

I am not sure if its the same league as saying a book will sell really well,and the funny line all my family and the rest of the universe loves it...type of thing, as an aspiring writer I am focused on honing my craft staying humble because its a hard journey and my confidence that one day (hopefully before I'm 40) I'll see my dream come true.

ryan field said...

I was watching one of those courtroom TV shows the other day and a writer hired an "editor" for $9,000.00, to edit his ms...fiction. After paying this "editor" $4,000.00, the writer wound up disappointed (to say the least) and took this unknown editor/scammer to small claims court.

It doesn't matter how the judge ruled. The point is that if a writer has to pay $9,000 to get a ms edited there's something seriously wrong with that writer.

JS said...

I am a freelance editor, and on the rare occasions I have a client whom I didn't get as a referral from their agent (I do a lot of work with non-fiction titles by people whose primary careers are as something other than writers), I always tell them not to mention that we've worked together in their query.

It's like inviting someone for dinner and telling them you had a caterer come in and do some of the food--at best, unnecessary, and at worst it makes what you did yourself look dubious.

JS said...

The point is that if a writer has to pay $9,000 to get a ms edited there's something seriously wrong with that writer.

I disagree to the extent that not everyone who wants to publish a book is focused on being a writer. Lots of chefs, for instance, really benefit from professional editing in between the query stage and the MS submission stage, and savvy editors know that.

People who want to be writers (as opposed to people in other time-consuming professions who want to publish a book or two about their main field of work) should absolutely learn to edit themselves, I agree.

Kate Higgins said...

OK, so my husband is a technical editor which means he gets paid $85 to $110 per hour (a page takes about 1/2 hour for a good edit) to make sure that a document is clear, concise, spelled correctly, punctuated correctly, is in agreement with the charts and graphs (or pictures) included in the document. He makes sure that the authors or authors present the same voice throughout and adhere to the clients preferred format. He doesn't change the content just the way it might be said to make it easier for the reader. He does this with multiple scientists and engineers. These guys should be able to write, right? No. He gets about $12,750 for a 300+/- page document. Anyone who doesn't think they need and editor is delusional - even editors need editors. They are worth every penny if you get the right one.
Imagine doing all of the above AND making sure that the story has a plot, an arc, a good unique voice, commercial appeal and a good story and $9,000 to 12,000 dollars sounds cheap.
Kind of makes you really appreciate your publishing editor doesn't it?
- signed a picture book writer and illustrator who sweats even one of her 400 words and has a technical editor in-house :)

ryan field said...

"People who want to be writers (as opposed to people in other time-consuming professions who want to publish a book or two about their main field of work) should absolutely learn to edit themselves, I agree."

JS...I completely agree with you. There's also ghost writing, which is another story altogether. I mentioned this case in particular was "fiction," but should have made that clear.

The Daring Novelist said...

Kate: Ryan didn't say that an editor can't be wroth $9000, he said that a (fiction) writer who needs that kind of editing has something seriously wrong.

And I agree. JS's point about non-fiction writers is absolutely true, but a fiction writer needs to be professional and know his or her stuff. If you are spending thousands of dollars on "editing" what you really need is a teacher, not an editor. But a teacher will make you do your own homework.

ryan field said...

Thank you, Daring Novelist. That was exactly my point.

And, I love my editors. I NEED all my editors. We revise so many times we're like best friends. But I've never paid for an editor out of my own pocket, not to write fiction. The publisher does that. And it took a lot of hard work to get there, without shortcuts.

"If you are spending thousands of dollars on "editing" what you really need is a teacher, not an editor. But a teacher will make you do your own homework."

Well said!!

T.L. Bodine said...

Books are sort of like sausages, I think. I want to know how it tastes, and I might want to know the recipe, but I really, really don't want to know exactly how it was made.

Loretta Ross said...

I assume when you are querying me, your manuscript is in the best possible shape you can get it. You don't need to tell me how it got that way. In fact, it's better if you don't.

In other words, just show us the baby. PLEASE don't haul out the birthing video! ;)

Ali Trotta said...

The beginning nearly made me snort coffee. That would've been unseemly. And a waste of coffee. *grin* But seriously, excellent point. What you've always said is that a query should tell what the book is about. Nothing else really matters. And condescending queries? Eek. Like condescending people, I'll just never understand that.

Reluctant Irishman said...

Well, I've had my novel edited three times but, whether or not its ready to be published is for you to decide in the first instance! Actually, one of the problems is that any edit requires follow-up work which can generate new mistakes, so you are right - better not to mention it at all.

Jane Steen said...

I wouldn't mention if my work had been edited, professionally or not. After all, I wouldn't mention that it's been read by some really astute beta readers, or that I've edited it myself three times, or tell you how much I had to rewrite when I had one of the characters die three months earlier than previously. . . That's all process. I would presume you're interested in the product.