Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Query Question: Querying for timeliness

I have completed my second novel, and have hired a well-regarded editing team to copy edit and proofread the manuscript. The work they have done on the first 82 pages is invaluable, but quite expensive. I am determined to see this through (a remaining $3500) but due to my income I'm doing the editing job in increments, and it will probably take until the summer 2015.

My problem, the novel's theme and plot are germane to the 2016 election. Would it be a mistake to query about the manuscript before it is polished, even given my time frame constraint?



Publishing moves at a glacial speed until it doesn't. By that I mean I'm selling into the FALL 2015 catalog right now, and have books set for the 2016 catalogs too.

In other words, querying for book you think has timeliness in 2016 needs to happen NOW, not next year.

Look at it this way: under the BEST of circumstances:
-- you query in June of 2015,
-- an agent READS it right away (not likely)
-- offers immediately (very unlikely)
-- your manuscript is ready to go on submission that minute (not likely either)
your agent will be querying for Spring 2017. The Fall 2016 books will largely have been acquired in 2014 and the first half of 2015.

But that doesn't solve your problem (or one of them anyway) because obviously you don't want to query a manuscript you don't think is ready.

But here's the part where my jaw hit the ground: $3500 to copy edit and proof read a manuscript?? That seems stratospheric to me. I work with developmental editors and for that kind of work which is MUCH more time consuming, that's the kind of money people pay. Copyediting and proofing should be a lot less.

Let's throw it out to the commenters though. Is this price really out of whack? Let me know.

And if it is, that's good news because it means you can find someone to do it for less, which means you get done faster.

And the better news is that timeliness really only applies to non-fiction.  

38 comments:

Amanda Capper said...

I'd say way out of whack. Cost me $1000.00 for 86000 words. Well worth the money because when it sold there wasn't much that needed to be done.

But, traditional publishing is glacier. I'm not complaining, this is the route I wanted to go, and I needed to get the second book done anyway. So far the experience has been wonderful, but oh have I learned patience.

Les Edgerton said...

Totally out of whack for just copy editing! I'd say a good copy editor would run around a buck, buck and a half a page. As Janet says, a development editor does far more and is worth it. Although, you might do some basic math. If you sell it and only get an advance of $10,000 (minus the 15% agent's commission) you haven't made much. Is it worth it? Not to mention if you even place it, which, if it needs this much work just on copy editing perhaps is doubtful...

donnaeverhart.com said...

Yes, completely/totally out of whack. I wish I could recommend the editor I used - but she just retired this year. She worked in publishing for at least fifty odd years. She is/was a freelance editor for Harper Collins, with lots and lots of connections. She personally knew many agents, editors and publishers. She was the one who helped me get an agent. I LOVE her.

She charged about $250.00 to read an entire ms, and would provide an editorial letter of 2-3 pages. After that overall reading, if you wanted, you could work with her page by page - in 50 or so page increments, and I think her prices varied if she did that, but suffice it to say, for a 300 page ms, it would be more in line with totaling about $1,000. to $1,200.00 vs that "stratospheric" cost mentioned in this question. WOW! That's just crazy.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ditto Donna, I used the same editor for a two page editorial letter and it broke my heart that she finally sharped her last blue pencil this year.
Shop around, I am.

Jess Huckins said...

I think it's too much money, too. I'm a freelance editor, and I invoiced for about $1,300 on my last project, which was a 140,000-word ms.

Cathy Clamp said...

I just checked a couple of people I know who do good work. One was around $1,000, the other between $1,500-$2,000 for copy editing and $500-$1,000 for just proofing. But she is very good (used to be my editor.) IMO, copy editing tends to include proofreading. It's sort of hard to do one without the other.

duBois said...

Out of whack, but potentially ... fair? I'm a freelance editor and its more than double what it would be with me. However, market rate for editors (and myself) seems to be less than half that displayed here: http://www.sfep.org.uk/pub/mship/minimum_rates.asp
I know no one who charges (or is paid) anything like the suggested rates.

On a large* and ... messy ... manuscript I can easily put in 100+ hours. On sfep rates, that would bring it a lot closer to what he's paying.

Whether editors deserve more ... well, on office hours, typical rates would take an experienced freelance editor onto a very low graduate starting salary (London). And I, with complete and utter bias, think we're worth a deal more. But that's a different topic.

*I mean large, I do some epic fantasy tomes.

duBois said...

p.s. My copy editing often is forced to stray into developmental. Lines are blurred, particularly when some publishers request 'do what it needs'.

Jed Cullan said...

That is way too mucho. I charge a third of it. Payment is usually in Cadbury crème eggs. I really love those Cadbury crème eggs. Okay, I need to go to the shops. For some unknown reason I have a sudden urge for some Cadbury crème eggs.

alaskaravenclaw said...

It's a lot of effort to write a book. Putting that effort into a manuscript with a built-in expiration date may not be the best use of one's time.

Self-editing is a skill writers need. Otherwise... what's the plan? To spend another $3500 (plus whatever was spent on the first 82 pages) for each manuscript?

Rather than pursue this particular route to bankruptcy, I suggest the writer invest $50-60 in a few books on self-editing. There are many of these available. One that's pretty popular is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print.

I think the criteria on this web post are a really good guide for self-editing too: http://awesomeindies.net/about/explanation-of-the-criteria/

Craig said...

I saw the question after reading the rest of it and what immediately hit my mind's eye was an old cartoon. That "You want it when?" cartoon.

If the hint of fanatic need I see was stronger in person I would have tripled my normal rate too. There is also the increment thing. He or she wants these editors to drop what they are doing whenever he comes in with some cash?

There is also the timetable with writing the book. Perhaps it was rushed and basically needs rewritten. I can see many reasons for a price tag that large. I say that because it does look unreasonable at first glance.

Becky Langdon said...

I've never made that much per hour copyediting anything. Either I've got the wrong clients or I need to find more suckers. >:-) Even if it takes the editor 20 hrs to get through it, she's still making $175/hour. Of course, not every job goes by hours, but that's the way I gauge whether a project is worth it for me.

Now, if there are a horrendous number of errors, it could take a REAAALLLLY long time. If that's the case, however, the writer should probably brush up on his own skills before seeking outside help.

dclozeau said...

When I finished my first novel, I paid $4k, but that was for a contract with a traditional publisher, 2 passes of copy editing and 2 passes of developemental editing, both by professionals through the publisher.

This person is being taken for a ride. Time to look around.

Wendy Qualls said...

$3500 sounds an awful lot like the entire amount of an advance for a second novel (and I'm guessing that means the first is under the bed, not published already, or else this person would know the process better). And that assumes it sells - if not, he/she is out $3500. Bad investment!

duBois said...

"Even if it takes the editor 20 hrs to get through it, she's still making $175/hour."

I wonder whether there's a UK/US divide on definitions/expectations for editing services. I'd say 20 hours is a reasonable number for a proofread, and a swiftish one, so was startled by the 'even'. I don't think I'm unusually slow, as checked with the publisher I'm closest with, and my numbers are fast for the work. Apparently. My copy-edits, unless particularly short, tend to range from 50-120 hours. And longer on nightmares, when I'm essentially rewriting.

... I'm getting the feeling I'm doing something wrong if everyone else is working much faster. *Panic.*

leslie said...

I get many manuscripts that authors believe need "copyediting" when in fact they need both developmental and writing coaching. It sounds like this might be the case here.

I usually try to explain what the book needs to the client, but particularly when self-pubbing, they do not want to hear about two rounds of editing. Some of them also do not have the talent, the craft, or the diligence and passion required to bring the book up to professional level.

It's hard to say whether this author is being fleeced by an unscrupulous editing firm, or the writing is simply so, shall we say, in need of assistance, that the editor is going well above and beyond normal copyediting.

Jed Cullan said...

Dclozeau, you shouldn't have paid any money to a traditional (or trade) publisher. None. Not one penny. Not for a contract. Not for 2 passes of copy-editing. Not for 2 passes of developmental editing. Not for anything. Money flows to the writer. The publisher pays you, you don't pay the publisher.

Becky Langdon said...

@duBois No, you're right. I was thinking more proofing than substantial copy editing. If it needed more substantial editing, it would take much longer. I just can't see shelling out that much for editing, however, for a manuscript that may or may not be published--and will go through a publisher's copy editors eventually, too. As a writer I would hope that I could get it to a clean state myself, and then if I REALLY needed it, hire someone to be an extra set of eyes to catch errors and so forth (proofing).

Gayle Carline said...

Sounds way too high to me, but then the author says they've got a team working on it. Perhaps the manuscript needs that much work.

Les Edgerton said...

I don't do copy editing, except as it occurs during developmental editing, which I do perform. My rate for developmental editing is $100 per hour for existing or prior clients, and $150 for new clients. But, I'm very selective in who I take on. Only novels that I think can be made publishable. And, I've been fortunate in that every one I've taken on has either gotten an agent or been published and usually both. I base my fee on the fact that when I was a hairstylist I could easily make $200 an hour--my haircut fee then was $100 before I retired and was booked solidly for months ahead. The places I worked at then are now charging up to $200 and more a cut. As a writing coach, I'm making far less than I did cutting hair, as I would schedule two cuts per hour and also be performing other services at the same time, as color services. What some may not realize, just reading a manuscript takes several hours, without doing any work on it. It's still time. Is it worth the money? Well, I could never afford my rates before I got published and even if I could, I wouldn't have used them. If my mss needed that much work, I think I would have pursued another line of activity... But, I don't blame people who have that much disposable income and feel it's valuable. And, I confess that I "fudge" the time I charge for, and don't charge for all the time spent. I think if I were looking for such an editor, I'd find out the effectiveness of their services and if their clients aren't getting good agents or selling their books, I might look elsewhere... But, for a copy editor, I'd simply look around my town and find a retired English teacher who would probably do a good job for a buck a page. Copy editing is mostly grinding and applying expertise that should have been learned by the eighth grade. Sorry to be blunt, but nowadays it seems as if there are an awful lot of people who think that because they can read they can write. And that they're somehow entitled to being published.

alaskaravenclaw said...

I wouldn't go with an English teacher, unless she had some background in editing. You don't want someone who's going to "correct" all the style out of a manuscript. No disrespect meant to English teachers; it's just a different skill set.

Les Edgerton said...

Very valid point, alaskaravenclaw, and I hesitated to say that for the very reason you pointed out. As in all things, I'd "qualify" the person. You absolutely don't want the former teacher who taught Comp I and actually follows those rules... They'll edit the very heart out of it. At least I'd find out if they'd ever read Zinsser...

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

That's the sort of money I'd charge for multiple rounds of content editing. And while we don't know the full scope of the project, I'm thinking I'd love to be able to pull that down for a quick copy edit. I could afford steak!

Caitlin said...

As another freelance editor, I'd definitely say that's an overblown price for copy and proofreading! That's what I'd charge for multiple rounds of intense work. Our standard copy editing usually runs $1500-1800 for an average length MS, and we based our rates on EFA's averages.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

That seems high based on the editors I know and run with.

I'm equally concerned about "germane to the 2016 election." That smacks of a platform-novel that thinks it is going to influence my vote. So, it is either going to preach red or preach blue or some other party platform. I don't seem myself wanting to read it. Me nor any other of my politically minded friends who it seems would be the audience. That might make it a tough sell.

I didn't even allow Tom Clancy to preach to me politically and I'm an O.G., all the way back to Hunt for Red October.

Fred said...

I've budgeted $1500 for my 170K WIP. Sounds like I may need more. Though, The thing's been through Betas and critters, and by all accounts reads smooth. Who knows. Whatever the market is willing to pay, right?

As for querying for 2017, well, that's why I decided to self-pub. I'll be dead of liver disease or some other ailment by 2017.

Joelle said...

Eileen Cook charges a lot less than this and she's fantastic. You might be getting what you're paying for, but I doubt it.

Dan McFadden said...

Paid $750 for a read and suggestions. Editor was superb and was most helpful in assisting me in my rewrite.

Elissa M said...

Like others here, things about this project puzzle me. The editing cost seems too high, unless the writing is so poor that it requires extensive work. That, in turn, makes me wonder if the book will even sell. No sales = all that money wasted. Perhaps those funds are better spent on books or courses on craft and self-editing.

Then there's my personal opinion that good fiction should be timeless. A story unfolds in a particular time and place, of course, but if a novel must be published and read by a certain time to be properly enjoyed, well, that doesn't sound right to me. For example, George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" still has relevancy in 2014.

A good novel about a U.S. Presidential election should still be readable and relevant decades after the event. After all, elections happen every four years, and the basic themes surrounding them are fairly enduring and universal.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

I feel like that is a VERY high price, especially as it's a "remaining $3500", which does not take into account payment already rendered.

I also feel that, perhaps, I should go into copyediting. Wowzers.

Steve Stubbs said...

If he author has a money problem, $3500 is a bit much to invest in something that may well never make a dime. I have Microsoft Word 2000, which does a great job copyediting (grammar, punctuation, and spelling) for free. My favorite price. I am not a mathematician (well, actually I am) but I believe free is cheaper than $3500. The first rule of business: Minimize costs to get a specific result.

The more difficult question is: DOES THE PLOT WORK? Later versions of Microsoft Word may tell you that. Mine does not. If the answer is no (and most of the unpublished stuff I have seen is hopeless) you do not want to spend thousands and thousands of dollars you don’t have on something that is not going to get published anyway. So after your free copyedit (courtesy of MS Word) you need a free critique reader. The first rule of business: Minimize costs to get a specific result. If the plot is DOA, keep your money in your pants.

I am probably crazy for saying this, but if you send it to me, I will give you an opinionated opinion free of charge. “Opinionated” means I reject the literary heresy that brilliance versus crapulosity is highly subjective. If possible send a synopsis along with the MS. If the plot makes no sense or has serious problems, that will show up in a synopsis. If it sings like Madonna and dances like Ginger Rogers you may be the next Stephenie Myers, If you can’t state the plot *compellingly* (note that word) in 200 words max then you ... have ... a ... problem. A good plot synopsis glows in the dark. Work on yours until it does. You don’t want to invest thousands on the literary equivalent of dead meat. And yes, there are people out there who will take your money no matter how hopeless the project is. Best wishes in any case.

See you on the bestseller list.

JeffO said...

I do note that the person referred to a 'team' and that they were getting copy editing and proofing, so my guess is the higher price is the result of it being a 'team'. I can't really speak to the price because I haven't paid for the service myself.

alaskaravenclaw said...

I also had Terri's concern about whether the book had a political agenda.

Time spent in learning to edit one's own work is almost always going to be much more effective than money spent in paying someone else to do so.

The only exception would be, as in Fred's case, if the writer is facing another kind of deadline. I'm very sorry to hear it, Fred.

Liz Mallory said...

Wow. Like the other three-dozen people are saying, I agree: that price is WAY out of whack.

I don't know if my reputation is "well-regarded," but I charge a heck of a lot less (probably 20% of that) for editing services. Maybe you're paying extra for their reputation, but it shouldn't be THAT much extra, no matter WHO you've hired.

And yes, the publishing process is glacial.

I'd say, get other writers to critique it: that's the best editing for a rough draft to tell you if it's even worth publishing. And if it is, THEN hire a CHEAPER editor. Chances are, when you get an agent they'll want to get it edited again anyway.

Karen said...

why not get an english teacher/professor to critique your work...for much less cost, i imagine?

Karen said...

i am not sure critiques from other writers is the most honest and helpful move. many are new to the writing process themselves, another bunch may not read enough in your genre to offer helpful advice, and the other lot may be clueless about syntax and grammar. and of course you always have the contingent with nefarious motives.

MNye said...

Ok, I remember being at my one and only-ever writers conference, and listening to this agent speak, and what struck me was her statement on money. As a writer, money should flow one way, to you.

Elias McClellan said...

I'm way, WAY late to this party but I can't thank all the commenters enough. Scribbler neurosis means I'm ALWAYS looking for something new to spazz about. I'm scrapping jingles for a copy editor and now I hear of this "developmental editor," of which you all type. So, of course, I'm ready to spazz about whether I need 'dis or not. Needed or not, it's outside of my budget, unless I decide to stop writing crime and start committing crime. Thanks, again, one scribble sibling to another.