Necessary Expense

Wherever you go, there will be people giving you different opinions on what you need to do in order to self-publish a book. It’s like anything in this world, opinions will differ depending on who you talk to. There will be those people who want to redo their bathroom and do every part themselves, right down to moving the pipes for the bath, and then there will be those people who hire someone in even to do the painting and to design the colour scheme. When it comes to what is a necessary expense, the decision lies totally with you and your skills.

Having loitered around a number of writing communities for a while, I have come to realise that the decisions on what to pay money for are, and should remain, completely in the hands of the individual author. If you feel that you are an unbiased enough person to edit your own work, that’s great, or if you have the skills on Photoshop to create your own cover art, go for it. If, however, you don’t feel that confidence, or even if you’re unsure on your skills then hiring someone else is always an option. It is all about deciding what expenses are necessary for you to put out the best product that you can. Even if you decide to do it for this book, it doesn’t mean you have to tie to every one. Perhaps spending that money on an edit this time will make you realise that next time, you don’t need it.

I was really lucky when it came to my cover art. I knew that I wanted something professional, and by chance, through my twitter, I spotted a very talented digital artist showing off her most recent creation. I knew said artist from a website we have both frequented in the past, and so I checked out the rest of her work. Safe to say, I loved it, and I knew that she would be able to create the look I was going for with Dead and Buryd. So, we emailed back and forth, we discussed what I wanted and when would be a good time for creation, etc, and on Friday, I paid the first installment of the commission. We’ve decided that the finished piece will be completed for mid-July. But more on that in another post when I have more to say about the progress.

From an early stage of writing my novel Dead and Buryd, I knew that an editor would be a necessary expense for me, and in my case, it was never a question over whether I would hire an editor or not, the question would be when to hire an editor.

As soon as I decided that I would be self-publishing, I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors. As a currently unpublished author, this was an expense of £40 for the year. Once I have published, it will go up, but we don’t need to worry about that right now. I wanted to be able to talk to people who have been through this, who have seen the pitfalls and who know the best places to look for hired help.

So, the matter then became, when do I start using the expertise of these people? When am I ready?

Dead and Buryd had been through numerous self-edits and half way through a rewrite when I decided to start looking for an editor. The truth of the matter is, when it comes to editing, is that the more you do yourself, the more you will save money. Many editors will charge by the hour, and so how much they invoice you will depend on how much work they feel your manuscript needs. If you send them a first draft, they will spend much more time going through it than they would need to after numerous edits by the Author, and when editing is an expensive business and you’re paying for it from your own pocket, you want to ensure that you’re being as cost effective as possible.

I find, in self-editing, the problem isn’t in taking out the glaring mistakes, it’s that every time I go through my manuscript, for each ten mistakes I take out, I somehow manage to put a new and completely different mistake in. By going over my editing over and over again, I can make these mistakes as minimal as possible, but I know for a fact that I will never catch every one. Add on to that the many many mistakes and/or stylistic choices that I just can’t see in my own text, and you can see why I decided that an editor was right for me.

So, I started looking. I went through the ALLi’s contacts list for people who had put their skills down as editor. Just like when you’re looking for an agent to submit to, checking out the person’s website is vital. On their website, you will find all the information you need about whether they are right to consider submitting to, and just like Agents, editors will have reasons outlines as to why they may not accept you. Some editors won’t take fantasy/sci-fi for example. You could try, but would you really want an editor, someone who has so much influence and input into your work, to be working in a genre they’re not familiar with, or don’t enjoy?

Once I had a list of editors who I liked the look of, I started breaking down their services. Some only offer proof reading, for example. Now, I could do that for Dead and Buryd, I’m pretty happy with it, but this is my first book, and I made the decision that I wanted to pay the extra expense and be as thorough as possible. So, I decided n a service that would not only offer a comprehensive copy edit, but also include elements such as characterisation and plot dynamic.

This will not result in my entire story changing. In fact, I have been assured that, should my editor think I need any substantial rewrites, he will halt editing and send the manuscript back to me, effectively pausing the process until I have completed rewrites. This is where I feel these things become important. When it comes to editing, you shouldn’t be looking for someone to rewrite your book for you. You should be looking for someone who will stand over your shoulder, point out the mistakes, and let you fix them.

Upon finding someone that I was relatively sure would be a good fit, I contacted them. Quotes were not given until contact, so I sent off a cheerful ‘PLEASE HELP ME, OH GOD SAVE ME‘ email. Kevin got back to me incredibly quickly, and was enthusiastic about my project, and confirmed that he was free to take projects on the dates I had requested.

Here is where I became positive that I had found a professional person, someone that could really benefit me in my self-publishing. Kevin asked me to send him three chapters of my work so that he could perform a sample edit. This would be where he would work for one hour and see how much he got through. By that, he could create a price quote based on the total word count of my manuscript. I sent off the first three chapters (not the prologue, as the tone is slightly different for that chapter.) Kevin got it back to me within twenty-four hours, giving me a good 2,000 word sample of his work. He had not changed a single thing, but instead used the tracking system to allow me to make the edits I agreed with.

I admit, I was incredibly lucky. Kevin wrote that he was able to work quickly and that he was intrigued with the story. On seeing his edits, I agreed with practically every change he suggested. It was in reading through his edits that I knew that I had found someone I could work well with, someone who understood my writing and appreciated it for what it was. For me, this is very important. I am not looking for someone to turn me from a mongrel into a pedigree best of show winner. I am looking for that person who sees me as a mongrel and will make sure I am being showcased as the best damn mongrel I can be.

My manuscript is being handed over to Kevin on the 15th of June. From further discussions about the book, I have one more edit to go through before I send it off, checking the endings of my chapters to ensure that they have the necessary hook to draw readers onto the next chapter.

I’m feeling incredibly confident, and I am 100% positive that paying for my art and my editing are necessary expenses for this project.

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About chelecooke

Self-Published author of the Out of Orbit series and the Teeth series. UCL Residence Assistant, obsessive cross stitcher, avid reader and TV show watcher.
This entry was posted in Self-Publishing Journey and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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