Recently there’s been discussion around the web about whether or not writers should pay to have their novel edited.
On his blog Nick Daws puts forward a very good argument against paying for an editor. Instead he advocates making sure that your written English is up to scratch and also taking advantage of free resources, such as beta readers, writing groups and writers’ forums offering feedback on work. Nick also points out that an editing service is likely to only provide copy-editing. A thorough structural edit is an iterative process requiring the manuscript to go back and forth – which can’t be done if the author is paying per 1,000 words.
Similarly there has been discussion on the Writing Magazine Talkback forum, ‘Writers On-line’. It was pointed out that any suggestions coming from an editor are subjective and are only that particular person’s point of view. Also, be prepared for a damning report – if a paid-for edit is to be worth its money, it has to be honest and therefore may not be what you want to hear. And of course editing services cost a lot of money.
So, now that I have a completed novel manuscript and a self-publishing package prize, where do I stand in the ‘paying for an editor’ debate?
The answer is – I don’t know.
Like everybody, I want my book to be something of which I can be proud. I don’t want to worry that people will buy it and then be disappointed. So ideally, I’d like a professional to give my work the once over.
But I’m also aware that it will be very difficult to sell enough copies of a self-published book to recoup the expense of a quality editing service.
Currently my book has gone off to its first beta reader – and I’m feeling very nervous about the outcome. Also I’ve taken advantage of the free sample chapter edit offered by Jefferson Franklin. I was pleased with the result – the things that their reader highlighted improve the text and I wouldn’t have spotted them myself. It would be good to have that experienced critical eye over the rest of the manuscript.
What does anyone else think? Are editing services worth the investment?
David St John Thomas founded Writers’ News 25 years ago and still wrote a regular column for the magazine right up until his death. Prior to that he ran the publishing company David & Charles.
A lot of writers will remember him for his work with the David St John Thomas Charitable Trust. The Trust was created with some of the money from the sale of David & Charles. It ran a wide range of writing competitions and also provided bursaries to students taking part in useful work in the developing world.
It was through the competitions organised by the Trust that David briefly touched my life. I was the winner of the 2006 David St John Thomas Charitable Trust Letter Writer of the Year Award. I met David at the presentation event in Harrogate. He was very friendly and it was a lovely event.
It was the final year that the competition ran and so I was able to keep the silver cup that went with the £100 prize.
This Letter Writing Competition was a wonderful way of encouraging new writers. It entailed compiling a portfolio of letters published in magazines and newspapers over a 12 month period and so was accessible to a wide range of people who may not yet have had success in any other area of writing.
So I’d like to say my own personal thank you to David St John Thomas for the encouragement that that competition win gave to me.
Finally, and in the spirit of encouraging other writers, if you’d like to try out your letter writing skills, this competition offers £30 each month to the writer of the best letter of complaint.
On Saturday I had lunch with the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
It was a very positive affair with lots of people having good news to share such as excellent reports from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, publishing deals and competition successes. As always I came away eager to get writing again.
One of our members, romantic comedy author Alison May has been asked to judge a short story competition for the first time and she gave us the details (unfortunately there’ll be no favouritism because it’s all judged anonymously).
The first Black Pear Press Short Story Competition is for stories up to 1500 words in any genre/theme.
First prize is £75 and second prize is two Black Pear Press publications. Entries may be published on the Black Pear Press website and may be included in an anthology.
Closing date is 26th September 2014 and entry is via email. Entry fee is £5.
Full details are here.
Another ‘first’ short story competition that you might like to consider is that currently underway at KISHBOO. This will become a regular quarterly competition with a first prize of £50 and a second prize of £25. The entry fee is £3 and the first competition closes on October 20th 2014. Again any genre/theme is acceptable and the maximum word count is 2,000. The full terms and conditions are here.
Whilst wandering around Wotten-Under-Edge looking for the Town Hall (where tea and cakes were being served) I spotted this competition in a travel agent’s window.
Entry is FREE. Prizes are vouchers for Bob Books. First prize is £75, second £50 and third £30. ALL entries receive 15% off the usual photo book prices.
Entries should be a minimum of 100 words and be accompanied by a photograph. The judges are looking for either a unique experience, a cultural encounter, a trekking tale or a piece of advice. A selection of entries may be published on Mountain Kingdoms’ website.
Full details are available on the Mountain Kingdoms Blog. Closing date is 30th September 2014.
I don’t think my tale of a wet bank holiday will be a winner – but maybe you’ve been somewhere more exciting?
Just back from my ‘white badger’ week at Swanwick (first time visitors are given a white name badge and everyone else gets a yellow one).
There was a packed program plus lots of friendly people to meet. After all that ‘busyness’ and chatter the following points stick in my mind:
- Three great talks from People’s Friend fiction editor, Shirley Blair. She told us a lot about the magazine’s requirements and how to improve our chances of success, including the fact that 3,000 to 4,000 word stories are particularly needed and that the magazine is willing to ‘push the boundaries’ on some of their previously taboo subjects.
- Tips on novel editing from David Hough, including the advice to get the novel printed as a proof paperback at Lulu.com for the final read through – seeing the manuscript in this different format should make the errors jump out.
- Meeting some of my virtual acquaintances ‘in the flesh’ for the first time and re-establishing contact with people I’ve met at other writing events and courses in the past.
- The stress of creating an improvised play for public performance with only a few hours to prepare it.
- The peace of morning meditation around the lake.
- Never sit at the end of a table in the dining-room because you’ll have to serve the meal (and make sure everyone gets equal portions!)
Bead Roberts (who writes for the womags and is also a creative writing tutor) was one of my ‘re-establishing contact people’. She’s a lovely lady with a wealth of experience to pass on and is tutoring a weekend short story writing course in Leeds on the 26th to 28th September at Weetwood Hall (a great venue – I went there last year). Details can be found on the Relax and Write website.