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Thread: Book Doctors / Editors

  1. #1

    Book Doctors / Editors

    I just received my first "real" rejection from an agent who said she loved the strong story concept but that my writing contained "many common writing errors".

    She recommended using an editor to polish the manuscript into shape, then resubmitting to her at a later date. She didn't recommend a specific person or company.

    Any advice anyone? I really have no clue how to find a legitimate "book doctor".

  2. #2
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    An editor is an expensive option, and often you can get the help you need without paying for it. That said, there's a discussion of book doctors and independent editors here, with some resources that may help you.

    - Victoria

  3. #3
    Preditors & Editors Requiescat In Pace DaveKuzminski's Avatar
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    If you're going to use a book doctor or editing service, check first to see if anything they've worked on became published. They should be able to give you a title and an ISBN. You should then look up that book and attempt to contact that author to ask if that doctor or editor actually did what was claimed.

    Otherwise... you're probably just as well off hiring a local high school or college English or literary instructor. That individual might not know everything that's needed, but they'll probably do just as well as the majority of such services which usually don't know everything that's needed, either. Not only that, but you'll be doing your local economy some good and you'll have a chance to learn first hand what you need to improve your writing.
    When it comes to PA, the royalty check and the reality check arrive in the same envelope.

    Remember to be kind to writers who step in PA. They really don't know how bad it smells.

    The difference between PA and WLA? None. Both have the stench of dead and dying books emanating from their doorways.


  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss
    An editor is an expensive option, and often you can get the help you need without paying for it. That said, there's a discussion of book doctors and independent editors here, with some resources that may help you.

    - Victoria
    Great site...thank you!

  5. #5
    Banned zizban's Avatar
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    I worked with Kathy Kehrli, an independent editor, for my books, She is wonderful and very good at what she does. Many books to her credit (that's she's edited). Let me know and I'll put you in contact with her.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by zizban
    I worked with Kathy Kehrli, an independent editor, for my books, She is wonderful and very good at what she does. Many books to her credit (that's she's edited). Let me know and I'll put you in contact with her.
    Thank you! That would work great.

  7. #7
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Interesting this should come up now. Coincidentally, there are two new posts in "Paying Markets" that share an ip with an AW regular (who I'm not going to "out" yet, just in case there is a reasonable explanation.)

    I'm wondering what the scoop is with THAT?
    Last edited by MacAllister; 04-08-2005 at 12:36 AM.

  8. #8
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Don't do it. If your writing really is full of common errors, hiring a competent editor to fix them all is likely to cost as much as many first-time authors' advances. If you want a career, learn to fix them yourself.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by HapiSofi
    Don't do it. If your writing really is full of common errors, hiring a competent editor to fix them all is likely to cost as much as many first-time authors' advances. If you want a career, learn to fix them yourself.
    Good advice, perhaps. But on the places I've posted my work, no one pointed out anything bad with my grammar etc. so I'm at a loss. Can't help but feel people aren't being honest with my work!

  10. #10
    Elder Scrolls devotee
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    Pick up some books on editing your own work, read articles on writing (many published authors have helpful articles on their sites), and read the threads here in Writing Novels. I've picked up a tremendous amount just by doing that, and my manuscript is all the better for it.

    I've never been a fan of posting work and having it edited by committee - first of all, you can lose your voice if you edit your piece blindly, and secondly, it's all subjective. I had four beta readers for the novel I'm shopping around now, and there were times when two liked something and two hated it.

    Ultimately, you have to find your own voice and learn to edit your own work. I found many "common writing errors" that my readers never noticed. I've already decided that I'll have a couple of readers look over my WIP for plot holes and glaring errors that I didn't catch, but as far as the writing goes, I'll do all the editing myself this time around without asking for any input.

  11. #11
    One Hit Wonder? Kasey Mackenzie's Avatar
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    I second the recommendation to pick up some books on editing your own work. You also may want to pick up a grammar book or two in order to get a brush-up. Alternatively, I also love Dave's suggestion to speak with a local high school or college English/Literature instructor. They will charge a _lot_ less than a professional editor, however, they should still be able to help you significantly with whatever your particular grammar "quirks" are. Obviously they won't necessarily be able to give you advice on the publishing industry, but they _should_ have the skillset to help you improve your grammar. Good luck!
    Good things come to those who wait...and work their tails off!!!


    Coming Soon on Kindle: Reborn in Fire

  12. #12
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    Eussie has been banned for trying to scam fellow writers on this board into paying to enter her editing "contest," using Victoria's warning as a template for how to become a scammer.

    Sad.
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  13. #13
    One Hit Wonder? Kasey Mackenzie's Avatar
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    Thanks for being vigilant and keeping an eye out for writers everywhere! Glad to see that she didn't get away with the scam...Can't believe she thought she'd get away with it so easily on a board with experienced writer's advocates. *rolls eyes*
    Good things come to those who wait...and work their tails off!!!


    Coming Soon on Kindle: Reborn in Fire

  14. #14
    Moderator AW Moderator Maryn's Avatar
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    Sheesh. As my mom used to say, "Some people!"

    Thankfully, not us. Appreciate the protection. (And that T-shirt reading SECURITY looks great on you, Jenna.)

    Maryn

  15. #15
    wishes you happiness JennaGlatzer's Avatar
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    T'wasn't me. aka eraser (Frank) is the one who made this connection... he's good!

    Yes, potential scammers, fear our all-knowing Mod Squad! Mwahahaha!
    I am no longer here. If you'd like to visit me, please find me at www.jennaglatzer.com or on Facebook. Thanks!

  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Try to be open.....but....

    Am I the only one?

    I have always thought of advertising experts or how-to books on writing, finding an agent, composing a query, proposal, ad infinitum as in the category of oxymorons/scams. If they know what they are advising about, why are they trying to make money off wanabes? Seems like a fall-back position for a failed writer or whatever.

    I'm not really picking on how-to writers, I don't think, just those picking on the more vulnerable of us (in self-image areas like this). A "home plumbing guide" for instance is something else entirely. Anybody else ever feel the same way as I do?

    I looked at a celebrated book (you know the one) on finding an agent, in the library for a couple of hours one day, and I just didn't see anything but fluff and common sense, but then I do have some background in writing. It seemed the make-do product of the office staff in down time. Still, I learn stuff every day, and unlearn stuff every day. Don't we each have to develop our own skills by trial and error, inspiration, recovery, and revelation? Can we owe our genius to an agent, book doctor, or whatever?

    Our epoc seems, to an old guy like me, to be especially ethics-deprived. I think I began to see it coming during the Viet Nam War. Like, it's a national disease.

    I guess I'm what you callit "venting." Sorry.
    Cheers, Kree Tacious

  17. #17
    Nefarious Ghost Fan AnneMarble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kree Atv Khurz
    Am I the only one?

    I have always thought of advertising experts or how-to books on writing, finding an agent, composing a query, proposal, ad infinitum as in the category of oxymorons/scams. If they know what they are advising about, why are they trying to make money off wanabes? Seems like a fall-back position for a failed writer or whatever.
    There are lots of different types of books on writing, though. Some of them are pretty basic, but that's because they're aimed at writers who are just starting out. Some of them are overpriced fluff, but heck, at least the writer can check it out of the library or glance through it in the store before buying it. You can't do that with a scammy agent. Some people never need 'em, some writers need that reassurance when they're just starting out. (Sometimes I liked reading obvious information because then I realized I was right about something. ) Also, I've been able to find inspiration and story ideas in even the most insipid how-to book on writing. (To be fair, I've found inspiration in sources as insipid as NBC's campy soap opera Passions... )

    There are also specialized how-to books that are aimed at more advanced writers, at writers who are looking into a new type of writing (such as ariting greeting cards or fillers), etc. Sure, no book will take the place of actually reading and writing and reading and writing. But the best writing how-to books (heck, sometimes even the mediocre ones) have saved me from going down some dead ends. You do have to keep an eye out for bad advice, or at least advice that doesn't apply to you, but that's true of aby type of nonfiction book or article.

    Besides, Jenna has written some of these books, and we know she's not out to rip off anyone.
    THE Official FreakTM
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  18. #18
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks, AnneMarble

    Hello Anne,

    You have many valid points (on other posts today, also). I guess it takes different strokes for different folks. I'm not attacking anyone, certainly not our good creator. And, what the heck, I showed up on this site because I am looking for help and guidance about agent reliability, among other things.

    I'm just concerned that we should all realize that this is a hard world, publishing competitive and unstable, labor of writers so intensive that most of us work for pennies an hour, that this is a recipe for bitter defeat in life and we make it the centerpiece of our lives at our peril, that we should have fallen in love with writing way back in junior high school English class, and writing is not a vocation or avocation for softies. In other words, get a regular job we are really interested in also, and try to resist things like writing, acting, modeling, painting, etc., if we can. Belief in positive thinking can get us into trouble.

    You, though, seem pretty aware, realistic, and smart! Not bad.

    Best Wishes, Kree Tin

  19. #19
    Nefarious Ghost Fan AnneMarble's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kree Atv Khurz
    You have many valid points (on other posts today, also). I guess it takes different strokes for different folks. I'm not attacking anyone, certainly not our good creator. And, what the heck, I showed up on this site because I am looking for help and guidance about agent reliability, among other things.
    On some issues, you are might be better off looking on the web first -- as long as you go to the right place. Unlike magazines, web sites don't generally have a huge lag time. Also, you can get questions answered quickly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kree Atv Khurz
    I'm just concerned that we should all realize that this is a hard world, publishing competitive and unstable, labor of writers so intensive that most of us work for pennies an hour, that this is a recipe for bitter defeat in life and we make it the centerpiece of our lives at our peril, that we should have fallen in love with writing way back in junior high school English class, and writing is not a vocation or avocation for softies. In other words, get a regular job we are really interested in also, and try to resist things like writing, acting, modeling, painting, etc., if we can. Belief in positive thinking can get us into trouble.
    There are some books that make it all seem too easy. "So You Want to Write a..." I can't help but think of the song by classical piantist Glenn Gould, "So You Want to Write a Fugue." I attended a dinner in his honor where a group sang it, and I still haven't written a fugue. I've bought plenty of books on writing mysteries and children's books and still haven't finished any of those. (Someday...) Still, I've had fun trying. For some people, that may be all that counts.

    Then again, I've come across some books that stress the harsh realities, and I think some of those are even worse. For one thing, harsh reality advice is probably six months to two years by the time it hits the shelves. It also might be the author's harsh reality but not everybody's. I remember reading one by some insider that said if you wanted to write a book in a certain genre of fiction, you should keep track of the typical length of the current books in that genre, the number of characters, etc. -- and write your book strictly within those guidelines. I wonder how many people tried that and got a rejection slip that said, "Sorry, this has already been done before." Or worse, "Sorry, the market has changed, and we're looking for shorter books now."
    :faint:

    I think all aspiring writers probably go through that "Oh, I can write one of those. No, wait, I'll write one of those..." periods. (Heck, I have to tamp down those feelings now and then. ) Some books (and magazines) are capitalizing on those phases. After all, I recently saw a writing magazine with a cover story about an interview with someone who had written Law & Order scripts. How many people saw that and bought it because they thought they could write for that show, never realizing how hard it is to break into an established series? But I do think that writers should learn the reality before they put all their energies into a Law & Order script that will never be produced.

    Still, at least reference books (and magazines and web sites, etc.) can help them learn some of the basics, as well as help them avoid the pitfalls. I worry more about the aspiring writers who never see those resources. Many of the people who succumb to writing scams might have avoided them if they had read more about writing and publishing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kree Atv Khurz
    You, though, seem pretty aware, realistic, and smart! Not bad.
    Well who can complain about a post that says that?

    I still haven't written a fugue, though...
    THE Official FreakTM
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    Dubbed "Cool Thread Starter Girl" by JeanneTGC

  20. #20
    Fig of authority
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kree Atv Khurz
    I have always thought of advertising experts or how-to books on writing, finding an agent, composing a query, proposal, ad infinitum as in the category of oxymorons/scams.
    Books on grammar, usage, story construction, and so forth fill a need for people who want to educate themselves on those topics. I wish such books had more readers. Too few people recognize that there are things they don't know.

    Books on the business aspects of getting published fill a different need. How the publishing industry works can't be figured out using common sense and intuition; one must also have factual information.

  21. #21
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kree Atv Khurz
    Am I the only one?

    I have always thought of advertising experts or how-to books on writing, finding an agent, composing a query, proposal, ad infinitum as in the category of oxymorons/scams. If they know what they are advising about, why are they trying to make money off wanabes? Seems like a fall-back position for a failed writer or whatever. ...

    I looked at a celebrated book (you know the one) on finding an agent, in the library for a couple of hours one day, and I just didn't see anything but fluff and common sense ...
    Kree, I have just the article for you, right here. Here's a bit of it:
    a. No matter how you think it works, the publishing industry doesn't work the way you think it does. This is true even for publishing professionals. They know how their part of the industry works, and they know a lot about adjacent areas, but the further afield they go, the less reliable their expertise will be. People who aren't in the industry generally don't have a clue.

    i. A phenomenal number of articles about how publishing works are written by people who don't know what they're talking about. This is partly because writing about writing, or writing about publishing, is what wanna-be authors do when they've given up on writing, but don't yet want to admit it. It's also because a made-up version of the publishing industry is going to be much simpler and more logical than the real thing, and thus is easier to write about.

    ii. Look askance at articles that credit some industry practice to the stupidity of people working in the industry, who have failed to see the simple and obvious solution the author of the article is about to suggest.

    3. There are easily as many scam agents, useless agents, and clueless agents as there are real ones. They all swap bad information with each other. The difference is that the scammers know it's bad information.

    a. You can't research this subject just by getting online and looking. You have to stick to good sources.

    4. Did I mention that any idiot can write a book about how to be a writer? When you see someone who's never sold a book, but who's written a book about how to get your book published, and said book was published by a vanity house, and said author is nevertheless accepted as an authority on the subject by a great many aspiring writers, you know you've wandered into strange territory.

    a. The scary part is that I've just described more than one Authoritative Source of Advice about Writing and Publishing.

    b. Any idiot can put up a website, too.

    c. Check out your source's credentials.

    i. It's always worth your while to assess the quality of the info you're getting, because bad advice can cost you such an inordinate amount of time and effort.
    The bit I've quoted is followed by an annotated list of reliable resources for authors.

  22. #22
    Living the Dream firehorse's Avatar
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    But if you do...

    I decided to hire an independent editor, so I thought I'd share that experience.

    NEPOTISM ALERT: A highly respected author, a family friend, has agreed to look at my ms and possibly pass it on to his agent, pretty much the A-list of the A-list; I felt a bit as though I were scheduled for my first major-league at-bat in the World Series. I know she won't look at it, but I'd at least like to impress her junior assistant. I spent two years paralyzed because the I was intimidated by the mere name of this woman.

    After consulting my contact, I decided to have someone take a look at it; I wanted (and still do) to make it bulletproof before I even sent it to him.

    I did *not* go with anyone I found on the Internet. I thought about the editor I most enjoyed working with in the past (on a short piece); I felt she really understood what I was trying to say and communicated her ideas to me very clearly, in language that fit my brain-scheme. I e-mailed her, and though she wasn't able to take on any projects due to family commitments, she e-mailed a few of her contacts, and I wound up sending my ms to a former New Yorker copyeditor (I think she worked on features) who has significant book-editing credentials to her credit as well.

    She agreed to a simple read, which included a lengthy phone consultation during which she made suggestions and I asked questions. Though I was deflated by her response - well-written but not marketable without a 180-degree change in tone - I felt I'd received high-quality advice for a reasonable amount ($320 US).

    Some other thoughts:
    -I am usually very good with grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. I went over my ms with a fine-toothed pencil, and I had a couple of other people read it, too. If this isn't your strong suit, there's no point in having it copy-edited until it's structurally sound.

    -By the time I sent it to Ed #1, the ms was absolutely the best I could've possibly made it. There wasn't a word in there that I hadn't scrutinized; I put the whole book as well as each chapter through my story structure test, made sure continuity was correct - in short, it was what I might've sent to an agent ten years ago, back when editors at publishing houses had time to edit.

    -Now. I plan to implement as many of those revisions as make sense (a few don't, at least not right now); I'll again take it as far as I can, and then I plan to work with another editor (slightly less expensive, but in more line-editing detail) I'm not turning it to my contact in until I can bounce a quarter off it.

    -I have several regular readers. Because they're friends and family, they a) give me more leeway than a stranger might, and b) fill in the blanks if crucial information is missing. Still, they all have good eyes and can catch continuity errors, inconsistencies in voice and characterization, etc. So I don't see any point in hiring an editor until you've gotten as much as you can - for free, or the price of a home-cooked meal - from the people you know !!

    -Go with someone you trust, someone who (as has been said above) has a major track record. And don't waste your money by hiring someone too soon. The 'read' was a great way for me to learn what was on track and what wasn't. For feedback from a woman of her stature, $320 was a steal.

    -Finally, I had to wait just over a month for this woman to get around to my ms. That's actually a very short time, but know that the best editors are swamped and giving detailed attention to their current projects, the same kind of attention you'd like them to pay to yours. With this second editor (who is also a friend), I've been able to estimate when my revisions will be done and ask if she can save me some space around that time.

    There are a whole lot of scammers out there, but there are a few genuine editors who can help your final product become tight - but first find out if it's worth the extra time and money. I have confidence in my project because one of the main characters is relatively famous; I now see that I have to embrace that fact rather than try to hide it.

    Hope this makes sense. It's very late, and I'm falling asleep at the keyboard.

    As always, YMMV.
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