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Thread: The Editorial Department (Renni Browne)

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Papa'sLiver's Avatar
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    The Editorial Department (Renni Browne)

    Does anyone know of these people? They are "editors for hire", and the company was founded by Renni Browne, of "Editing Yourself Into Print" fame. The service seems good and legit (recommended on Preditors and Editors), but I just wanted to check here if anyone had heard anything negative. Not sure if this is the route I want to go (using an editor for hire), as it's very pricey, but just thought I'd post anyway.

    Thank you for any info you can put forth!
    Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.- E.H.

  2. #2
    Resident Bubble Girl bubblegirl's Avatar
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    If you decide you want an editor, go for book-editing.com. The cost is 1-2c per word, however, you get top editors. Any editor that is listed with them had to go through a rigorous test that only 2% of applicants pass.

    You can have a free non-obligatory trial. Several editors in your genre will respond with a sample of how they would edit your work, letting you choose which you would prefer.

    My experience has been VERY positive. I found a capable editor who has literary interests close to mine. She has since become an inspiration and mentor to me, and I've influenced and helped her also.

    S.
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  3. #3
    The late, the great XThe NavigatorX mdin's Avatar
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    I asked Victoria from Writer Beware about these guys a couple months back (they were hiring at the time), and this was her response:

    (Victoria, I'm assuming it's okay to post this. If not feel free to ban me and have my kneecaps broken)

    The Editorial Dept. is a very well-established service (in business
    since the 1980's), run by people with a lot of freelance and industry
    editing experience. They work both for individual authors and commercial
    publishers, and by all accounts do a very good job. I've never gotten
    any complaints, or seen any negative information.

    My Art

  4. #4
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    No kneecap-breaking today, X. That's still my assessment.

    Lynne Marie Zerance of The Editorial Department wrote this recent article about literary scams.

    Before you decide to spring for paid editing (an often extremely expensive proposition that offers no guarantees that your work will become more publishable), have a look at the Book Doctors page of Writer Beware. There's general information on editing, some thoughts about when it might (or might not) be appropriate, tips on how to choose a reputable editor, and links to helpful resources.

    I'm not thrilled with book-editing.com's front page blurb, which includes this very questionable statement: "In short, the final part of the writing process is having a professional book editor and proofreader (not your neighbors or your kid's English teacher) polish the manuscript before it's offered to an agent or publisher." Plenty of people get published without hiring, or even thinking of hiring, an independent editor or proofreader. Still, there are some qualified people listed on the site. As always, you should double check the bona fides of anyone you're thinking of hiring (see the tips at the link above).

    - Victoria

  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Papa'sLiver's Avatar
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    Thank you VERY much for the great info and links, folks!


    Very appreciated!
    Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.- E.H.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    I used The Editorial Department and was very happy. What I was looking for, though, wasn't someone to polish my prose. I wanted someone to look at the whole novel with an editor's eye and tell me what the strengths and weaknesses were.

    Their "Preliminary Evaluation" memo was outstanding--nine pages of carefully reasoned critique. In my case, most of the suggestions were about about pacing and proportion, but they at least touch on prose style, characterization, theme, genre, and many other issues. What they stress, of course, will have to do with what they see as needing improvement.

    I have to admit that my manuscript changed by only about 5% based on their critique, but I was still very happy with the results.

    (It may be, of course, that I was just lucky in which editor they assigned to my manuscript.)

    I suspect this is not the place to go if you need help with prose itself--not because I think they would be deficient in this regard, but because it would simply become vastly expensive. I wouldn't advise anyone to polish prose through an editorial service (I'd use workshops or critique groups); I think the proper role of an editorial service is to assess your manuscript as if they are an acquiring editor.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Papa'sLiver's Avatar
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    Yeah, I can understand that. I would like to use them for the same deal that you used them for.

    Thanks!
    Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.- E.H.

  8. #8
    Philly5834
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    The Editorial Department

    Hi All:
    Just to let you know that I've had the Editorial Dept. as my editors for a good twelve years now and can heartily recommend them. All writers need editors and the truth is that both agents and publishers expect manuscripts submitted to them to be in almost perfect shape when they receive them. This is particularly true for first time novelists. Thus, there is a need for absolute attention to every word and sentence of your manuscript--the need for "le mot juste." And line editing by the Editorial Department resulted in my finding a prestigious agent for my first novel and publication by one of the top three publishers in the country. You only have one crack at these editors and agents and they are looking for any reason to turn you down--thus the need for near perfection in what you submit to them. The Editorial Department will definitely not encourage you to go on and engage their services if they do not think that your work--with proper editorial help--will not be acceptable to a good agent. Their services are not cheap, but you definitely get a good bang for the buck! They are honest, not out to rip you off, but to give you the best chance you'll get of finding an agent. And indeed, if your work merits it, they will connect you with a prestigious agent, since the agents themselves respect the company's recommendations. I've just finished having my second novel line-edited by them, and it is presently in the hands of a first line agent. I'm hoping for the best, and appreciate the fact that The Editorial Department helped me to put my best foot forward in this effort to find a publisher.
    Last edited by Philly5834; 08-23-2006 at 05:37 AM.

  9. #9
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    Do you think you could mention the title and publisher of your novel?

  10. #10
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Hmm. May I inquire why the agent for your first novel isn't handling your second?

  11. #11
    Mad coder, lazy writer Fahim's Avatar
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    I read Renni Browne's "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" and found it really useful. I then tried out the Editorial Department's free five page evaluation (I think) and found them to be courteous, quick and extremely good. Everything that they had to say about my five pages was relevant and made sense. However, I found their rates to be too high (for me personally) and have not used their editorial services. In fact, if you are considering using an editor, you might simply want to purchase Renni Browne's book first since it tells you most of the stuff that you'll be told by the Editorial Department if you went through them - and it's much cheaper
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  12. #12
    melba
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    I recently had the Editorial Department do an evaluation of my novel. While they were very expensive, I found them to be professional and the critique was excellent.

    That said, I would not use them until after you've already exhausted other means for improvement such as a good critique partner. I was at a point where my work was good, but not good enough, and felt like I needed a professional's opinion. All in all, I feel like having hired them was worthwhile.

    On another note, they do not push additional services and are good about follow up questions.

  13. #13
    Moderator In Name Only AW Moderator Roger J Carlson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by melba
    I recently had the Editorial Department do an evaluation of my novel. While they were very expensive, I found them to be professional and the critique was excellent.
    But here's the thing: How do you know it was a good critique? Other than line-editing, a lot of editorial critique is opinion. One editor may tell you to change this thing to make the story better and another may tell you to change another thing. That's the problem with all paid, third-party critiques. The advice may not be good for the specific market you are submitting it to.

    This problem holds true for any critique given by someone other than the publisher, of course, but there's a tendency to put undue weight to a paid, "professional" critique.

    The only critique you can be positive of is the one where the publishing editor says: "If you change these things, I will buy it."
    Last edited by Roger J Carlson; 08-23-2006 at 10:35 PM.
    --Roger J. Carlson

  14. #14
    Iyerr
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    Editorial Department

    I have used TED (The Editorial Department) to edit my first novel. I did it with much trepidation since it was an expensive proposition and I knew little about them. I had used Renni Browne's book "Self Editing for Fiction Writers" and found it helpful. However agents continued to reject my ms. I had gotten a lot of feedback from writers groups and thought the ms ready to go.

    When I received a rejection from a Penguin editor I decided to use TED's editing services. Renni edited the book and it has certainly improved--she gave me excellent feedback on plot/characterization as well as general editing and was great about letting me make the final decision regarding changes.

    TED only took on the book because a lot of work had already gone into it. If you have polished your work to the best of your ability only then are they a good place to go to--also because they may not even take you on otherwise. They're expensive but worth it--for me at least right now a couple agents are very interested in the ms and TED had a lot to do with that--they have been submitting to agents on my behalf. I'm doing my own submissions too in the meantime. Finally everyone I've worked with at TEd has been so courteous and wonderful, patient and very very supportive and continue to be during my search for an agent so overall its been a good experience for me.
    Last edited by Iyerr; 08-23-2006 at 10:45 PM.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW Peggy's Avatar
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    I have to admit, when several people register at AW with the sole purpose of describing their fantabulous experience with a business under discussion in Bewares, I immediately get the sense that the business is a scammy (or at least spammy) operation. It's obviously not always a fair assumption, but it does leave a bad taste in my mouth. I hope that Philly8534, melba and Iyerr come back and participate as AW members.

  16. #16
    melba
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    I'm sorry you feel that way. I've been registered here for awhile but am a lurker because I haven't really had anything to say. The only reason I posted is because when I hired them, I didn't have anything to go on other than that I liked their book, and I was very nervous about wasting money. I thought providing my actual experience might help someone else.

    As I said, I wouldn't recommend going to them unless you've exhausted everything else. They are expensive, and a good critique partner can do a lot for you.

    As for how do you tell if a critique is good or not, I think that's an individual determination. In my case, when they pointed out the weaknesses in my book, such as some of my characters were not very smart and my police procedural was weak, the comments rang true to me. I edited the book to correct these and other things, and I believe the work is now stronger. That's my instinct, which I believe in following. We'll see if agents and editors agree. Which by the way, I'll be finding on my own, The Editorial Department did not offer to submit my work to anyone, but I also did not pursue additional services with them. I opted to take their comments and run with them on my own rather than spend more money.
    Last edited by melba; 08-24-2006 at 01:59 AM.

  17. #17
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    Welcome, Melba.

    If anything, recent testimonials illustrate the core issue: such services are not for newbie writers looking to magically make their first draft publishable.

    FWIW, TED has a rep for accepting only those mss they think can achieve the "next level".
    ICAO
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  18. #18
    Miss Novel
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    Smile About The Editorial Department - RABBIT HEART by Colleen Hitchcock

    As I worked on my writing, I tried to do all the right things. I went to school, to class, and to conferences from Minneapolis, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Maui, etc. I studied every book I could get my hands on, acquiring a library that fills a room on writing. I put my "seat to the seat" and wrote. I gave up years of my life dedicating time to my craft. I traded my input with other writers and asked colleagues, friends, cousins and strangers of all ages to read my work for comments. And I tediously edited myself over and over again. When you've done that--you've done all YOU can do for yourself.

    Now you have this room of manuscripts, screenplays, short stories, etc. and no place to distribute. You want a publisher, but you need an agent. You want an agent, but they're doing deals--none with your name. That is the hardest time. When you know that you and your computer are as good as you can be without a powerful hand to lift you to the next level.

    I sent my novel, "Rabbit Heart", to The Editorial Department and had it evaluated by Renni Browne, the founder of the company and co-author of "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers". She loved "Rabbit Heart", and my writing, and wrote me several pages about my book that showed me her great depth and understanding of my book. There is an important moment a writer reaches where you really need objective professional affirmation from a trusted and respected source.

    Most importantly, Renni believed in me and my writing and that confirmation boosted my belief in myself. We talked on the phone and Renni sent me a chapter-by-chapter blueprint for revision, with terrific variations that had great impact on my plot, characters, and style.

    After I sent my revision back to Renni, she line-edited the entire manuscript--to bring out my writing voice. It became a polished page-turner that was sent to a top William Morris literary agent in NYC--referred by The Editorial Department.

    Within two weeks he negotiated a two-book contract with Simon and Schuster. "Rabbit Heart" was published in May 2006, will be published in mass-market paperback next year, and I'm now working on a sequel.

    Renni has been around a long time. She's experienced and she knows everybody--and they know her. Aside from that, she's a wonderful person and I can't say enough about her company. I bless the day I called The Editorial Department. It was actually her son, Ross, that encouraged me to send in my writing. I saw someone in this thread mentioned cost for an editor? Worth every penny. They will forever have my respect and gratitude.

    Someone mentioned getting critiqued by they're writing friends...I have some very experienced writing friends. I can tell you that you will never get the kind of polishing and feedback from a friend as you would from such a talented editor as Renni Browne. Renni Browne has Great Book Brain.

    If you are a serious writer who is looking to breakthrough with your book, I highly recommend The Editorial Department.

    Visit my web site at www.colleenhitchcock.com to learn more about "Rabbit Heart". Fellow writers may feel free to E-mail me at missnovel@aol.com

  19. #19
    Mad coder, lazy writer Fahim's Avatar
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    You know, I liked the people at the Editorial Department, I'd dealt with them and they seemed genuine, I've read Renni's book and I think it is an invaluable resource for any writer but still, when I see so many new posters signing up suddenly just to post effusive praise about their services, it gives me a queasy feeling I'm certainly not saying that they are not legit - I'm simply talking about the impression that these new posts give

    That said, I also believe that at least some of these posts give you the impression that if you get your books edited with the Editorial Department, then you will land a book contract. I would strongly advice anybody reading that to use a dash of commonsense with that

    Incidentally, my book has only been edited by me a couple of times. It had not received many critiques when I sent into the Editorial Department. Sure, I didn't get Renni Browne commenting on it but the person who did do the free edit on the first five pages wanted me to sign up with them. Does that make my book really polished and only needing the final touches by a professional editor or does it mean that they aren't as selective as some of these testimonials might make seem? I don't know - you can draw your own conclusions
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  20. #20
    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peggy
    I have to admit, when several people register at AW with the sole purpose of describing their fantabulous experience with a business under discussion in Bewares, I immediately get the sense that the business is a scammy (or at least spammy) operation.
    IMO, it's fairly easy to distinguish the fake testimonials from the genuine ones. Everyone who's posted positive experiences in this thread has provided plausible scenarios and concrete, specific details; more than that, they are posting in support of a well-established, successful business whose credentials and reputation are easily researchable. (An issue entirely separate from the question of whether or not any individual writer should consider paying for an editorial service.)

    Remember, this forum is not just "Bewares," it's also "Background Check." Sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.

    - Victoria

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Peggy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss
    IMO, it's fairly easy to distinguish the fake testimonials from the genuine ones. Everyone who's posted positive experiences in this thread has provided plausible scenarios and concrete, specific details; more than that, they are posting in support of a well-established, successful business whose credentials and reputation are easily researchable. (An issue entirely separate from the question of whether or not any individual writer should consider paying for an editorial service.)

    Remember, this forum is not just "Bewares," it's also "Background Check." Sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.
    You are right, Victoria, the posters in this thread don't sound like a hoard of sock puppets. The number of first time posters just caused my knee to jerk violently.

    To melba and the other first posters - welcome to AW and thank you for sharing your experiences here!

  22. #22
    melba
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    Thanks! I appreciate the welcome. Now that I've come out of lurking, I'll have to post more.

  23. #23
    Hagiographically Advantaged AW Moderator HapiSofi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philly5834
    Hi All:
    Just to let you know that I've had the Editorial Dept. as my editors for a good twelve years now and can heartily recommend them. All writers need editors and the truth is that both agents and publishers expect manuscripts submitted to them to be in almost perfect shape when they receive them.
    No, we don't. And "all writers need editors" is one of the standard come-on lines for book doctors.
    This is particularly true for first time novelists. Thus, there is a need for absolute attention to every word and sentence of your manuscript--the need for "le mot juste."
    That's not a description of "first-time novelist." It's a description of "writer."
    And line editing by the Editorial Department resulted in my finding a prestigious agent for my first novel and publication by one of the top three publishers in the country.
    Did they indeed? What was the title? Who published it? And if you've been published by a major house, why do you say at the beginning that you've had The Editorial Department as your editors for twelve years now? You must have had an editor who worked in-house for your publisher.

    (If The Editorial Department has been editing your for twelve years, how come they still haven't taught you to put in paragraph breaks?)
    You only have one crack at these editors and agents and they are looking for any reason to turn you down--thus the need for near perfection in what you submit to them.
    That statement is inaccurate; but I'm bothered less by its inaccuracy than by its resemblance (again) to standard book-doctor come-ons.
    The Editorial Department will definitely not encourage you to go on and engage their services if they do not think that your work--with proper editorial help--will not be acceptable to a good agent. Their services are not cheap, but you definitely get a good bang for the buck! They are honest, not out to rip you off, but to give you the best chance you'll get of finding an agent.
    The best chance you have of finding an agent, and of getting published, is to write a good book in the first place. Writing not-very-good books and paying people to fix them is as fruitless as self-publishing not-very-good books and then running all over creation trying to promote them. Neither strategy will make you a successful author.
    And indeed, if your work merits it, they will connect you with a prestigious agent, since the agents themselves respect the company's recommendations.
    I know of no reason that they shouldn't do so. This nevertheless makes me uneasy, because agents who recommend book doctors are so frequently corrupt.
    I've just finished having my second novel line-edited by them, and it is presently in the hands of a first line agent.
    I won't ask why you've changed agents. There are a lot of legitimate reasons that can happen. I have a different objection.

    Real professional editing is quite expensive. In normal publishing, this doesn't matter, because the editing is provided and paid for by the publisher. If you're one of those gifted but horribly erratic authors like Thomas Wolfe or Harold Robbins or Hunter S. Thompson, it might make sense to hire a professional freelance editor for your first book. They can help you put it into order so that agents and editors can see what's wonderful and/or saleable about your writing. Then, after your first book's sold a heap of copies and/or gotten a bunch of great reviews, it's in your publisher's interest to have an in-house editor do the necessary editing on subsequent works.

    (Note: this really only works if you've had a major bestseller, or your editor loves your books and is personally committed to them.)

    (Alternately, you could look at what the freelance editors did to your book, say "Aha! Now I see how it's done!", and never make those mistakes again. But we're talking about a scenario in which the author has more than one book thus edited, so that option doesn't apply.)

    Thomas Wolfe wrote great evocative prose. Harold Robbins was pure popcorn. Hunter S. Thompson had a bizarre, brilliant style, and unique journalistic content. Here's the point: if you fix up their writing, there's something there worth having.

    But suppose instead that you're a writer who needs that kind of professional help to produce a book that's publishable at all. You pay a substantial sum to have your first book edited. The result is ... okay. You're offered a contract. Your book is moderately successful, or at least not notably unsuccessful. Your editor likes it well enough. But if you send in the unedited manuscript of your second book, they're not going to knock themselves out doing a comprehensive structural and line edit -- not if all they'll get for it will be a book that's just okay, merely publishable, tepidly likeable. They'll just decline to represent or buy it.

    So suppose you have professional freelance editors clean up your second book, too. If your books are only modestly successful -- which a lot of books are, though none of their authors thought they'd be -- those editing fees will amount to a substantial chunk of your advances. How long does this go on? What's the point?
    I'm hoping for the best, and appreciate the fact that The Editorial Department helped me to put my best foot forward in this effort to find a publisher.
    Philly, I'm looking at your prose here, and it's just not very inspiring. I honestly think you'd be better advised to work on your writing rather than pay people to fix it up for you.
    Last edited by HapiSofi; 08-24-2006 at 09:39 PM.
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  24. #24
    melba
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    Wow, that last post was pretty rude and seemed like a direct attack on Philly5834. I thought this was a forum about helping people, not criticizing their opinions. The point of this thread was to discuss whether or not The Editorial Department is a valid company, not whether or not people really need an editor--that's an individual decision, and probably warrants a separate thread with the pros and cons.

    And in regards to the comment that paying someone to fix your book won't make you a better writer, that's not entirely true. Paying someone to show you what's wrong and how to fix it can definitely make you a better writer.

  25. #25
    Sockpuppet Hunter MartyKay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by melba
    Wow, that last post was pretty rude
    No it wasn't. It was fairly mild actually.

    and seemed like a direct attack on Philly5834.
    Again, nope.

    I thought this was a forum about helping people, not criticizing their opinions.
    What if helping people required criticism of their opinion?

    The point of this thread was to discuss whether or not The Editorial Department is a valid company, not whether or not people really need an editor--that's an individual decision, and probably warrants a separate thread with the pros and cons.
    The Editorial Department appears to be a valid company -- Victoria has a post on that above. However, Philly5834 made some statements that appear very much like the statements made by book doctors. Hapisofi is pointing that out. Since Philly5834 did this in context of TED, Hapisofi points this out in this thread. A thread pro/con using an editor would be for the writing forums -- if comments can't be refuted in threads in Bewares then anyone could post an erroneous opinion as an aside in a thread and it would have to stand undisputed.

    And in regards to the comment that paying someone to fix your book won't make you a better writer, that's not entirely true. Paying someone to show you what's wrong and how to fix it can definitely make you a better writer.
    I disagree in part, as I believe you need to have the potential to be a good writer to become one. I don't think a mediocre writer + $$$ = good writer.
    Last edited by MartyKay; 08-25-2006 at 11:05 AM.
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