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Edit Ink (Bill Appel, Denise Sterrs)

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Matthew Warner

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By the way, I love science fiction. :Hug2: I just don't write much of it because I decided a long time ago that I needed to specialize, and horror has a slight edge in my heart.

Considering how well horror does compared to SF, though, maybe I should've chosen more wisely. :cry:
 

Nanci Kalanta

Horror World & Matthew Warner

Matthew has been a columnist for Horror World since the site was revamped in October of 2004. I have never found Matthew to ever do anything half way - he is meticulous in his research, checking and re-checking his facts. I have no doubt that his experiences are true and accurate. Matthew is someone who rarely, if ever, embellishes the truth - in fact, I have found him to be brutally honest; a rare trait in these days of glad handing and politicking.

I know for a fact that Matthew had some qualms about my running the story but felt that it would serve the writing community well to know what is out there and what to beware of. He does not gloss over his involvement in Edit Ink and shines that brutally honest light over himself.

I stand behind Matthew and his column and it will be reprinted in next year's edition of Eulogies because it is an important column and one that every writer should read.

I'm not going to hide behind any name but my own. I'm proud that Matthew has associated himself with Horror World and I'm proud to run his columns and to call him friend.

Nanci Kalanta
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larocca

Business Editing Services
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Another Victim

It was in the previous century, but hey hey hey, they got my money too. We should have some sort of alumni reunion thing. It'd take a mighty big meeting place, though.

Michael
 
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AC Crispin

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Whatever Became of Bill and Denise?

Does anyone know whatever became of Bill Appell and Denise Sterrs? I suspect they may have been enjoined from engaging in activities like editing for profit or representing themselves as literary agents, but I'm not sure.

Anyone keep track of the Deadly Duo?

-Ann C. Crispin
 

Matthew Warner

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My best information, from the NY attorney general, is that Appel and Steers skipped town and possibly the state. Nobody knows where they are. Also, as I mentioned in the article, zilcheroo of the fines and damages were ever collected from them.

In other news, Charles Neighbors contacted me last year and said he was contemplating litigation to expunge his record, but I never heard the end of it. I've also received many emails from other former flunkies like me, who pretty much had the same experience.
 

thebookdoc

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You bet your Edit Ink...

I come to this several years too late, but find it really pretty humorous. Having read through this whole thread with some interest, I am surprised I never knew about it before. You see I am Tad's brother, who originally got him the job editing for Edit Ink, AKA New Voices, AKA Editcetera, AKA Charles Neighbors...um, there may have been more names. I started working for them after a trip to Baltimore in 1991 or 1992, where they were running ads in the paper there...I saw one, called them to see if they would like to come to a writing class I was holding to talk about how agents work with writers. Instead, Bill hired me over the phone to critique manuscripts. I am fairly certain I was their first employee -- though I worked for hire, and not as part of the company...and I did so till about the time of their demise.

There is nothing I am reading in Tad's replies that I think is even remotely fictitious. He was right that I'd published my 5th book by the time he posted, and just this past March, my 8th (My books have been published with Macmillan, SAMS, QUE, SYBEX, Focal Press...so it wasn't 'vanity'). He did indeed graduate from law school, passed the bar, and indeed worked/works for a very large publisher -- I'd take his word that it is third largest as I have not known much of Tad's interest in lying. I respect his intelligence and good sense, which is why I recommended him for the job -- the cynicism and sense of dark humor is a family trait, which I feel my brother is better at than I. I was not witness to encounters with Ms. Culmer/Cummings, but I have no doubt that they happened, as the circumstances during the visit made such pretty likely. A few other well-qualified friends of mine (both of whom teach English and writing in colleges and universities) were also employed...but primarily my brother and I, from what I understand, are the two who enabled Bill and Denise to build their business...long before they opened the offices in Cheektowaga. Their house was on Main in Williamsville, nearly across the street from the Williamsville high school. Bill kept a large fish tank in the 'family' room, where I first met him and he served me a scotch in the very early afternoon so we could discuss my employment. He was apparently writing a book about keeping tropical fish...

Not that this is any excuse for what Bill and Denise and whomever else did...But the quality of editing I did was pretty high, I suspect, and so was the work my brother and friends. I'd been educated in writing in both undergrad and graduate studies, taught English and writing at several colleges and universities, and was myself the senior editor of a reasonably successful but quite small publishing house that still exists -- though I no longer work for them.

As an aside which will sway neatly back to the discussion at hand...as far as the 'errors' in posts in an informal discussion group in slightly heated conversations:

1) um, how much time do you spend editing these posts to impress your friends if you have ANYTHING else to do with your life?

2) Editing is not all spelling and grammar...Sense of story, understanding what works and what doesn't, and experience with books and literary history probably give you something of an advantage in helping people fix their crappy books.

The latter idea of sensibility and where to take something rather than the nuts and bolts of line-editing are what we were employed to do. We read books, to start, for $40 each, and returned a 2-3 page thoughtful critique of everything from mechanics of language to plot, character, and other analysis. All I knew was that they could provide me with 10 manuscripts a week, and that I could read and respond in my own way on my own time...on their letterhead. For larger books and as time passed, our per-book fee increased. It was very good for me. I'd stop at their house, drop off my pile of books, pick up the next pile, take my check, and be on my way...all the time fairly convinced I was doing something to help people understand why their writing was not being accepted for publication. Generally the manuscripts STUNK, but there were a few that were pretty good. There is one that I critiqued that I found in print years later...though I believe the title was different when I read it. I have also read and critiqued books as a professional reader for publishing houses. I have seen some 30+ books I have worked on as an editor get into print.

It was very easy to work with Bill and Denise, and they were quite good to me. Until the very end I really had no idea of the scam they were running...and perhaps was unsure really till Tad (by the way, not his real name) had his meeting with them to become part of the team. I was privvy to perhaps one or two cover letters that mentioned fees, and I did think in consideration I should have been making quite a bit more, but it was an opportunity, and they did all the work to track down the clients...and I typed up letters on whichever letterhead they needed me to use.

At one point in the late 90s I was called by the NYSAG and, after talking with them, was not asked to testify. When I found out how much they were being sued for, I was pretty surprised, and also figured I'd helped them net around 300-400K of that directly, and maybe much more considering the number of people I helped them find to do their editing. I admired their enginuity and was taken aback slightly realizing that I was involved in the scam, but know all along I provided what I could to help those writers either succeed, or pay for the reality that they needed to find another line of work...thanks so much for the therapy session. At the same time I found a very fine line between what I continued to do as a book doctor and what they did...which seemed to be referring themselves the work -- which can be considered the deception. But for that, the same services were rendered.

I do wonder how one could work 'in house' and not know what was going on, as externally the few cover letters I saw provided some hints...and I imagine that there was probably even more to get into, and certainly more to over-hear. Denise and Bill would have had to have been pretty sneaky to hide that much from people who were under their feet 40 hours a week. I don't know if I was in their company a total of 40 hours in my entire working relationship with them...

In any case I don't do any of that editing stuff anymore as I don't have time for it... But I bet for some who knew what to do with it, it was a valuable service. While the deception is questionable, it may not be completely reliable to say all of these people were deceived or that they did not receive what they had paid for.
 

James D. Macdonald

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Hi there, thebookdoc

I'm one of the moderators of this board.

It would be really helpful if you could send me a Private Message (PM) to let me know who you are. I promise to keep it confidential, but that way I could vouch for you. Other industry professionals who, for one reason or another, want to keep their posts here anonymous have found this to be a reasonable compromise.

To send a PM, just click on my name over there to the left.
 

thebookdoc

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I assume the information I sent was satisfactory. I'm not too worried about people 'flaming' me...Like any decent writer I can handle a critique. In a way I think it is too bad that the stigma of paying for editing is seen so negatively. I agree that the deception was not excusable, but the fees paid for personal attention to a manuscript by a professional is less than I get paid these days to breeze through manuscripts in a technical/content edit and critique for major publishers depending on what I am doing. The fees are not that much more than you might pay for an intensive writing seminar...
 

victoriastrauss

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I've heard from people who got helpful, thoughtful critiques from Scott Meredith, too. The fact that a few skilled and conscientious editors wind up working for a scam operation doesn't negate the fact that it's a scam.

- Victoria
 

Elizabeth George's book Write Away