I came across Rachelle Gardner’s blog post by way of that shoe-hoarding Brit author, Nicola Morgan, who prides herself on being more clever and quicker on the dime than her Yank counterpart. But one thing we agree on is how to utilize an independent editor.
If you’re going to pay someone to help you finesse your manuscript, then you should look at it as a private classroom, where you have the undivided attention of your teacher. This is your chance to pick her brains and learn the subtle nuances that make a good story great, good writing great. If you hire someone to simply rewrite your manuscript so that it’s publishable, then you become a huge liability to your agent and, eventually, your publishing editor.
Rachelle said something that really hit home with me:
“Many agents and editors are uncomfortable with writers having too much outside editorial help prior to being contracted, because it can mask a writer’s true abilities. I’d hate to get you a 3-book contract with a publisher based on that stellar first book, only to find out that you had a ton of help with it and are not able to deliver that quality of book a second time.”
Hoo, it’s that and a bag ‘o chips. There have been a few times when I knew the author had used an independent editor, and this was cause for concern because I had no way of gauging who’s talents were shining through – the author’s or the editor’s.
Big deal, you say. Well, it can really hit home during the editing phase. I remember years ago working on a manuscript that I loved. We needed to do some noodling around to give the arc more impact, and this involved rewrites. The stuff that came back to me was pedestrian. WTH, thinks me. This is a bloated mess. I sent it back with specific crits. They came back again, equally horrendous. Now I’m starting to break a sweat.
It was about that time I found out she’d used an indie editor. Well, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who’d done the writing. Not happy, was I. the beagle was ordered to make copious pitchers of margaritas and order out for Twinkies. We went through with the release of the book because we’d come too far to dump it. She sent us another book – without any editorial input, and this was where I saw the author’s true lack of talent. Instant rejection. She fired back suggesting I have a brain scan. We, ah, have since parted company.
So I get very nervous these days when I find out an author used an indie editor because, as Rachelle says, I have no way of judging the author’s talents, and I’m concerned they won’t be able to execute rewrites. There have been times I contacted the editor to find out how they helped finesse the work. One editor told me she’d practically rewritten the entire manuscript. I passed on the project only because it’s achingly hard to work with an author who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
On the other hand, I appreciate authors who look at the indie editor experience as a teaching tool and go on to become a much better writer. But I admit that I worry about too many cooks in the kitchen. So for those of you working with an indie editor, keep in mind that I bought your work, and I assume this came from your hand, not your editor’s. You better be able to do any rewrites I may request with panache and eloquence. Otherwise the beagle is gonna growl and get all cranky like, and I’ll be forced to mainline chocolate martinis.