Editing Services or Editing Dis-services?

February 18, 2015

Over the past few months, I’ve had cause to scratch my head at some of these “editing services” crowding cyberspace. For one thing, anyone can hang out a shingle and claim they’re a full-on editing service – ghostwriter, content and copy editor, and this elusive thing called “publishing services”…which I’ve come to learn is fancy schmancy term for “I’ll write and submit your query letter for you.” For a fee, of course. Problem is, these query letters are terrible. Beyond terrible, in fact.

They offer none of the mouth-watery stuff I need to determine whether it’s something I’d be interested in. Here’s an email I just sent to an “editing service” on behalf of their client. You be the judge.

Dear XXX,

If you’re acting on behalf of XXX, then it would have been helpful to have a stronger query letter that details the need for this particular book – the “gotta have it” aspects. There are numerous books on this particular topic, and the title comps you included in your query show that neither you nor XXX have a working knowledge on the true competition. This Won’t Hurt a Bit by Michelle Au is a wonderful book that already covers these topics. Any of Atul Gawande’s books are also a major go-to for those interested in this topic.

 You also don’t provide an author platform, which is vital in nonfiction – especially in this sub-genre. Considering the popularity of Gawande’s books and Michelle’s book, XXX has some stiff competition, so it’s vital that I have this information. So sadly, since your query letter is so underwhelming, I have no choice but to decline to review this further.

So much went so wrong for the author because she trusted her book, query, and checkbook to this “editing service.” A paragraph or two of description does not a mouth-watery query make (channeling Yoda). Insisting the competition in this genre is very limited is query suicide because there is always someone who reads a lot more than you do…and they do this sort of thing for a living.

Platform. If you’re going to write nonfiction, you really need to have some sort of a platform by which we can promote you. This isn’t just me saying this, but every other publisher of nonfiction out there in Book Land. To omit this is also query suicide.

Here’s the thing; “editing services” have no stake in your success. You pay them, and they can be as right or wrong as they want…and they still get paid. That is a fact. In my experience, I’ve found that these “editing services” write some of the worst query letters because they don’t think like a publisher. They don’t understand the hook, or how to reel us in. They simply punch in a formula they think works, and blast it out. Easy money.

This is unforgivable in my opinion. If you’re going to call yourself “professional,” then you damn well better understand how to write a query letter and have a working knowledge of the competition. And these guys don’t. They can’t, because it’s impossible to be an expert in all fields. They can’t expect to know the comp titles for medical nonfiction AND pet grooming…which is why I’m not a fan of these guys.

I also question their editing abilities. For example, I read a manuscript about a woman who used rescued horses to help special needs kids. Fabulous premise. However, the thrust of the manuscript focused on her failing marriage. WHO CARES?? I want to read about the horses she rescues and the kids she works with. The author told me her original manuscript was all about the horses and kids, but her “editing service” suggested her failing marriage was a stronger storyline.

A failing marriage? The marketplace is busting at the seams with those stories, and these books simply don’t sell.  However, rescue horses and special-needs kids is big and marketable. This was an “editing dis-service.”

There is no “one size fits all” in indie editing, yet authors pay out tons of money because these “services” are very good at one thing: promoting their services.

Any editorial service should be chosen with great care. Before you fork over money to hear someone make suggestions to change key elements of your book, you need to believe it’s a good idea. Ask yourself whether those changes make your book more marketable. Then again, in order for you to be able to answer that, you need to research your competition.

Remember: Anyone  you’re paying has no stake in your success, so choose with great care.

 


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