All bloggers are writers. Some good, some mediocre, some bad, and some truly abysmal.
This weekend’s post from the sofa is inspired by a couple of authors whose blogs I’ve commented on this week.
Counting up the number of bloggers who regularly read on here I was surprised how many published authors there are. Whether it is fiction, technical writing, corporate publications, travel books, there are a lot of you out there. I’m including me in that list too, not as a journalist, but under corporate.
And then there are all those of you who do have a tale to tell but haven’t got round to it. I include my idle self in that category too.
The discussions I’ve had this week centred around two aspects of editing. Rules, and different types of editing, so this post is looking at everything from an editorial perspective, and, specifically mine.
What rules? Never end a sentence with a preposition? Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction? Or don’t dangle your modifiers?
I learned the first two at school. I learned to break them as a journalist.
I’d never heard of a dangled modifier until recently. We learned that anyway at school, it just wasn’t called that.
I got 20/20 or 19/20 for spelling tests. I got a Grade A for English Language O level. Writing English and spelling accurately came naturally.
But having learned to break the grammar rules as a journalist, I learned there was a lot more to writing than rules. Principally, style.
So, one of the key roles as an editor, is to conserve an author’s style.
That does not mean changing every sentence to fit with my personal view or whatever the latest trendy style guide/fashionable writers’ group/this week’s best-selling author says.
What is important, is – or – are (?!)
A good plot can help.
There are far too many gurus in the literary world. Spend all your time reading them, and you will never finish your book. Worse, you will change it so much it will lose the essence.
What does an editor really do?
In a nutshell, they tidy up your book and make it presentable.
The issue is, that within this, is a lot of gradation.
You will read, at a minimum, about proofreading, copy editing, editing and developmental editing.
Part of the problem with the terminology is that it comes from the days of hard copy. Hard copy is text written on paper.
So back then, I would check galley proofs, whether for newspaper pages or corporate publications and mark them up with the relevant typographical symbols.
But, and this is where the blur comes in, if I wanted to change text, I would do that too. So I was proofing and editing at the same time.
Technically typesetters/compositors can’t change text of their own accord. They rely on marked-up text. But, I’ve known comps who will call over an editor/sub-editor, and say, this really isn’t right. It’s not the job of the comps to change something, but they read it and can’t let it go, so ask someone who has authority to make changes.
With digital and self-publishing, the edges blur ever more. You don’t sit down with two copies of the same document and meticulously work your way through. Proofing and editing is now done on screen. Which is way harder.
But how do I know what I need?
Do I need an editor? Or a proofreader? Or beta-readers. Or best mates. Or …
And believe me, there is confusion within the industry.
Best mates and beta readers? Seriously, why bother? Yes, I’m sure loads of beta readers can justify their existence, but an author is wasting everyone’s time. Or maybe beta readers have time to waste.
A good editor will spot literals, punctuation, plot inconsistencies, factual errors and will still charge you the same rate whether you have been beta-ed or not, because we have to check everything.
Betas are one of the silliest aspects arising from self-publishing.
What’s the difference between a proofreader and an editor?
A proofreader doesn’t edit. An editor often proofreads. An editor suggests changes to your text. An editor makes her own decisions about changing text. An editor consults you about major changes, and notifies you about minor ones, eg some spelling, punctuation. But not everything. You don’t really want to know about the missing inserted full point.
An editor who proofs will make early editorial changes to text, and then acts as proofreader for the final checks.
I’ve read some interesting comments about how proofing and editing aren’t the same skills. They are both about checking. An editor’s job is to check and question.
Moving onto a developmental editor. These are the ones who tell you, your story is crap, so are your characters, your plot, and your style needs to change. This is the critique you don’t want.
A subtle editor would do that for you anyway. But if you want a developmental editor you need to make that clear.
So, in a nutshell
Proofers do not edit. Editors may or may not proof. Editors may include a variety of services or just be glorified proofreaders. Most people do not provide developmental editing aka telling you how to rewrite your book, unless you ask for it.
There are a lot of people in publishing with no relevant skills at all. Would stet mean anything to them?
And the most interesting part?
A week or so ago, a blogger put together the cost of publication. Sorry. Can’t remember who, not on my list.
While editing came in around a measly couple of hundred, as did developmental editing, proofing came in at a glorious one thousand smackers.
That’s great, I’ll take twelve, thirteen hundred quid any time for doing editing and proofing. Or just the proofing.
For an industry rate, let’s look at the NUJ. One of my favourite unions. Smoke-filled rooms of left-wing cabals of my youth.
Sub-editing per day £210
That is of course, for low-budget clients. Top end demands £320 or more.
Press releases from £160 to £350
Oh yes :)
Brochures and annual reports – £450 a day
I can live on that.
The (UK) Society for Editors and Proofreaders
Proofing – min hourly rate £22
Copy-editing – min hourly rate £27.00
Substantial editing, re-writing, development editing – min hourly rate £29.60
Now who can afford that? Anyway I dislike hourly rates, but thought it was an interesting one for all poor struggling authors.
To end with …
I found sfep from some post or other. She proudly proclaimed her accreditation from them. And mis-spelled their name as Society OF Editors and Proofreaders. Not FOR. Idiot.
We all make mistakes, especially on-line. But that wasn’t the cleverest one to make.
I wouldn’t use accreditation that involves paid-for tests, which sfep does.
My qualifications stand on their own.
One of my snotty friends went to an interview and walked out when she was asked to take a test.
‘I have a qualification in museums.’ Take it or leave it.
And, she was right to do so. How many times should professionals have to prove themselves?
Check out qualifications. I qualified with the printing and publishing industry training board. I didn’t pay for it. Big difference.
But to return full circle
Your beta readers, your mates, your partner, whoever, are not enough.
You need a fresh pair of objective eyes.
You also need someone to question your writing.
And, you need to understand what you are getting for your money. Make sure that is clear.
(And the golden rule is never use Latin!)