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Now let me turn to an issue you may not get the straight facts about very often. I’m speaking from my own experience and from that of many of my authors. You need to know that what publishers care about is making money. Great literature is of no interest to them. It used to be, back in the olden days, but now that publishers are mostly gigantic business conglomerates, they couldn’t care less about good writing. Whether you go to a traditional publisher (one that pays you an advance and royalties) or an on-demand press (you pay them, you may get royalties), their focus is on their bottom line. There are some excellent small presses, some excellent large publishers, some excellent vanity presses, some excellent on-demand publishers.
At the same time, however, some small presses are one-man operations and you’ll get lousy production values. Some large publishers think it’s fun not to respond to authors’ phone calls and emails. Some vanity presses think it’s more about them than you. Some on-demand publishers are looking for naïve authors with great big fat credit cards.
You don’t have to be one of those naïve authors. The web site Preditors and Editors is a “guide to publishers and publishing services for serious writers.” It has a long list of publishers. With evaluations of those publishers. This is very useful.
Publishers who may like to take advantage of authors with no experience will want to edit your book. Here’s what you need to know. They hire “evaluators,” usually through those “work at home and earn big money” Internet ads. These evaluators are people who like to read, but they're not necessarily people who know what gooder English is. So you send them your precious book. The evaluator runs it through a spell checker and a grammar checker. It doesn’t matter if you have stylistic sentence fragments or other examples of idiosyncratic "bad writing" or spelling that works in dialect. The evaluator lays your book against the handy-dandy checklist and marks you off for “wrong” or “bad” writing. Then the evaluator reads some (probably not all) of your book. More marks on the checklist. Then they tell you all the things that are wrong with your book and suggest that you let them edit it. For a few dollars. (This is not true of all on-demand presses, but it’s true of enough of them that you need to be very cautious. Don’t sign a contract without advice from a literary agent or a lawyer.)
I have done freelance editing for companies that do this kind of editing for those kinds of on-demand presses. I’ve seen those checklists. I’ve found mistakes the evaluators made. And when I edited for those companies, they told me I had to write comments guaranteed not to “offend” instead of talking to the authors like they're real people. Like they're smart people. They told me I couldn’t do any teaching. They told me I couldn’t even add an “attagirl.” When you come directly to me, we develop a relationship. We work together. I’m always on your side, and I won’t ever lie to you.
Of course you’ll pay for the editing you get from any editor. The on-demand publishers charge from $0.022 to $0.029 per word for a basic line edit—that’s finding misplaced commas and spelling mistakes. For the kind of thorough editing I do, it’s upwards of $0.040 per word. (One charges $0.064 per word. You can check out the web sites.) Do a word count of your book. How much will you be paying one of these publishers? Here’s a clue. For one terrific science fiction novel I edited, I earned $899. I was third in line down from the editing company and the publisher, both of which had to make a (considerable) profit. How much must the author of that terrific sf novel have paid? When I’ve edited your book, you’ll be able to say, “No, thank you,” to their offer and know that your book has already been competently edited. You’ll save a couple thousand dollars.
Let me be your editor. I’ll work with you as editor, friend, and teacher. I’ll be honest with you. I hold a Ph.D. in English, so I know more than an evaluator who simply likes to read.
I’ll also help you format your book so that when it goes to a publisher it will be easier for that publisher to work with. As I've said before, you’ll end up with clean copy in a consistent format, with a page header and pagination, and with your copyright notice at the foot of the title page. And if you think you want to quote any song lyrics or poetry, I’ll explain about getting permission and avoiding charges of plagiarism.
When I’m your editor, we’re a team. You get my experience and my expertise working for you.