Never Pay To Have Your Book Edited
See also Rules One, Three, and Four as they are closely related to this Rule.
As outlined in Rule Number One, editing is a part of the cost of doing business, but that cost belongs to the publisher, NOT the author. The biggest reason is Rule Number 1 itself, that money flows TO the author, but there are other more subtle reasons.
The biggest of these has to do with the attitude and approach to the editing task.
A contracted editor working for (and being paid by) the writer makes their money by getting writers to come to them to edit their work. A huge percentage of that income is from repeat business where a writer keeps coming back to have books edited. There is also the word-of-mouth advertising where a writer tells their friends how great John Doe edits their books. This all means that the editor has a vested interest in getting the writers to like them.
As a group, writers have pretty big and fragile egos. We sweat blood, laugh, cry, pull our hair out in clumps, fall in love with our characters, learn to hate some other characters, and in general see our stories as our children. Just like a momma bear, we will defend our stories to the death. If someone attacks our story, we will come to hate that person. In business, we will look for someone who treats us—and our stories—better and likes them just the way we write them.
See the problem here?
The contracted editor will tend to tell us what we want to hear. This may or may not be intentional, but the tendency is to say what the writer wants to hear so we like the editor and will come back to them and tell our friends how great they are.
In other words, for a contracted editor, they have no interest in if the book sells or not. Their income is based on how much the writer likes them. The contracted editor must have the writers like them in order to make a living.
Now let’s look at an editor that works for the publisher…
The publisher’s editors are paid by the publisher. They might be paid on salary (or hourly), or they might be paid per book that they edit. Some publishers even pay a royalty to their editors. It varies, but the bottom line is that the publisher—not the writer—pays the editor.
This boils down to the fact that the editor (and publisher) doesn’t care if the writer likes the editor or not. The editor’s job is to massage the story into something that will sell. If they fail to do so, they won’t work for the publisher for very long.
Both of these editors are motivated by money, but the source of the money is the difference…
Contracted editors only make money if the writers like them.
Publisher’s editors only make money if the story sells.
See the difference?
I have seen various authors (and we’re talking about self published authors here) post messages here and there about how wonderful some editor or another is. They rave about what a great job the editor did on their latest book and how it only cost $800 to have their story edited. When I have read some of the books, they are riddled with simple mechanical errors and have issues with flow and logic.
On the other hand, I have seen writers wailing about some editor at a publisher who absolutely shredded their book. The manuscript came back with more red ink than black. I hear how the author cried for a week over how harsh the editor was. And at the end of the message, the writer will say how much better the story was when all was said and done.
In the interest of being totally fair, I have seen a few cases where this was reversed, that is, a contracted editor doing a great job and a publisher’s editor being horrid. It happens on both sides.
Again, with self-publication the writer and publisher are the same person. But this is another reason to keep the two roles isolated in your mind…you The Publisher must be able to attack you The Author and make it stick. Not an easy thing to do!