As someone who likes to see writers get into print, I am particularly interested in the growth of the self-publishing community and the opportunities it offers for both authors and editors.
Arlene Prunkl, an editor with many years of experience, works almost exclusively with authors who self-publish. At EAC's Editing Goes Global conference this year, Prunkl presented an inspiring workshop on the agonies, ecstasies, and pitfalls of working with self-publishing authors.
Many writers who turn to self-publishing are first-time authors. Prunkl reminded us that this could present a different dynamic to an editor who may be used to dealing with more experienced writers. As editors, we want to help the writers speak in their own voices and offer them ways to strengthen their writing. They will appreciate any help we can offer.
More than Proofreading
Most first-time authors need to be taken through the steps of the publishing process, from manuscript evaluation to design to typesetting and printing. To many, it is all just “proofreading.” Prunkl takes care to explain these steps to her authors. To start with, she provides a sample edit, not only to show the author what to expect but also to help estimate time and costs.
Writers (and Editors) Beware
Sadly, the rapidly growing self-publishing market has also created a need to be aware of the difference between “predators and editors.” There are now many unscrupulous organizations and individuals who will take a self-publishing author’s money and offer little in return. As editors working with new authors, we need to be aware of these and be able to provide advice. Prunkl advises editors to become familiar with information offered by industry experts and websites such as Writer Beware®.
Another important step is asking for a deposit of at least 50% of the estimated total fee (and sometimes more) before beginning to work on a manuscript. Prunkl has only been abandoned without payment once, but she says that once is enough to teach a freelance editor the value of a deposit. Paying some money up front for an editing job will also solidify the professional nature of the relationship. Once the clock is ticking, it is easier to be all business. This advice resonated with me: too often I let time and money slide because I love what I do so much.
Editor: Know thy Business
There’s one more thing to keep in mind when you are working with self-publishing authors: As TEC editor Melissa MacAulay points out in her recent post, an editor must know “today’s self-publishing process inside and out.” Often self-publishing authors will be newbies in the publishing world. As editors, we also need to be familiar with the technical aspects of eBook publishing, as this is the way to go for many self-publishers (self-publishing now accounts for nearly 40% of eBook royalties on Amazon). So keep an up-to-date list of reputable publishers, eBook specialists, and distributors that you can share with your clients.
If we keep this advice in mind, our expertise and professionalism will be an invaluable help to our authors.