Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why I'm Paying Someone to Edit My Guide to Writing a Novel

A few months ago I announced that I'm going to be self-publishing a guide to writing a novel, and I'm pleased to report that I have finished and edited my first draft!

It has 42 chapters plus an epilogue, it covers both writing and revising, and it has more references to space monkeys than you can shake a fist at.

Now it's time to get it edited. And I'm going to pay for a professional editor.

Why you might ask?

I don't think everyone out there has to have their work professionally edited. Everyone needs some sort of good feedback on their work, whether that comes from their friends, from a critique partner, a friend, enemy... someone.

When I was an agent, I went ahead and assumed that everyone got feedback on their work, and what ultimately mattered was the final product, not who they received their feedback from. My post about whether you should pay someone to edit your work still stands. You don't have to pay for it.

But here's the thing about asking for free critiques from critique partners: It requires reciprocity. And I'm just too busy to give the kind of feedback I would need to give to receive good feedback in return. I need to pay for it instead.

Plus, I am curious about the freelance editor process because I've never done it before, and I also really do appreciate the value of having some feedback from someone who has had experience editing in traditional publishing. I'm planning to first work with my friend Christine Pride for a first edit, and then will likely turn to a second editor for some more feedback and copyediting.

As I await my edit, I'm going to spend my free time trying to figure out what in the heck I should call this thing, what my cover should look like, and how exactly one self-publishes a book.

I would love your help! More posts as this thing develops.

Art: Die Abrechnung by Josef Wagner-Höhenberg


Anonymous said...

Titles suggestions

The End
Your novel is waiting to be written
Writing a novel, the ugly truth

Leanna Adams said...

I liked booknook ( as a conversion service.

Paying to edit the work is the other best pieces of advice I could give someone after self-publishing a memoir last year. I talk about it in a quickie Patch blog post:

But have you figured out your price point? If so, I'd love to hear your rational.

Karen lee Hallam said...

Congratulations,Nathan! I look forward to reading it!

abc said...

I wish I could afford a copy editor. I have to beg my husband.

Book cover: I like your logo. Can that be incorporated? A typewriter with a page coming out, title on page.

Titles: So, You Want to Write a Novel, The Blank Page, The Rest of the Story

Melissa Heaps said...

I work as a college English tutor and online editor, and I've known many talented writers, but I've never come across anyone good enough to forgo professional editing. Easy writing makes for hard reading.

Title suggestion: "Write Right" (or would it be "write correctly"?)

Michael Offutt, "Johnny on the Spot" said...

I think you should call your book, "Writing with Kapow."

Bryan Russell said...


Bryan Russell said...

Also, titlewise:

Literary Progress Goes "Boink"

Damn, I'm good.

Sarah Wynde said...

Self-publishing is extremely, extremely easy. If you're going to do the conversion yourself, though, wait to format until after you've moved the book out of MS Word (which I'm assuming you're writing in) and into something more like Sigil. Using Word for tracking changes and making comments is the only way that I could imagine going through editing, but it fills your files with annoying codes and mysterious hidden symbols. In order to convert it cleanly, you have to pull out all those symbols before publishing. The easiest way to do so is to delete all the mystery codes, which cleans out all your formatting. If you've spent a lot of time putting in headings, bolding text, using italics, etc.--the job of cleaning out the file while keeping the formatting becomes incredibly tedious. But if you keep your file as absolutely simple as possible -- Normal Style for everything throughout -- you can add the formatting at the end. So much easier. So, so, so much easier.

Of course, if you're going to pay for someone else to convert the file, you don't have to do it that way. And if you have complicated documents -- charts, graphics, that kind of stuff -- you're probably better off paying for someone to convert, because the learning curve and time involved are probably not worth the cost. But if you have a straightforward document, it's really easy to publish it, and much nicer if you start it off right by keeping the file as clean as possible.

Rachie said...

"Navigating Novel Writing: Plot A Course And Don't Get Lost!" - The "plot" pun was definitely intended. :P

Mira said...

Congratulations, Nathan! That's terrific!

I think it's very cool that you're having someone edit. You had such good experiences with an editor for your Jacob books, I can see why you'd like to continue that.

Personally, I absolutely, positively will spring for a full edit (content and copy) when I publish. I think an editor who is well-versed in your genre is absolutely invaluable. They'll catch problems, but they could also make the book even better.

Honestly, in terms of cover and title, I tend to wait until the work is completely done. The changes the book goes through may crystalize ideas, or it may morph into something alittle different or something may stand out. But you know your own timing.

If you want a publishing guide, so you can experience formatting yourself, people speak really highly of David G.'s "Let's Get Digital". There are also people and blogs who will tell you and I think Amazon's createspace will walk you through it. Or, if time is money, like Sarah says, you might hire someone to do all that for you.

Good luck! I'll look forward to updates. :)

Cassandra Dunn said...

I agree. I'm a professional editor, critiquing 2 novels for clients right now, and a novelist/short story writer. They are two different halves of my brain. I love editing, but can't edit my own work.

Robena Grant said...

Fabulous. I'll buy it no matter what you title it. : )

Shawn said...

"Twenty-six Chromosomes; Infinite Life Forms"

Matthew MacNish said...

It takes me at least a week to critique an 80,000 word novel. Minimum. That's if I spend like upwards of 5 hours a day on it.

At this stage in my career, the money is worth more than the time, but I can completely see your point. If I were published, or hell, if I made what I deserve at my day job, I would probably rather pay as well.

Still, there's something to be said for feedback from multiple sources.

As for titles, I always just use working placeholders, hoping someone better at titles than me will change it down the road. I suppose that's one "luxury" you lose with SP.

Good luck, NB!

Lauren Monahan said...

Can't wait to read your book!
As for your recommendation, I agree. I just had fun experimenting co-writing a novel with my best friend. While it was a blast for the two of us to sneak backstage to hang out with aging 90's pop stars to "do research" and then write up the stories, figuring out how to get neutral feedback/fine-tune a two-voiced novel was tricky (especially while maintaining said friendship). I remembered seeing your original post about Christine Pride so we hired her, and she's amazing. We loved the guidance/clarity, and the really fun phone chats with her (she's adorably positive and friendly). It was a great experience all the way around, and I'm really loving tidying up the book for agents with help from her expert eye. So yeah, I definitely second your recommendation for Christine!

Melissa Heaps said...

How about "A Novel Idea" for your title?

Rigzy said...

I'm terrible at naming stuff, so no suggestions there.

But you have GOT to have at least one space monkey on the cover, even if it's kind of hidden. Make it like a game for us to find the space monkey.

Debra Erfert said...

This is a no-brainer: "Nathan Bransford's Guide to Writing a Novel"

Here is a link for a step-by-step into self publishing a novel. I'll be using this in June for the first book in my WINDOWS trilogy, which I've had professionally edited, and that was after it went through three, or was it four? beta readers.

Critique partners are invaluable before your manuscript ever finds its way to an editor, unless you have money to burn. In my research I've found the cost, per page, of a good line edit starts at $1.50 for a well written copy, and goes up to as high as 4 bucks a page for those who send in a (really) rough draft, or are a novice.

Anonymous said...

I'm with ABC's idea of your logo. But maybe add some space monkeys to as a distraction?

Other titles? (Warning - extreme corn! And possible repeats. And maybe even a typo, or worse, spelling error!)

So you think you can write. Right?
From novice to novel.
Mr Write meets Mr Ed.
What a novel idea.
When the novelty wares off.

Ooooo this is fun.

Can't wait for the publication!

Good luck.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Sounds like a good idea to pay for editing, especially with a self-published book. I'm not a critique partner would be thorough enough. I'd be curious as to the price.

Maybe you should throw out some title ideas when you narrow it down. I hope you'll share your self-publishing journey too.

Joanna said...

With both professional editing and self publishing, finding the right person is key. I highly recommend the freelance editor Ruth Wood (who I met at the San Miguel Writers' Conference the same year I met you) As for an online publisher... Lee Steele of Hamaca Press is your guy. A title for your book: Nathan Says Do This

thewriteedge said...

Congratulations, Nathan, on reaching this important step in the self-publishing phase! I'm sure the book is going to be fantastic, and I'd love to be a beta reader for you if you need one.

Looking forward to how this exciting process plays out for you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

As both an about to go Indie author and author's assistant to numerous NYT authors, I have had the pleasure of working with some great people in the ebook/self-pub world.

For formatting and design, no one does it better than eBook Prep. I've worked with Nina and she's a doll to work with. I cannot recommend her highly enough. Here's a link where you can find them:

Another great designer who both provides a great product:

And as far as marketing and selling self-pubbed books. Take a look at Indie Voice. They had a panel at RT and everyone listened. Here's their website:

Good luck and best wishes for the book.

Maggie Mae Gallagher
Author & Freelance Authors Assistant

Lesley said...

YAY Nathan! You can't have done too much procrastinating to get your first draft finished so quickly!

Yes, I agree with the idea of reciprocity, I plan to pay for a professional edit from a pro in my genre. Whilst my partner is an avid reader and really has great taste, he is not a romance fan per se and doesn't understand the genre's conventions.

Case in point; he can't stand the work of one of the most famous and successful romance authors on the planet - he thinks she waffles on with a load of crap.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading your future book and the responses to your post.

Donna Hole said...

I think if you write a book as an industry professional you should have a professional edit it. How many fiction or even non-fiction authors would know what is best for an academic text.


John Quirk said...

Good luck with the book, Nathan.
There's only really one title - How to Write like a Space Monkey.
Or maybe two - A Space Monkey's Guide to Writing.

Writer Chick said...

I am interested to know what you are paying for editing your book, and how long the draft is. Is it a flat fee or hourly?

S.W. Vaughn said...

Oh, boy. What do you mean, "how exactly one self-publishes a book"? You could conceivably be in a spot of trouble here. :-)

There are loads of decisions to make. Are you publishing in e-format only, or e- and print? Are you going with KDP Select, or publishing to all platforms? (Either way, if you want to be on Amazon, your best bet is to use KDP outside of an aggregate service because you get to keep more royalties. Unless you're going with BookBaby. There's more, but I'll stop this point now...)

Once it's edited, you need it formatted. Can you format an ebook for each platform yourself (Kindle and Nook, for example, require different formats -- and formatting for print is WAY different)? Or will you invest in a conversion service and have someone format it for you?

Are you hiring a cover designer? Buying a stock image and making your own cover? If you're publishing in both e- and print, you'll need a higher resolution cover for print.

How does your front matter and back matter look? How much will you charge? How will you market? :-)

There are many, many questions inside "how to self-publish a book." I'd recommend poking around a forum or two -- there's a self-publishing subsection on Absolute Write, and lots of knowledgeable self-pub folks on Kindleboards.

Good luck, and congrats on finishing your book!

Sally Collings said...

Nathan, I figure an industry pro like you would know that it takes more to publish a book than just writing it. But thanks for saying it in public! Most of my editing work has been for trade publishers, but just this year I'm getting more queries from self-publishers who have figured that an editor will add value. And if you want to create a quality product with commercial potential, you need to add all the value you can. Look forward to hearing how the editing process goes for you!

Anonymous said...

I think this is the best investment you can make when you're self-publishing. I've done it, and never had one single regret about it. Money well spent!

Anonymous said...

I like how you seem to make it less intimidating. First write the book. Get it written. Then, worry about publishing and the how-to. This helps me panic less and keep my eyes on the page.

On another note, how much control/input did you have for the titles of your MG works?


Anonymous said...

"As I await my edit, I'm going to spend my free time trying to figure out what in the heck I should call this thing, what my cover should look like, and how exactly one self-publishes a book."

1. Brainstorm for titles. It really works. And do searches to make sure no one else out there has a title like yours. However, you also want your title to get picked up in search engines. And make it fun, not too technical. We like titles like Noah Lukeman's "The First Five Pages," better than "How to Query an Agent."

2. Covers that link to something in the book always work well. Or quiet thoughtful covers, like the author walking through Harvard Yard in the fall do well, too. You're a nice looking guy, so you could use that to your advantage as well with the cover for the new adult crowd. Just saying :)

3. Take it in steps. If you look at self-publishing as one big picture it gets confusing. But in small steps, like starting with amazon KDP first, and then moving to smashwords, and so on, you don't get freaked out...iTunes is fairly simple. And Kobo and B&N aren't that hard either.

If you go for the KDP lending program, I would be interested in reading how you've found the results. It locks you into three months with an Amazon exclusive, however, some authors claim is works well for them. Others claim getting the book out everywhere is better for them. Most books do sell in Amazon, but those royalties from other venues are nice little surprises, too.

Other Lisa said...

Congratulations, Nathan! I don't have any helpful suggestions for titles, etc. (though I think I'm voting for "How to Write Like A Space Monkey"), but congratulations for getting it done-ish and on its way to publication!

Anonymous said...

I think you're comparing apples and oranges, Nathan. Your old post was based on submitting traditionally. Now you're speaking about self-publishing.

A paid editor is absolutely vital for self-publishing. That's because publishing houses will have an editor work with you before your book is released. When you self-publish, you need to have a professional editor, too, and a professional copy editor. Otherwise, your final product won't read up to the level of traditionally published books, and your reviews will suffer. End readers don't care that you're doing this on your own. They do care about the quality of their read.

Anonymous said...

I do think paying an editor is a good thing. But this comment doesn't work for me:

"Otherwise, your final product won't read up to the level of traditionally published books, and your reviews will suffer."

Fact: John Irving's wife edits his books because he got tired of editors telling him what to do.

Fact: Most authors will tell you there are editors who can ruin a things in a book, especially when the author is going for emotion and the editor doesn't get it.

Fact: Not all authors need this. They are capable of doing the edits, if they feel comfortable doing the edits, and don't have to pay anyone.

Fact: Most reviewers who comment on writing and writing style make fools of themselves because they don't know what they are talking about. And it's a good thing they can use fake names. If they had to post reviews with their real names they wouldn't be so quick to judge what good writing is and isn't.

It's really a comfort zone for authors. And I think it's wonderful to have an editor, but I also think some authors reach a point where they don't need it. said...

The right decision, Nathan. You'll find out soon when you read your 'fine-tuned' manuscript.

I've been blessed to have the same editor working on everything I've written and published for the last 20 years or so. I listen to her. She makes good decisions. Gives me great feedback. And I wouldn't put anything out to read unless she's given it her blessing.

Surgeons need nurses; judges need bailiffs, lawyers need researchers, politicians need staff.

Writers need editors to fluff up their hair, dust off their coats, and straighten their ties before we go out on the stage.

Peter Dudley said...

It is so refreshing to hear a pro say that while feedback is necessary, not everyone needs professional editing. That is heresy in most parts of the writing interwebs.

I would offer to help, but you abandoned our fair city by the Bay long ago. So I'm no longer allowed to.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear. Christine's website (on both Foxfire and Safari) are not coming through with complete view of the page.

Rashad Pharaon said...

I think you've got to keep it real. I suggest the following titles:

-Kill your Darlings (try not to Kill Yourself)

-Shattered: A Writer's Dreams

Ok, but really:

-A (Peculiar) Guide to Wordweaving
-The Wordsmith Within (You)
-One Page at a Time

Just ideas...

Good luck!

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