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Rosemary Shipton

Editors and Self-Publishing Authors

Cartoon: 2 women drink tea. One says “Your book was published! How exciting! Can I get a copy?” The other answers, “I only have one left. They are, of course selling briskly,” as she pulls out a copy of The Tearful Rose from behind a curtain where there are many other copies.

As editors, we must break out of our anonymous shell and shout our virtues loudly and clearly for writers to hear.

We’ve all heard the stories: a few authors who self-publish do extremely well, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, while the majority have little success, bringing in less than $500 all told. What we don’t hear so much about is a sizeable middle group who enjoy a steady supplemental income in the range of $1,000 to $20,000 every year.

At the end of May 2013, the Prairie Provinces Branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada teamed up with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and the Get Publishing Communications Society to organize the Words in 3 Dimensions conference in Edmonton. This novel approach to bringing writers, publishers, and editors together proved enormously successful: some 350 people registered, most of them writers, and all the sessions and discussions were lively, informative, and very enthusiastic.

As one of the editors participating in many parts of the conference, I fielded a lot of questions and was asked for much advice. What do editors actually do? Why should writers need editors? How much would an edit cost? As the weekend wore on, it became obvious that the speakers representing publishers, literary agents, and successful self-published authors were also extolling good editing as an essential part of the publishing process.

Cartoon: 2 women drink tea. One says “Your book was published! How exciting! Can I get a copy?” The other answers, “I only have one left. They are, of course selling briskly,” as she pulls out a copy of The Tearful Rose from behind a curtain where there are many other copies.Self-publishing is here to stay and will only increase in volume in the years ahead. Obviously it represents a major new opportunity for editors—and editors in turn can assist writers who want to self-publish to make their manuscripts as good, as professional, and as successful as they can be. We can offer our traditional skills of hands-on structural, stylistic, and copy editing for the texts, and we should also be able to provide sound advice about the process and the various options available for self-publishing. Collaboration of this kind should be a win-win situation for writers and editors alike.

How then to make more connections between professional editors and that vast number of authors who are looking to self-publish? As editors, we must break out of our anonymous shells and shout our virtues loudly and clearly for writers to hear. We must rethink our services and rates to accommodate a wide range of budgets. And we should broaden our teaching skills in university programs, EAC seminars, and corporate workshops to include writers too.

As we all know, good writing requires re-writing and revision—tasks that are just other names for editing. It’s not difficult to reorient what we’ve taught for years to editors to suit a new audience of writers. As but one example, the Creative Writing program at the School of Continuing Studies at University of Toronto is offering a course entitled “Edit Yourself—and Get Published,” designed to assist authors to improve their manuscripts before they self-publish or before they submit them to an editor, a literary agent or a publisher.

Let’s share our ideas on this challenging and exciting new opportunity. Some of you have already worked with authors who have published themselves, and we want to hear from you.

 

 


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15 Comments on “Editors and Self-Publishing Authors”

  • Arlene Prunkl

    says:

    Hi Rosemary,

    I figured out this trend ten years ago, and I’ve been making my living from it ever since. I’ve never been out of work; in fact, I often have more than I can handle. And the trend is growing; there’s plenty of work out there for freelance editors. I’d be pleased participate in a discussion about this and answer any questions others may have.

  • Nadiya

    says:

    One thing I wasn’t taught in Ryerson’s publishing program was that self-published texts follow a different editing and production process (e.g., the text probably won’t undergo 3 proofreads). But just HOW different is it? Will my editorial approach change because of it?

    • Arlene Prunkl

      says:

      My process is very different from a traditional publisher’s, Nadiya. I’ll never forget the shocked look I received in an EAC Ottawa meeting in 2011 when I told the group that I often do structural, substantive, stylistic, and copy editing in a single pass. People in that meeting argued that it was not possible. Well, in fact it is possible, and I’ve become quite good at it over the years, out of necessity. Most self-publishing authors can afford only one pass and perhaps a proofread. My method isn’t perfect, and a few residual mistakes may remain, but it’s a thousand times better than no editing at all.

      • Rosemary Shipton

        says:

        There will be a range of budgets, of course, so editors who work for writers who publish their own works should explain the various options and let the clients select what they want.

        • Arlene Prunkl

          says:

          Very true, Rosemary. I try to educate my authors in the entire editorial process, giving them options and information not only on my various levels of editing services, but on the rest of the process too, including going to print, uploading, and marketing. Not that I’m an expert in book marketing, but I try to keep up with current trends so I can advise them and help with their expectations.

          • Arlene Prunkl

            says:

            And of course, the design process and proofreading.

  • Glenna Jenkins

    says:

    I tend to stick my nose up at self-published books. But a close, literary, friend of mine continually reminds me of the successes that have come out of the whole process. Think Elizabeth Maud Montgomery and Beatrix Potter. Also, Shades of Grey (not that I would ever read them) and The Next Best Thing (which I do intend to read). So, as an editor, writer and avid reader, I need to get over myself and accept that in today’s competitive world, as economies continue to founder and publishing houses struggle, getting published is becoming increasingly difficult, and there are fabulous writers out there that deserve a readership.

  • Rosemary Shipton

    says:

    This conversation is getting really interesting – Thank you all. Arlene (and others who are already collaborating), will you share with readers who want to go this route some of the best ways to make the connections? Word of mouth, Linkedin, EAC lists? What works?

  • Marilyn Biderman

    says:

    Here’s my question. Is there room in this new world for agents? In other words, We know that some self-published authors are sufficiently successful to interest the mainstream publishers. So, the challenge would be to find the most successful of the self-published authors, and then convince them that they will have access to additional opportunities (to publish in print, to publish in translation, for example) if they have a champion to draw the attention of the publishers. Are publishers doing this scouting themselves to find the creme de la creme? What are your thoughts?

    • Rosemary Shipton

      says:

      Oh yes, publishers are watching the results for successful writers who publish themselves. And many of those writers who then sign on with a publisher do far better once they have an experienced company to manage their success – including selling rights to publishers in other countries.

  • Virginia Durksen

    says:

    Thanks for generating this conversation, Rosemary, in Edmonton and here. Editors need writers as much as writers need us. As publishing rethinks itself, as surely it must, we need to be rethinking our role and our approach to finding writers. Fortunately, there are worlds if not galaxies of editing out there to be explored.

    One of the best ways to make connections with writers who have books in progress is to join the Canadian Association of Public Speakers, attend meetings, meet speakers, and talk to them about their books. These are writers who already have a model for marketing their books along with speeches. Great place to begin. And most of them self-publish. But they often don’t think of themselves as writers first. They know they need help and they are often in the business of challenging people to find help when they need it.

    • Rosemary Shipton

      says:

      That’s a great suggestion, Virginia – and I expect it could be extended to include other professional associations as a fine way for writers, editors, and yes, literary agents, to network.

    • Arlene Prunkl

      says:

      The CAA is a great suggestion for finding self-publishing authors. For myself, when I began editing about eleven years ago, I had a sense that self-publishing authors (at least those who knew they needed editing) were looking to the Internet to find their editor. I didn’t have much experience, but above all I knew I needed a website. I got that together and hired a brilliant SEO person to get it optimized, and it has remained near the top of Google searches ever since. For the past decade, I’ve gotten almost all my work from my website. I know this isn’t an easy route to take these days — it’s much harder to get positioned high up in Google — but I just thought I’d let others know what worked for me. Some people use websites as advertising (as I do), and others use it more as a business card (where Google ranking isn’t as important), but in either case I think it’s essential for editors to have a website to show to self-publishing authors. It legitimizes you.

      • Rosemary Shipton

        says:

        Thanks again, Arlene. I hope we’re getting lots of readers among writers, editors, and other publishing people to pick up on these good ideas …

  • Paula

    says:

    Yes. you are, Rosemary. And thank-you, to all I have read today!

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