Scalping (and other horror stories)

English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or ...
English: Hands collaborating in co-writing or co-editing or co-teaching in online education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my time in the writing world I have encountered multiple horror stories. And I am hoping that sharing some of them with you will help you avoid these pitfalls in the future. As you may have gathered I am militant in my march against people that are selling their services for massive prices without offering comparable worth.

I got one of my first freelance contracts because I rejected a query (when I worked with Divertir). No joke. And when I rejected that query it began a dialogue with the author regarding the editing that had been done on his book. Ultimately, the author told me that I had given him more help in those few emails (and in working on the first chapter of his book for him) than the editor he’d paid thousands of dollars to in order to edit his work.

I was floored.

This has not  been the last instance of this happening that I have encountered. Recently I began working with an author who had paid an editor twice what I was asking to edit only half the book. That “editor” mangled it and left not only word choice errors and so on, but failed to catch major grammar problems like runon sentences and capitalization mistakes. I don’t blame the author for these – that’s what editors are supposed to catch.

And these poor authors paid thousands of dollars for this trash. Needless to say my blood was (and is still) on fire. I don’t charge an egregious amount of money to edit a manuscript, but by God I edit it properly to the best of my ability. And I believe that authors deserve that kind of integrity. It would be like someone editing John Lennon out of a Beetles album because they thought it “sounded better that way” when they have never so much as listened to music.

I think my biggest problem has to come from so-called “editors” that actually have no idea what they’re doing. They’ve done a lot of reading and may even be writers, but that doesn’t mean that they are capable editors. Editing is its own art. It’s liked inexorably to writing (because if you don’t understand and have a firm grasp of the mechanics and craft of writing you can’t edit), but they are absolutely not one and the same.

Being able to edit effectively (and I don’t mean proofread for your buddies) takes years of practice, study, and hard work. Almost anyone can eventually do it, but it isn’t something you can just pick up and do because you got good grades in English. It requires a passion and sensitivity that easily equals an author’s. You need to be able to tend to that author’s voice like a garden. You weed it, water it, and fertilize it. Then you watch the flowers bloom after your hard work is done. Writers are like flowers; they will bloom and provide staggering beauty time and time again if properly and lovingly tended. Some of that tending requires pruning and other things they may not appreciate at the time, but it becomes worth it when the end result is a spectacular display.


One thought on “Scalping (and other horror stories)

  1. I feel for authors who are looking for editors and don’t know where to begin. Sometimes their manuscript really does need extensive (and expensive) work. Paying for that is great … as long as they find an editor who is actually capable of doing the job right. But if they need that much help, how can they judge whether the editor is competent?

    There are effective ways to vet editors. Most authors just don’t know about them until they’ve blown their budget on someone who botched the job.

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