Editing

So A Lonely Magic is the first book where I hired an editor. I paid the big bucks–$800–for an NYC editor with a lengthy list of noteworthy authors he’d worked with, recommended to me by another NYC editor, who I think was once executive editor of one of the name companies in fantasy publishing. (I think because I’m too lazy to look it up.)

I paid for a line edit and an editorial letter.

The good news is that I wasted my money. The bad news is that I wasted my money.

His feedback was… fine? It’s not that there was anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t anywhere near as far ahead of the average beta reader as it should have been.

An example: he thought it took too long to get answers about who and what Kaio and his family were. He said we were halfway through the book before anything was revealed. Okay, that’s appropriate feedback from a beta reader and good to know. But an editor surely should have noticed that I used a precise and classic three-act-structure. Thirty chapters to the book, 10 chapters in is when the story changes dramatically, at pretty much exactly one-third of the word count. Now an author, reading between the lines, can safely say in response to such beta reader feedback, okay the first third seemed slower, figure out how to pick up the pace. But an editor should have realized that, too! The issue is pacing, not that the first half–which isn’t a half–doesn’t give answers.

In the same line, he said that the problem was that Fen hadn’t asked questions. When I followed up on that, I got the single sentence reply back that the problem was that Luke, Kaio, and Gaelith hadn’t told her anything. Easy fix. Easy-peasy, three lines here or there will resolve it. But that’s not what he told me the issue was. An editor should be able to spotlight issues, not half-ass guess at them.

I won’t get into the rest. Fundamentally, though, I’d rate the edit as a mediocre beta read. My intern did a better one. Mike Kent (who writes as Morgan Kegan) did a much better one. So live and learn. It was a waste of time and a waste of money, but at least now I know not to waste that money anymore.

Next time around–next book around–I’d like to hire a copy-editor, so that I don’t have to be quite so anal about every single then vs than. But I won’t be hiring a line editor again.

Meanwhile, I’m still in final proof-reads. They’re going slowly, because I’m recording an audiobook at the same time. My own voice recorded is so weird to me. I hope at least one person, someday, appreciates this book, because I’m feeling very dubious about the value. But got to try someday, right?

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5 thoughts on “Editing

  1. I’m really impressed that you are narrating your own book. It’s great that you have the voice for it. I definitely don’t; if I do an audiobook version, I’ll have to find a good voice talent. I’m looking forward to hearing your narration of ALM, as well as reading the finished story.

  2. Well, I don’t really know if I have the voice for it–it might be really annoying! But also you can do anything with filters. I had a line that Kaio said with no dialog tag and in the context, it felt confusing. It could have been Fen’s thoughts, rather than Kaio’s words. So I used the Change Pitch effect on just that line and dropped the pitch a notch. Worked beautifully. But if I wanted to, I could apply that to the whole book and give myself a deeper voice throughout. I’m not sure whether my amateur efforts are really good enough to make a good experience, though. I’ll find out, I guess!

  3. I have had a situation a few times where I got feedback that I knew wasn’t appropriate. Then I questioned, was I not willing to accept criticism or was it really inappropriate. Running it by someone else, they agreed with me. I want to work with an editor for The Hungry Ghosts and self-publish it but the prospect of finding someone worthwhile and affordable to work with is daunting.

  4. I generally use a lot of beta readers. If two people tell me something, I pay attention to it, but if it’s only one person, my own opinion carries just as much weight for me as theirs. I think Neil Gaiman says that when an early reader tells you that something is wrong, they’re right, but when they tell you how to fix it, they’re wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever had a beta reader whose feedback I accepted unequivocally. Mike–who’s one of the best beta readers I’ve had–runs about 50% for me. This editor–well, I may write another blog post or two about what I disagree with him on, ha–but he really was a major disappointment. I’m realizing that I harbored secret hopes of finding the brilliant collaborative partner that I feel like I need–the person who can say, “you’re giving too much background on Fen, delete this part” and “this exposition gets too dry, lighten it up” and “she’s already wanted to hit people twice, do you really want her to be this violent?” and other types of such questions. But apparently spending big money doesn’t guarantee you that person. Live and learn. If I find a great editor, I’ll share her name, I promise!

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