Anybody who knows my writing, knows proofreading is my weakest skill. I get better at it all the time, but as compared to other writing skills, I'm still riding this short bus. So, I've been looking for to hire an editor to proofread before I release my short story collection.
I tried EFA and quickly became overwhelmed. EFA doesn't defined memberships by experience: pro, semi-pro and entry level. In contrast, to have a pro membership with SFWA you have to meet certain sales criteria. I started sifting through the profiles, looking for a bargain, probably a semi pro with good rates. What I found were a lot of entry level editors at pro rates. I suddenly realized it was going to take a while of going through profiles and interviewing potential editors. I'm fairly confident in the quality of the stories I'm releasing, so the one thing I know I don't want is a paid critique partner.
After searching on EFA for several days, I did a google search on how to find an editor. This led me to a thread on Absolute Write. The writer suggests I try Elance. Hat held in hand, I posted a job saying this is what I can afford to pay. Within minutes the bids started rolling in. At first I was delighted. Then, overwhelmed. Then suspicious.
I discovered many of the offers were like those Sale signs in the windows of electronic stores here in Korea. There's never a sale. Many had bid low, but actually quoted pro rates, or bid low and asked me to describe the project only to give me a different quote. About 70% of the freelancers wanted more than pro rates. Most of these acted like they were doing me a favor for discounting it so much. (On a side not, it's never good to go into a business deal where the person you're paying, thinks they're doing you a favor.) Even so, I found a couple who looked like a good match, one was highly rated. And I sent them a sample page of a published story with some intentional typos. They dug into it like a critique partner. One missed the typos and the other added enough commas to make my eyes bleed. A third, rewrote the page.
A quick Google search for Elance scam (which I should have done before signing up!), turned up a plethora of complaints. I want to state that Elance isn't a scam in and of itself. However, the biggest complaint against Elance is the lack of skilled workers. The second is the number of loopholes freelancers have to work the rating system. I decided to close the job.
Because I hadn't found an editor and I really want to get Midday out, I asked if anyone in my critique group would swap. Ambrose said he'd just do it. What I got back was a meticulously proofread manuscript, with a handful of suggestions that were stylistic, but in a way that was true to my voice. So in the end, I found what I was looking for. I offered him a job as I have a few other projects. We're working out how to manage our friendship and business relationship.
I don't want to come off as a writer who is resistant to changes. But there are a couple of editing dos and don'ts. A do is where the editor sees a better way to say something while staying true to the author's voice. A don't might be, the editor injecting their voice into the story while writing out the author.
I had this happen to the extreme last year with 'They're All Called Bob.' A magazine accepted with a few "minor" changes which turned out to be significant rewrites. I felt like I had been replaced! I questioned a lot of these changes when I should have declined publication. I didn't quite have to guts to just walk away from an acceptance. Newbie mistake! The editor replied with a strongly worded letter, telling me what my characters were thinking and doing. I realized he had changed so much of the story, that he saw the characters as his. I learned a lot about myself as an author through this experience.
When writers start out, it's hard to tell the difference between help and being replaced. Partly, because new writers don't have a voice yet. We start out emulating others. Hiring an editor isn't just about words. It's about making something great while preserving one's individuality. I think back to two years ago, imagine myself trying to find an editor. The truth is I probably would have paid too much, gotten a poorly edited story, and thanked the editor for it.
Do you know the difference between an editor and a critique partner? If not you might pay for a Ferrari and end up with a Renault.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).