Being self-published is not the easiest road. At least, not if you want your wayward children to shine, to have their pants on the right way, their shoes tied and not have smudges of jam all over their faces. Even if they are properly dressed and presentable, there’s all the scheduling of photo-shoots and doctor’s appointments and debutante balls… okay, so the kids metaphor doesn’t work past a certain point. So sue me.
Point is, there’s two ways to get it done. One: Do it all yourself.
I am in no way attempting to malign the indie writers; that would be silly, since I am one. But a realistic assessment of one’s abilities is key. Most of us are designed to do a few things; not all the things. We may write well, but have problems with graphic design. We might be awesome at telling other people how awesome we are… but our punctuation gets out of control. We might be incredibly talented at writing synopses and book blurbs and requests for reviews, but have an eensy problem keeping our tenses straight.
And we don’t even know it.
When you’re writing your material, most of the time you know what you’re trying to say. You know what you meant. When you go back for phase 2, cleaning things up, clearing up continuity errors, tense issues, grammar and spelling, your brain will want to play tricks on you. You already know the story; you’ve written it (and rewritten, and perhaps rewritten again.) You’ve read it, possibly aloud, to yourself dozens of times and probably to others around you. You know it inside and out. So your brain, helpful little friend that it is, will read it the way you think you wrote it. Which is to say, the way it’s supposed to be. And in the process you’ll cheerfully skip over all kinds of (often easily fixable) errors because you quite literally can’t see them.
Of course, the answer on everyone’s lips is “Hire an editor.” And yes, you should. The problem arises with funding. Traditional publishers, big and small, usually include an editor somewhere in their overhead if they pluck you from obscurity and set you on their path to fame and fortune. Some of us have helpful English professors or Red-Pen lovers with OCD handy, to assault our poor, defenseless manuscripts. But for the vast majority (and even for those folks who have access to an in-house editor or a pet critic) having an editor outside the box, who isn’t in some way related to you (whether blood or not), is a necessity. Because they don’t know you, they’re not mentally filling in the gaps or skipping the same errors either out of some attempt to spare your feelings or because their minds work as yours does and they “knew what you meant.”
Of course, editors don’t typically come easily or cheaply. Hunting one down is a bit of a task to start with, and even when you do find one, they tend to be pretty pricey. Now, it’s money well spent, don’t get me wrong, but indie authors also commonly suffer from something I’m going to term lackofcashitis. We are not typically bringing in the big bucks from either our day jobs or our writing, so those editors that run $500, or $5,000 or (in one dreadful case) $15,000 are so far out of reach that we might as well fly to Mars and hope there’s alien life to make sense of our words.
Enter Fiverr. It’s sort of like eBay but for creative work. You contract with someone (generally for as low as $5, thus the name) to get something done. Practically anything. There’s logo designers, cover artists, video editors, copy- and line-editors, beta readers, reviewers, interviewers and loads more over there. It’s got an excellent communication and review system, and the folks I’ve talked to have almost always been polite, fast, intelligent and reliable.
Insomniac Nightmares is currently getting
chopped into tiny pieces lovingly polished by one such individual, who has patiently put up with my questions, my weird scheduling and my inability to decide if I want to spew commas forth like animals from the ark or lock them up never to be seen again. Mrproofreader has all manner of editing options available, and if you’ve got something languishing in limbo that probably needs someone to perform some surgery on it, I highly recommend you check him out. Among other things, he’s willing to work with you on payment schedules and do things in chunks, which is a bonus to the pocketbook and calendar, but also lets you see a clear before and after change. His comments have proved invaluable, and he has proven himself an excellent comma (and dash… and parenthesis) wrangler, which I sorely need.
As a simple reason why, I’ll tell you this: Insomniac Nightmares looked fairly decent to me. I knew there was probably something that was going to need fixing, but I’d gone over it four times. I had my pet artist go over it twice. I’d had some comments from the versions of the stories posted here and on Wattpad. Grand total of things that needed fixing from those sources? Around twenty.
After mrproofreader took his red pen to my manuscript, we currently have 209 edits that he has flagged… and we’re only a quarter of the way through. 209 issues that had been missed by myself, the artist, and the lovely people who take time to visit my corner of the interwebs and provide feedback. Now, about ten of them were stylistic things; I knew them to be grammatically incorrect and did them anyway because I liked the way they it flowed or for some other artsy-fartsy reason. But that’s still 199 misplaced, missing or extraneous commas, inappropriate tense or perspective shifts, screwed up spaces and other miscellany that I just couldn’t see. And one typo. I hate the word “acquired,” for the record; my fingers refuse to type it properly, and I’ve done it improperly so often that my spell-check thinks I’m just writing some word in the language of the Talaq rather than being unable to spell a word for getting something.
So, please. Send your darlings off to be
maimed by someone else. I practically guarantee that there’s things you’re just not seeing that need to be fixed. And if you’re doing it on a shoestring budget like most of us, give Fiverr a look; you’d be surprised what you can find on there. And certainly check out mrproofreader, which I can’t say enough, because he has quite literally been a lifesaver. I’m actually considering having him redo the edits for my previous work at this point.