Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

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Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby oldhousejunkie » 09 Feb 2011, 08:10

I know this is a wide topic, but I've been mulling over investing in a freelance editor to refine my manuscript or spending the money to go to a conference.

I was looking at a conference on the west coast (I'm on the east) and when I started figuring up all the money I would spend on getting out there, lodging, and conference fees, it occurred to me that I could spend the same (maybe less) to hire someone to polish my manuscript to a sheen.

So what you all suggest? It may be no brainer, but I'm just wondering.

If you have gone to a conference, was it worth the money? Any suggestions for good conferences that won't break the bank?

If you've gone the editor route, how did you go about hiring someone? Is there a site with recommended people? How much did it cost (if you willing to share?) Were you satisfied with the results? Any recommendations?

I know some folks will find it a waste of money to hire someone when you could take on a beta reader, but I have had difficulty finding someone who wants to copyedit for me. Which I can totally understand, of course! I've always hated proofreading, so the idea of doing it myself makes me die a little on inside. :-)

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby Quill » 09 Feb 2011, 08:29

If what you need most is a polished manuscript, I don't see how going to a conference is going to help. So I'd go with the editorial service. I'd look for one that will give you a free sample (like 2000 words edited) so you can see if it's a good fit.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby Down the well » 09 Feb 2011, 08:40

Conferences are great, but they aren't designed to help you polish your manuscript while you are there. Feedback is generally limited to the first twenty to thirty pages at most. Sometimes it can be as little as two pages if you are doing a read and critique type workshop. There are usually classes offered that give tips on how to revise your manuscript, but there are plenty of books available to help with that at a substantially lower cost. Of course, you can take what you learn in these shorter critique sessions and apply them to your overall manuscript, but you're still on your own. Really, what a conference is good for is networking. It is a way to meet people (writers, editors, and agents) who can help you reach your goal of being published, either through advice or direct contact.

If your goal is to get your entire manuscript polished for submission, and you don't feel you can get there on your own, then you might want to consider hiring someone. I have not used a professional editor, and the only one I am familiar with charges a couple thousand dollars to edit a full manuscript. I'm sure there are others who charge less, but I would get a reference from one of their prior clients first before shelling out hundreds of dollars. My two cents. :)
Last edited by Down the well on 09 Feb 2011, 19:20, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby oldhousejunkie » 09 Feb 2011, 08:54

Thanks for the input.

I know the two things are vastly different. I think it's a situation of where will my money be best spent. Comparing the value of networking vs. the value of having a polished manscript.

Will having a polished manuscript make me stand out amongst the hundreds of other submissions? Part of me says 'no' while the other says 'yes.' I guess I see all the folks on this forum and on AbsoluteWrite and I think wow--there are hundreds of folks who already have a leg up because they know the proper form. But then I think about all the crazies who submit random things to agents, and I think that I do have the leg up on them.

So that's what started me thinking about whether or not it would be worth the money to network with potential agents at a conference and get an entree that way. In general, I have pretty decent grammatical skills to start with, so a lot of my typos occur when my brain has shut off for the night and I spell "there" instead of "their." I suppose running a find and replace on those common types of misspellings would help me identify them on my own. :-)
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby polymath » 09 Feb 2011, 09:29

Copyediting is a prepatory process for publication. A novel (or creative nonfiction) manuscript doesn't need to be mechanically polished style-wise to a high sheen for submission. Polishing the story, the pitch, the query to high artistic sheens--craft and voice--are what matters, not the nitty-gritty style mechanics.

A story worth its salt will trump the mechanics of it. If the story stands above the fray and a house wants it and it needs copyediting polish, the publisher will either assign the work to an in-house editor or engage one to do the job in concert with a writer. They're going to at least do a light pass regardless. Not light in the sense of short-shrift skimming, but checking for and correcting nondiscretionary mechanical style shortcomings, proposing discretionary style corrections, and fact-checking.

A copyeditor doesn't do story polishing. A developmental editor might be capable of providing guidance, but not polish a story. That ultimately is up to a manuscript's writer. Otherwise the writing will be tainted by the developmental editor's creative vision.

However, if self-publishing, engaging a copyeditor is a good practice, so there's another set of eyes taking a good look for potential embarrassments before going to press.

My rate for a light pass starts at $0.35 per Standard Manuscript Format page. If there's enough hits to justify a higher rate, in my opinion, a manuscript isn't ready for copyediting. I average copyediting the equivalent of several novels per week, but it's mostly for business writers and court stenographers. I've considered many creative writers' projects, few were ready for copyediting story-wise.

A very few manuscripts that I've evaluated solely for developmental editing purposes were mostly mechanically tight. Maybe one nondiscretionary hit and one or two discretionary hits per page, if that. They didn't have much in the way of craft and voice shortcomings either. If they had shortcomings impeding publication, they were matters of target niche, timeliness, and relevance appeals. I couldn't justify a charge for reading those manuscripts. I should have had to pay for the privilege of reading them as if I was purchasing them from a bookseller.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby bcomet » 09 Feb 2011, 09:57

Hi. Decisions can be tough when the money will only go so far. But at such points, be careful, doubly conservative, and step back.

Either choice is NO guarantee for success of any kind.

A "freelance editorial" choice could be a huge and expensive mistake. For one, many "freelance editors" will simply red-pen your every line, sometimes with "another choice" even when your original choice is really fine. And beware of anyone who would edit a partial work because, in my humble opinion, it is very difficult to "polish-edit" a partial before you know what the whole looks like. (Developmental Editors or critique groups can, however, point at the holes or questions or weaknesses along the way.) So if you're going to go with an editor, I strongly suggest a developmental editor who looks at the whole of your story first and only then goes back to focusing on the details of "polishing."

There are a few "freelance editorial services" out there that will give you a few page "sampler" and/or provide you with a sample edit of your first pages for a low enough price. This might be advisable even though, again, it is not a complete look, it gives you an idea what working with that editor is going to be like.

Personally, I believe strongly that having really sharp (and correctly matched to the work) critique partners, first with developmental, and later with polishing (possibly not the same people) is the tried and true method of getting your novel ready. A "freelance editor" may look like "the way" but it may just end up with a LOT of rewriting on your part and even a chopped up work.

There is often a HUGE difference in a professional editing/editors by an agent-editor and or publisher's editors than many "freelance editors," which is not to put them down, but it's a marketplace still strewn with pros and not-so-pros walking and talking like they are pros, and for a pretty penny at that. BE CAREFUL.

If you are looking at working with a professional freelance editor over a MFA, and it will be an ongoing back-and-forth, evolving working relationship, and you are SURE this is a pro, and you are compatible match, and you have had a test page edit, and you are aware it won't get you in anyone's door, and you have the money, you can afford to consider it. But don't spend your ONLY money and no loans. The critique group may not seem as "professional" but you can find professional level help in them: Good critique groups and partners DO HELP. They DO GET work agent/publisher ready. They may be harder to find, but they are worth it. The payback is in kind. You get to devote your talent and skills towards their work too. Both sides of these efforts makes you a better writer.

Re conferences: If you can afford a more expensive conference, by all means go. But if you can't, wait on it. It may not feel as glamorous, but do not discredit local, smaller, nearer, more affordable writing conferences. You will still benefit, meet people, make connections, learn. Just be a little more careful of professional opportunists on the smaller level, since they may not have organizers, often local writers or literary supporting groups, that are not able to screen their experts as well as the big conferences where there is little chance of bad eggs in the panel crowd. (Unfortunately, it is not unheard of to meet an occasional "pro" at a smaller conference who is "religious" or "very sympathetic" and gives you a "free" or "discounted" opinion and then comes in for the (big money) kill. Run if you meet such a person.)

I know, the road towards getting your work out there is tedious and slow, but it is what it is. Be careful with yourself along the way not to let anyone or any dangling expensive thing seduce you that the path can be made more certain. It can't. You can polish, grow as a writer, and put your work out there. But there are no guarantees. You could be Shakespeare in the closet and in this time of publishing, still overlooked.

Enjoy your writing. Most of all, DO NO HARM TO YOURSELF. That includes, don't spend money you don't have.

(BTW, a writing coach (someone who keeps you moving forward past your own obstacles, getting words on the page and putting the work out there), not to assess your work but to keep you motivated can be affordable and helpful. There are many available to work with you via email and/or once or twice a month meetings for very reasonable costs like $30. or $55. a month. No need to use anyone much more pricey than that. It can be an occasional treat and or good idea during a bleak spell.)
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby oldhousejunkie » 09 Feb 2011, 11:22

WOW...information overload. You've all given me a lot to think on. :-)

Thanks bcomet, for the run down on the differences and the pitfalls, as well. I'm definitely not in the boat to use money that is earmarked for other things. It would definitely be me scrimping and savings for either pursuit. I definitely looking for copy editing as opposed to someone telling me that they don't like how my sentences are worded, etc. That sort of thing is subjective, and as you say, a good beta reader or critique partner can do the same thing. I was thinking about attending a chapter of my state wide writer's group to see what it was like. I do write historical fiction, which is hard for some folks to read if they are not very well acquainted with history. So I'm not sure how far I will get in such an atmosphere. I am lucky that I have stumbled upon places like this forum and AbsoluteWrite. I had very little knowledge of the mechanics of writing before coming here, just a raw desire to write good stories. It never really occurred to me until last year that I might have the smallest shot of being published.

I appreciate the advice on conferences as well. I was looking at the conference that state writer's association puts on; last year's session features several people that I had actually heard of, including two of the agents that I was thinking about querying. I hope this year's prospectus is just as good.

Polymath, I may be calling upon you in the near future. A light once over is what I am looking for, and your rates are certainly in the ball park of what I was looking to spend. It's good to know that small mistakes here and there will not totally discount me from the running. I've read so many agents say "bring your best work" that I got it in my head that my MS had to be perfect. But that's the perfectionist coming out in me. Plus because I've worked on my MS off and on for 10 years, I don't really know what draft I'm on. I'm an edit while writing type of gal, so it's hard to gauge where I am in the process.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby bcomet » 09 Feb 2011, 11:35

oldhousejunkie wrote:I was thinking about attending a chapter of my state wide writer's group to see what it was like. I do write historical fiction, which is hard for some folks to read if they are not very well acquainted with history. So I'm not sure how far I will get in such an atmosphere.


One suggestion for historical fiction is to ask for help from professors and graduate students in the history department(s) of your state university. They are often more than happy to assist for the sheer pleasure of it and a cred if you are published (thank you in the acknowledgments) can be a big plus for them.

BTW, I have found English and Writing (and other) professors happy to beta-read my work too and I am not a student. A lot of times, they hear about my WiP and request a chance to read. So finding support can come from Universities and Colleges too.

Hope this is helpful. Best of luck and keep us informed!

P.S. One other thing: It looks like you are in South Carolina. South Carolina is chocked full of writers. It's like a haven for the writing life. You have awesome resources there and nearby in NC and Georgia too. You may find critique partner gold in your own neighborhood. Writers can be aloof with disguises like day jobs too. A little bit of inquiry could go a long way.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby polymath » 09 Feb 2011, 12:24

oldhousejunkie, since your novel's genre is historical fiction, as bcomet suggests, a university contact might be a best choice. There's going to be mechanical style and historical authenticity taken into account, two of the overriding concerns for historical fiction met right there. And university presses love considering regional historical fiction.

History scholars and other research field specialists want for entertainments in their fields. The dry stuff of their studies brought to life fulfills their unsatisfied entertainment wants. They're honored and flattered to be included in the process. Puts some credits on their publish-or-perish paradigm curriculum vitaes too.

An anthropologist cum literature and writing professor was on the examination committee for my undergraduate honors creative writing thesis. He commented favorably on the accuracy and style and craft and voice with which I brought the milieu to life. The thesis was published to the university library, assigned a circulating collection catalogue identity, printed in three copies, plus the several copies for the examination committee. A miniscule publication credit, but a credit nonetheless, one that might actually be read by a small audience. I did read several dozen of my predecessor writing program students' honors theses in preparation for mine.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby Down the well » 09 Feb 2011, 13:07

oldhousejunkie wrote:I know the two things are vastly different. I think it's a situation of where will my money be best spent. Comparing the value of networking vs. the value of having a polished manscript.


That's something only you can answer. But if you have a local writing organization that sponsors conferences then you should probably try to attend. We have several writing organizations in my state. I belong to two of them and pay about $40 per year in membership dues. Both groups sponsor conferences and writing contests. They also offer monthly writing workshops at no extra cost as well as access to organized critique groups both on-line and in person. Definitely look into joining your local groups, and best of luck.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby oldhousejunkie » 09 Feb 2011, 13:40

bcomet wrote:South Carolina is chocked full of writers.


Absolutely. Dorothea Benton Frank is here, I believe. As well as Sue Monk Kidd and Brent Lott. I went to the College of Charleston, which is where Brent teaches. I'm still kicking myself for not taking one of his "Intro to Writing a Novel" classes. I had a one track mind on history at the time, sadly. And as mentioned before, I was writing for my own edification with no real intentions to publish. :-(
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby sarahdee » 09 Feb 2011, 18:56

DougM hired a editor and it worked out well for him. I'm not sure if he's in these forums much anymore but you could contact him via his blog

http://devinbriar.blogspot.com/
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby Margo » 10 Feb 2011, 08:58

polymath wrote:My rate for a light pass starts at $0.35 per Standard Manuscript Format page.


Is that a typo, polymath? 35 cents a page? That's incredibly cheap for any kind of edit, isn't it?
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby polymath » 10 Feb 2011, 10:03

Margo wrote:
polymath wrote:My rate for a light pass starts at $0.35 per Standard Manuscript Format page.


Is that a typo, polymath? 35 cents a page? That's incredibly cheap for any kind of edit, isn't it?

No, not really, all things considered. I average fifty pages an hour when just copyediting professionally-written transcripts. About 150 words per minute reading speed. It's the going rate in the court reporting field. $0.50 per page for expedited work, same-day turnaround. Sometimes within a few hours of receipt. It's journeyman grammar, punctuation, and spelling stuff, no craft or voice to speak of and prohibited to change because it's verbatim reporting. People say such revealing things when they're under scrutiny.

Now, $0.35 cents a word is more like it for developmental editing, though I've evaluated projects that even that would be cheap at twice the price.
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Re: Hiring a Freelance Editor vs. Going to a Conference

Postby steve » 10 Feb 2011, 10:32

bcomet wrote:a writing coach

Please tell me you made this up, and this is not a real profession.

If it is a real profession, I'm going to become one right now.
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