From the Editor’s Desk: Dracian Legacy by Priya Kanaparti

As an editor, (both freelance and under REUTS Publications), I have the wonderful opportunity to see amazing novels during their developmental phase. And I wanted to find a way to share them with all of you as they became available. (I also wanted to find a way to help support the authors that trusted me with their manuscripts.) So think of these posts as my own personal book recommendations, straight from the editor’s desk.

This week, I’m excited to bring you the latest release from REUTS:
 

Dracian Legacy

By Priya Kanaparti

 

Cover Art for "Dracian Legacy" by Priya Kanaparti

 

At seventeen, Ren Pernell knows the meaning of tragedy.

But then, a year after losing her parents, Axel Knight walks through the door and changes everything. Strange creatures start to appear, her best friend suddenly finds her irresistible, and an undeniable, unexplainable bond with Axel threatens to drive her insane. She knows he’s the key. There’s something he’s not sharing, and she’s determined to find out.

Demanding answers, she finally learns the truth: everything she ever believed is an illusion. Caught in a centuries-old blood feud between races she never knew existed, Ren discovers her true destiny. She’s the chosen one, the Echo, preordained to end the bloodshed.

There’s just one catch–in order to save those she loves and a homeland she’s never seen, she’ll have to die.

With the clock running out, she’ll have to navigate a new world of betrayal, lies and deceit. If she can forgive, finding love even in the darkest places, she just might be able to escape the prophecy. But how much is she willing to sacrifice for a cause she didn’t know she was part of? And what will it take for her to be free?

 
Dracian Legacy is the first in a YA paranormal romance trilogy. Steeped in mystery, action, and steamy love scenes, it follows Ren, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s anything but normal.

A year after losing her parents, she comes face to face with her destiny. She just wasn’t expecting it to be wrapped up in the attractive Axel Knight. But destiny isn’t the only thing riding Axel’s coattails. Strange things are happening: creatures who clearly aren’t human appear; Axel has abilities that can’t be explained and that, apparently, only she sees; and her best friend–Dean–suddenly finds her irresistible after treating her like dirt for the past four years. Confused, Ren struggles to understand, until finally, she stumbles on the truth:

Everything she’s ever believed about herself, her family, and her friends is a lie.

She’s not even human, belonging instead to a race she never knew existed–the Dracians. Now, caught in an age old war between the Dracians and their enemies, she’s forced to make a choice. Accept her destiny as the Echo, the one person who can put a stop to the bloodshed, or lose everyone and everything she cares about. Clearly, it’s not much of a choice. But what will she have to sacrifice to save those she loves?

Kanaparti has created an intriguing new world, meshing it seamlessly with our own. Her characters are complicated, real people, bringing a refreshing quality to the familiar love triangle. Neither male lead is 100% good, or 100% bad, and I actually had a hard time deciding which to root for. (Technically, I was solidly Team Axel after the first read-through, but by the end of Book 2–as yet unreleased–and the revisions to Book 1, I’d switched to Dean.) Ren is a feisty, strong female lead, quick with the snarky comeback and ready to fight for what she loves. Even the supporting cast is well-rounded, hinting at the potential for spin-off books in the future.

But the thing I enjoy most about Kanaparti’s work is her voice. There’s a happiness infused into it, a brightness, even in the heart-wrenching scenes (and trust me, there are quite a few that will have you aching for the characters), that I found to be a complete joy to read. The author’s self-proclaimed motto is “I strongly believe true love conquers all”. That quality definitely rings through, and I highly recommend this book. (And the ones to come. I’ve seen what happens next, and you definitely won’t want to miss it! 😉 )

Dracian Legacy is currently available in digital format (eBook) at all the usual online retailers. The print version (which will contain bonus content–including 2 Deleted Scenes & 3 Alternate POV Scenes) will be available March 11th, 2014. Preorders can be placed through the REUTS Publications website. And if you’d like to connect with Priya, you can find her at these locations: WebsiteTwitterFacebook |

**Content Note: This is classed as a YA, but parents should be aware that the content, in my opinion, is appropriate for 16+ years. There’s nothing too explicit, but it does contain swearing, discussions about sex, and steamy make-out sessions that will leave adults looking for a cold shower.**

Writing Characters With Great Backstories (Without the Backstory)

As an editor, I get to bear witness to all kinds of writing pitfalls. (In fact, I have a post series dedicated to that planned for the near future.) But one of the most prevalent, by far, revolves around divulging exposition — especially of the backstory variety. There are varying degrees of offense, but my personal favorite (and by “favorite”, I really mean eye-roll inducing, hair-pulling, editing nightmare) is when writers feel the need to divulge a character’s entire, complicated life story in the first chapter. Why is that bad? Well, think of it like this: your first chapter is the reader’s introduction to your character. So in real life, it would be like meeting someone for the first time and having them word vomit their life story all over you. What kind of impression does that leave? Yeah, I bet you’d avoid that person like the plague after that.

I can already hear the murmurs of confusion and disagreement.

“But, we have to make sure our characters feel well-rounded and real,” you say, “We don’t want them to feel like cardboard cut-outs or Mary Sues.”

You’re 100% right. But you can do that without resorting to the word vomit introduction. How? Well, that’s what I’m here to show you. 😉
 

Step 1: Creating Backstory

 
Before you can begin to write a well-rounded character, you have to actually make them well-rounded. You need to know that person intimately. They need to be real — as real as your best friend from high school, or your quirky aunt with the 82 cats who lives in a motor home. The best way to do that is by making what’s known as a character profile. (There are tons of templates available online, but this one is particularly thorough.) Document all those tiny little details and experiences that make your character who they are. Don’t just stick to the superficial details, like eye color and body type, but really get to know them.

How’d they get that scar on their right knee?

Who was their first crush, and who broke their heart for the first time?

What’s their strange nightly ritual? And why do they keep that weird nick-knack on their bookshelf?

In a separate document, flesh out your character from top to bottom. Until, like an actor, you can step into their skin and write with their voice. This process is as essential to your novel as plotting is, so don’t skimp. You’ll need to do this for every major character, and, to some extent, the supporting cast as well. You’ll see why here shortly.
 

Step 2: Writing as Character X

 
By now, you should have pages and pages of notes. You’ve created all these exciting experiences and nuances that shape your character’s personality, and you can’t wait to share them all with the world. Right? Wrong. This is where pet peeve #208 (listed above) comes in. Writers assume that since they’ve created all this material, they need to use it. That it’s a disservice to their character not to, and that stuffing every minute detail into their novel is the only way they’ll be able to illustrate just how intricate this person’s life is. But guess what? We’re all intricate, complicated people. And we don’t care that you’ve managed to create another one.

Your character spent 8 months backpacking through Europe three years before the events of chapter 1? Great. Who cares?

Your character has a great grandmother who can bake the world’s best pot roast, but who died ten years before the events of the story? Okay. Sad, but so what?

Your character’s favorite childhood dog only had three legs, but could run like a greyhound? Weird and slightly interesting, but what does it have to do with the story?

My point is, unless one of these anecdotes or facts has a direct affect on the current plot, it doesn’t make it into the book. Why did you just waste hours writing all of that, then? Because, even though it’ll never be stated outright, it will color the way your character reacts to any given situation. Essentially, by creating that profile, you built their “voice”. Every experience we go through changes our fundamental outlook on life and will have a subtle affect on the way we behave, the things we say, and even our perception of a situation. That’s the definition of personality. It’s a reaction filtered through our individual set of traits and life experiences, and is what makes each of us unique.

For example, the character with the three-legged dog is likely to be compassionate toward animals as well as people who are differently-abled. While someone without that particular backstory may be callous and insensitive to the needs of others. The person with the grandma may have a certain affinity for pot roast, reacting to it much differently than someone who’s, say, a vegetarian. And depending on how your character got the scar on their knee, they may have an ingrained fear of something that makes absolutely no sense to anyone else.

It’s the history behind the character that makes them feel real. Even if we never hear the story of every experience, we’ll respond to that feeling of depth, of fullness. It’s not about creating a detailed biography of these fictional people, it’s about making them feel human so readers can connect with them. So go ahead and create those elaborate backstories, but remember, 90% of it will never be used outright in your book. And that’s okay. The authenticity you’ll be able to create for having done this exercise will far outweigh the “wasted” time you put into it. Because, at the end of the day, fiction is nothing without its characters.
 

Step 3: Murder Your Exposition

 
(I make that sound so dramatic, don’t I?)

Exposition has its place, but rarely is it needed as much as writers imagine. Storytelling is about conflict and emotion. And, as they say, “show, don’t tell” whenever possible. Exposition is telling at its worst. It’s that irritating person that walks into the room while you’re trying to watch a movie and forces you to press pause in order to pay attention to them. It breaks whatever action you have happening and says, “look at this irrelevant bit of info” instead. Which is why your final mission for this lesson is to go through your manuscript, find any spot where you stuck a random memory or some other detail from their past, and ask yourself, “Does this really need to be here?” I guarantee, the majority of the time, the answer will be no.

You can convey a lot of backstory simply through subtext and the way the character reacts to the environment and situation around them. Sometimes it is necessary to supply the details, the history, but even then, exposition is rarely the key. Try to find some other way to divulge it whenever possible. Dialogue (although never use dialogue as a convenient vehicle for giving the reader information as it will instantly feel false and unnatural), inner monologues, passing comments, etc. Flashbacks are even preferable to straight info-dump exposition. But if you do have to resort to a flashback, make sure that your character is in an appropriate situation for one. Don’t halt the middle of a battle to have them daydream about how they received a commendation for whatever umpteen years ago. If you do that, congratulations, your character is now dead. Because, while he was standing there daydreaming, the guy he was fighting lobbed his head off.

Once you’ve identified your exposition, strip it out wherever you can. Read the chapter, paragraph, sentence, without it. Does removing it in any way change the clarity of the message? If the answer is yes, then weave it back in, but only as much as necessary. If the answer’s no, bravo! You successfully killed a bit of exposition. And if you just aren’t sure, well, that’s why editors exist. Be ready, though, because they’ll be the first to go after your exposition with a butcher knife.

So, in summary, (since I seem to have rambled more than normal in this post) great characters require equally great backstories. But great writers know when and where to divulge that information, relying heavily on the subtleties of voice and subtext to convey the majority of it. Do they have journals full of notes and character profiles and unpublished material? You bet! How much of that creeps into their actual books? Maybe 10%. But you feel its existence. The work feels authentic, the characters real. Follow in the footsteps of those writers and show us your character without resorting to a word vomit introduction. Readers (and editors) will greatly appreciate it. 😉

The Writing Process Blog Hop

This week, I was invited by the lovely Elsie Elmore to participate in the Writing Process Blog Hop. Normally, this hop is aimed at writers, giving each an opportunity to swap notes on how and why they work the way they do. But Elsie and I thought it might be nice to take advantage of my editorial insight and provide a look at the process from an editor’s perspective.  So we’ve modified the questions slightly in the hopes that my opinions will help those of you currently revising and/or querying for publication.

But first, let’s say hello to the sponsor of this post, Elsie. Without her, I wouldn’t have even known this was happening. So be sure to give her a shout out and check out her hop post from last week: Sharing the Writing Process.

Image of Author Elsie Elmore

Elsie Elmore

Elsie’s Bio:

Outside the city limits on a small patch of North Carolina land, Elsie Elmore lives with her husband, two kids, and two dogs.

She’s a science nerd with creative tendencies. And the stories she writes come to her from life’s experiences after her mind has warped them almost  beyond recognition. Her first YA PNR romance is due out this year from Curiosity Quills.

 

The Questions:

 
What are you working on?
 
Honestly? Too many things to list. If I were to talk about each one, we’d be here for eons!

The life of an editor is never calm, orderly, or filled with hours of blissful reading. (I just wrote a post about this, actually.) Neither are we typically allowed to reveal what we’re actually working on. But, I can tell you that I recently finished work on the newest release from REUTS Publications: Dracian Legacy. It’s coming out Feb. 25th and is currently available for preorder. 😉

I also have several more titles I’m working on for REUTS, as well as a few freelance projects. To give you an idea of just how busy I am, my calendar is filled with deadlines all the way to the end of December, and I’ve even got a few scheduled for the beginning of 2015! But that’s all I can say. For information on exactly which titles I’ve had my sticky little fingers in, you’ll have to check back. I’ll post an announcement about each under my From the Editor’s Desk series.

But that’s only what I’m doing as an editor. I’m also a writer. (And part superwoman, if you couldn’t tell. ;)) As with editing, I’m never one to commit to a single project. But, for the sake of keeping this relatively short, I’ll only talk about one — Unmoving. It’s an urban fantasy containing shades of Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Inception, and A Christmas Carol. Strange combination, right? Here’s the “official” blurb:

Derek Richards renounced his humanity after losing the woman he loved in a horrific car accident. Like flipping a switch, he turned off his non-cynical emotions –- including compassion and empathy –- and closed himself off from the world. But, three years later, his callous disregard has finally caught up to him.

After watching his current fling angrily storm out, he meanders through the streets of Portland to his favorite spot –- a park bench by the river. His peace and quiet is interrupted by a homeless woman, and he quickly finds himself entangled in a confrontation where money isn’t the only change at stake.

Now, literally turned to stone, he realizes karma’s giving him a second chance. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge minus the helpful ghosts, he has to relive all his bad decisions –- every selfish, incorrect choice he’s ever made –- and reevaluate his life. If he can’t find a way to redeem himself, he’ll spend eternity as a statue. But after what he’s done, maybe he deserves it.

 
Interested? I’ve done something a little crazy and made Unmoving available as a serial subscription, while it’s being written. What am I talking about? Click here for the full details.
 
What helps a writer’s work stand out from others in their genre?
 
Okay, back to editing mode. (Could I have stuck any more sales plugs into that previous section? Jeez!)

This is a hard one to quantify, since there are several ways a manuscript can catch my eye. But, I suppose, I would have to say that the fastest way to hook an editor is to bring something fresh to the table. Nothing is original, not in its entirety, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be unique. The thing about storytelling is that it revolves less around finding a plot no one has told before, and more around how you tell it. Even the most well-known, tired plots can be infused with something different and intriguing — the writer’s voice.

It can be as simple as a unique gift for unusual analogies, or it can be as grandiose as throwing a twist on a familiar concept that we didn’t see coming. But — and here’s the important part, writers — it has to be uniquely, authentically you.

A lot of times, people will hear this kind of advice and work too hard to craft what they think qualifies, resulting in a contrived, artificial style that editors see right through. We don’t want you to tell us the story you think we want to hear, we want you to tell us the story the way you think it should be told. It’s that subtle variance in perception that will make a work stand out, at least for me. None of us live exactly the same lives, so infuse your work with your own personal set of experiences, ideals, and outlooks, and it’ll ring true, rising above the others even in genres that are heavily saturated.

(As a small side note, it is true what they say about trying to follow the trends. While I would never discourage anyone from telling the story they want to tell, they should be aware that if they choose to write about a subject that’s over-saturated — e.g. vampires, zombies, demons — it will increase the difficulty of finding publication. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. 😉 )
 
What makes you fall in love with a concept or ms?
 
Hmmm . . . another hard one. This is a highly subjective question, so take what I’m about to say as the opinion of just little ole me. Other editors will have widely varying thoughts on this.

Contrary to what you may think, I don’t look for professional-grade polish. That’s my job, so why would I expect you to have already done it? (Note: most other editors do want this. So I’m definitely odd in this respect.) I look for potential. How do I define that? Well, part of it stems from my personal reading preferences, part of it comes from what I think the market would gravitate toward, and part of it is an assessment of the core message underneath the story.

So when I read a query, I’m not looking at how perfectly you wrote your hook, or how solid your synopsis is, or even if your first 5 pages are grammatically flawless. (That never happens, by the way.) I’m looking at what your story is really about. Things like whether or not the overall plot is intriguing, the character’s voice, and the underlying emotional context your tale is promising to deliver. As a structural (a.k.a. developmental or conceptual) editor, my gift is stripping away all the surface layers and understanding the core of a work. If that core message is engaging, chances are good I’ll overlook any other flaws, because, like I said, those are my job to fix anyway.

If you were looking for more of a bullet-type list, these are things I typically respond well to:

  • Strong MC voice (especially snarky ones)
  • Well-developed and unique world/culture/setting that I haven’t seen before (mostly pertains to speculative fiction genres)
  • A clearly defined message (What are you trying to say through this story? Every story has a message, whether you intended it or not–what’s yours?)
  • An engaging plot that speaks to my sense of entertainment
  • That spark of authenticity I mentioned in the above question’s answer 😉

 
What is the biggest editing tip you could offer that could help writers?

 
Believability and authenticity are king. Regardless of genre. Nothing kills a manuscript faster, in my eyes, than underdeveloped worlds or characters, lack of authentic details, and unbelievable motivations or actions. Storytelling is about emotional resonance. We need to connect with the characters, to live vicariously through them in this world you’ve created. And to do that, it needs to feel authentic and real. Often times, writers forget this fact, going for what I call “cool factor points”. Meaning they throw in far-fetched things that could never possibly happen, and then don’t even try to explain them. Obviously, I’m a fan of fantasy, so I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t push the boundaries of reality, just make sure that it feels like it truly could exist that way.

I’ve written quite a couple posts about these subjects, so instead of rambling on for days, I’ll just give you the links. Peruse if you wish. 😉
 

 
The second piece of advice I’d give is to divorce your words. This is one that will make going through the process of publication so much easier — on everyone. Often, writers submit their work under the illusion it’s perfect. I mean, why wouldn’t they? They slaved and slaved and slaved, and then slaved some more. But the reality is, a manuscript is never perfect when it lands on an editor’s desk. That’s why we exist. To help you achieve that next level, to provide an objective, expert eye. Can you guess what that means? Yep. We tear your precious, “perfect” baby to pieces and then stitch it back up again.

Now, what do you think happens when an author who’s married to every single word of their manuscript comes face to face with the brutal editing process? Yeah. It’s not pretty. So save yourself some trouble, learn how to detach yourselves from your words, and go into the querying process knowing full well that that “perfect” draft you submit is really just one more revision waiting to happen. Oh, and trust that your editor knows what they’re doing. I swear, we’re really not trying to hurt you on purpose. 😉

I did a longer version of this here: Divorce Your Words; Save Your Story.

That brings my portion of the blog hop to a close. I hope some of what I’ve said is helpful. I am always willing to answer questions, so if you have one about editing, indie publishing, or writing in general, please feel free to contact me. I promise I don’t bite. Most of the time. 😉

My part may be done, but the blog hop is far from over. Head on over to the blogs below and see what others have to say about the writing process. Take it away, ladies!
 

Author Photo of Sarah La Fleur

Sarah LaFleur

Sarah LaFleur:
Until December 2012, Sarah LaFleur was a working pianist and teacher. In the midst of a career change, she started writing a story. Less than 17 weeks later she completed her first full-length novel currently being shopped around for traditional publication.

Who Is Evelyn Dae? was born when Sarah decided to launch her writing persona (lafleurdeplume) on social media. By early September 2013, she connected with a wonderful community of writers and readers who convinced her to publish the website story as an eBook.

Sarah continues to write, and has several projects in the works including a sequel to her first novel, an adult science fiction book that stands alone, and multiple guest blog spots. She lives in the greater Chicago metropolitan area with her children, husband, cats, and piano.
 
Website: http://lafleurdeplume.com
 
Twitter: @lafleurdeplume
 
Facebook: http://facebook.com/lafleurdeplume
 

Author Photo of T.A. Brock

T.A. Brock

T.A. Brock:

T.A. Brock spends her days gleefully plucking words from the chaos of life and dressing them up so they look pretty. Then she calls them stories and tries to convince people to read them. She resides in the great land of tornadoes (Oklahoma) with her husband, two children, and her beloved Kuerig machine.

You can catch her on Twitter @TA_Brock or visit her blog ta-brock.blogspot.com
 

Author Photo of Jamie Ayers

Jamie Ayers

Jamie Ayers:

Jamie Ayres writes young adult paranormal love stories by night and teaches young adults as a Language Arts middle school teacher by day. When not at home on her laptop or at school, she can often be found at a local book store grabbing random children and reading to them. So far, she has not been arrested for this. Although she spent her youthful summers around Lake Michigan, she now lives in Florida with her prince charming, two children (sometimes three based on how Mr. Ayres is acting), and a basset hound. She really does have grandmothers named Olga and Gay but unlike her heroine, she’s thankfully not named after either one of them. She loves lazy pajama days, the first page of a good book, stupid funny movies, and sharing stories with fantastic people like you. Her books include the first two installments of her trilogy, 18 Things and 18 Truths. Visit her online via Twitter, Facebook, or at www.jamieayres.com.

Freelance Editing: What You’re Actually Paying For

The following is a guest post by fellow freelance editor Cait Spivey. Cait contacted me after my post on what it takes to be an editor, asking for my input on the topic below. Realizing how important her subject really is, I asked her to come and share it with all of you. So, without further ado, I’ll turn you over to Cait and her fantastic post on what you’re actually paying for when you hire a freelance editor.

Take it away, Cait!

 

Freelance Editing: What You’re Actually Paying For

 

By Cait Spivey

 
With self-publishing on the rise, more and more freelance editors are offering their services. Along with this increase, the internet has provided plenty of articles on how to find a good freelance editor, why you need one, why you don’t need one, what to do if things go badly, etc.

In the comments on those articles, there’s almost always someone who asks why freelance editors charge so much. Many editors charge a flat rate per word or page–for example, Bear and Black Dog, my company, charges $6/pg for a single editor working on a full manuscript edit. It can add up quickly, and writers often balk at the $1500+ price tag. (The Editorial Freelancer’s Association has a page detailing average rates for various levels of service, emphasizing that these are a rough guideline.)

That’s fair — it’s quite a bit of money. In having this discussion, though, I’m reminded of graphics that make the round of the internet from time to time with headers like:
 

PHOTOGRAPHERS
What you think you’re paying for v. What you’re actually paying for

 
You’ve seen them. They typically have two columns. The one on the left has one line with the bare minimum of the job (whether photographer, event musician, etc) and the one on the right goes into more detail.

I figured it was about time we went into a little more detail about why freelance editors charge what they charge, so I put my head together with some of my editor friends and came up with this list.
 

What you think you’re paying for:

 
Someone to read your manuscript and provide feedback
 

What you’re actually paying for:

 

Time spent on the manuscript itself

 
Yes, we do read your manuscript and provide feedback, but it’s not as simple as all that. As Kisa Whipkey, freelancer and Editorial Director at REUTS Publications, said in her post What it Takes to be an Editor: it’s not just about fixing grammar. Nor is it just providing reactions to the story, the way a beta reader does.

An editor’s job is to see the story both as a series of components and as a whole organism. We’re basically mad scientists, optimizing the whole by tinkering with the parts. This requires hours of reading, and re-reading, and absorbing, and experimenting. And it is all on a case-by-case basis. Yes, there are problems we see a lot and we do have skeleton solutions ready — but we fill those in with your characters, your story, your world, your goals.

As my business partner Ash says: “How long did you spend writing your book? How easy do you think it is to take that work apart and improve it?”

Every editing project has its own challenges, and the kind of dedicated, personal attention good editors provide takes time, often quite a lot. It can also be as draining as writing a book. Editing is neither robotic nor formulaic.
 

Time spent on you

 
We know some comments can be hard to hear. Believe me, we are incredibly aware. Most editors are interested in helping writers improve, which means that we spend a lot of time crafting comments that explain why we changed what we did or why we think such and such needs to go. We also strive to give those critiques in a friendly and helpful tone, and balance criticism with praise.

Some editors take a more tough-love approach than others. It’s important to find an editor whose critique style you’re comfortable with, whether you don’t mind harsher comments or whether sarcasm in an edit letter is not your thing at all. Many editors can adapt their tone to your preference if you let them know which end of the spectrum you’re on — doing so is all part of the time spent on you as a valued client.

Editors want to form relationships with their clients, because trust makes it a lot easier to work together on a manuscript. For those clients who are self-publishing, we hope to form the kind of bond that traditionally published authors often experience with their in-house editors, and facilitate a long-term working arrangement.
 

Time and money for undergrad or graduate training

 
Like most professionals these days, we went to college, and like most former college students, we spent — and are still paying back — a lot of money to do it. A lot of people assume college is a given expense these days, but let us not forget that it’s meant to be an investment, and one that will eventually be returned in wages, and then fed back into the economy as spending dollars. That cycle gets broken without a living wage, in any line of work.
 

Time and money spent on books, conferences, and further education

 
But education doesn’t end with academia. Our job is dependent on our knowledge of literary trends and we can’t do our job well if we stick our heads in the same old sand. We buy new books on writing techniques (we write new books on writing techniques), we attend conferences and connect with our colleagues, with agents, with booksellers and with writers. We take classes to expand and hone our skill set.

All that costs money.
 

Time watching the market and identifying trends

 

Market trends (i.e. what books are selling) are as important as style trends for an editor. If your goal is to self-publish, we need to be aware of where your book sits on the proverbial shelf and what company it’s in. If your goal is traditional publishing, where agents and acquisitions editors look for originality with extreme prejudice, we need to be able to help your book stand out from recent sales and best sellers.

This means subscriptions to Publisher’s Weekly and Publisher’s Marketplace. It also means tons of time devoted to reading new releases. There’s a reason editors tend to specialize in genres or categories. There’s not enough time in the world for us to be well-versed in the market of every genre or category.
 

Business Costs

 
This includes maintaining a website and paid advertising, as well as time spent marketing and networking. It also includes promotional materials, such as the free first five pages critiques my company gives away on Twitter every month. Then there’s the cost of professional memberships with organizations like the Editorial Freelancer’s Association.

On top of all of that: taxes. A substantial amount of freelance revenue goes back in taxes, since we’re responsible for tracking and paying them ourselves as opposed to having an employer handle it.
 

Equipment

 
We often don’t think of computers or software as professional equipment, but for many people, they are. The laptop I’m working on right now is nearly five years old, ancient as far as computers are concerned. If it craps out, I need to be able to go and purchase a replacement immediately, because my job depends on it.

Microsoft Word, used by most writers, is also not free despite its ubiquity.
 

The cost of living

 
My company is still less than a year old, which means that the majority of our fees go straight back into the business account to build our presence and cover those business costs I mentioned. But, eventually it will contribute meaningfully to my household income.

– – – – –

Here’s a break-down for an example job to illustrate how the high payment might be spread across all the factors I’ve just outlined.

Time spent on a manuscript can vary quite a lot depending on many factors, but for simplicity’s sake we’ll use averages. I average about six pages per hour on a manuscript. So if you have a 300 page book, that takes me about fifty hours. If you pay me $1800, that’s about $36 dollars an hour (gross, meaning before taxes).

But: I only spend two, maybe three hours a day sitting down working on a manuscript. The rest of my day is devoted to blog posts, marketing, communication and networking, market research, etc. My wage for those things comes out of the payment I receive for editing. My $70 bucks for two hours of editing is my wage for an eight hour work day (often longer), so it ends up being a lot closer to $9/hr. 

Don’t let the lump sum fool you — for the most part, freelance editors are hardly swimming in profits.

If you’re interested in a freelance editor’s services but can’t afford a full edit, don’t think that’s the end of it! I can only speak for myself and my company on this matter, but Bear and Black Dog is always very happy to work with writers on staggered payment schedules. As freelancers, we are incredibly flexible in this way.

**Note from Kisa: I, too, am willing to work with writers on staggered payment schedules. So never be afraid to ask if the lump sum is more than you can manage. 😉 **

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Photo of Freelance Editor Cait Spivey Cait Spivey is an editor with Curiosity Quills Press and managing member of Bear and Black Dog Editing, LLC. As an editor, Cait pulls from her lifelong experience loving books to bring forth the best elements of every story in a way that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go. She wants to help books tug heartstrings. She wants to help books become heirlooms. She wants to help books get quoted on Tumblr. Contact her through her website or her Twitter @CaitSpivey.