Are You a Broke Writer? This Is For You

Are You a Broke Writer? This Is For You

Now, if you’re a part of the writing scene on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen the controversial tweet from an editor about ways a “broke” writer can get their book professionally edited. My feed has been swamped with with folks on both side of the issue. Here’s the tweet that started it all:

First, an editor telling you to pay for editing is, well, like a car dealer telling you to buy a new car, or a dentist telling you a cavity needs filling. They may or may not be correct, but the opinion is biased, so you need to factor that in.

Now, as a broke(ish) writer, here’s my thought process.

While my husband has a solid job, I can’t just say “Hey, lover boy, I need five grand for a full developmental edit, line edit, and copy edit, K?”

He’d blink, and laugh, then ask me to bake him a pot pie.

Kidding! Sorry, bad joke. I actually love cooking, and he loves eating my food, but I digress.

He’d probably laugh and say something like, “hmm, let me check the temp in Hell real quick, nope, sorry, it hasn’t frozen over” or some such. LOL.

Suffice it to say we don’t have the cash to spend thousands on editing, cover design, formatting, or anything that might get a book to publication levels of perfection. Nope nope nope. We have bills, a kid, health insurance, debt, and all the other wonderful expenses of middle-class American life. Yippee.

But, despite not being able to shell out for the full shebang, there are many things you can do.

I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to grammar/punctuation. Hell, I can’t spell restaurant right the first time (took spell check three times to recognize that word right now). I’ve only a vague idea where to use a ; correctly, and god forbid I have to use a –.

So when I was staring at my fifth and final draft of my current manuscript, I panicked. I found myself switching rapidly between “oh sweet Jesus lord in heaven, I suck so bad anyone who ever reads this shit will puke and laugh me out of the country” and “oh sweet Jesus Lord in heaven, no one can read this slobber, I’ve got too many commas, and that looks like a run on sentence, but I’ve GOT NO IDEA!!!”

Seriously. It was a whirlwind of emotions. I didn’t know how bad it really was, it’s not like successful published authors post up all their draft and pre-editor versions of their books so I can see what an unedited manuscript looks like (except for Brandon Sanderson, who is awesome).

I wanted a pro’s eyeballs on this manuscript before querying, but didn’t think I could afford it.

This was about November-ish, and I had an idea. I’d save all my Christmas money, I wouldn’t get any presents, and I’d use that money to try and find someone who could do a decent round of edits at a price I could afford.

So that’s what I did. For a solid month, I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need. That means no sappy romance movies, no fuzzy socks, no cute tourist trinkets, and no excess. Granted, I did get two Christmas presents, but technically those were purchased a while before… so they don’t count.

I saved all the monies (and husband made up the difference because he supports me, loves me and I cook for him 😉).

In my Facebook writing group I found an editor I liked, who wasn’t too expensive, and in January I took the plunge.

I, as a “broke” writer, hired an editor to fix my manuscript, and it cost like $400, WAY less than I thought and within my price range.

Weeks later she delivered my manuscript back, with a ton of excellent feedback, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Whew! There was plenty to fix, but way less than I’d imagined.

I found a way to get the edits I needed, at a price I could afford, that didn’t require begging, debt, or trades. It was the right move for me, but probably isn’t for everyone.

Now, my personal experience aside, let’s break down the 4 points from that editor’s tweet above that started all this kerfuffle:

1. Ask someone wealthy who believes in you and your book to invest in you.
I know many wealthy people, and the ones who know I write ask me frequently for updates on the book, to see how’s it going. Never once have they offered to “sponsor” me, and I’d never dream of asking. Yuck.

Being wealthy is like owning a truck. Everyone knows you’ve got a truck, and they want to use it to move, or haul wood, or fill with soft blankets and take a girl to the mountains to watch a movie. Everyone. I knew a dude in college who had a truck, and so many people asked to use it that he finally started flat out refusing everyone. He even refused me! (This was before I learned not to ask.)

Having lots of money is the same thing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people ask my wealthy friends to loan them a couple dozen Benjamin’s sometimes. The more you have, the more other people want (or even expect) a slice. And that’s just…shitty.

Maybe I’m a little biased because I grew up watching Judge Judy on my grandmother’s knee. I can’t tell you how many cases were basically ‘I loaned them money, and they never paid me back.’ That’s poisoned me against asking for money from anyone.

Besides the fact I think it’s awkward to ask someone for money, even if you’re BFF’s. So let’s discount way #1 as rude and inappropriate.

DO NOT MIX MONEY AND FRIENDSHIP. Seriously.

 

2. Get a loan (if you can afford it).
I’ve got to take a deep breath for this one…no, no no no. Don’t do this.

I get the whole “I want to become a famous rich successful author so I need to invest in myself” bit. I get it. I also want to succeed as an author, I really do.

But, and this is something SO few people really understand…success as an author is only a little bit about your writing ability, and even an excellent writer is going to go through multiple rounds of edits with their publisher (and maybe their agent as well). Going into debt for an edit is unwise.

3. See if an editor will do a service swap with you if that is a mutual fit.
I’m not going to dismiss this one so quickly, and it’s actually a good idea if it’s discussed and agreed upon. New editors are emerging on the market every day, just like new authors. There are plenty of people out there who need to refine their skills and improve with practice, and who need some experience or a portfolio.

Granted, I haven’t tried searching, but I’m confident there are Facebook groups, library meetings, Reddit forums, and the like to find someone to work swap with.

The caution with this one is this… if you decide to go this route, you can’t be mean or picky about it. If you find a new editor, and they have different beliefs, you can’t be a bitch about it. You get what you pay for 🙂

If they believe in the Oxford comma, and you don’t, you can’t make life difficult because you disagree. Remember, they’re doing this for free, be a big girl and agree to disagree.

So I’d recommend this step with caution.

4. Set up a payment plan.
Meh, this one is a little wobbly for me. It goes back to the bank thing, payment plans are for buying something you can’t afford but insist on getting anyway, like that giant 80” TV.

If you can’t afford to pay for it outright, I’d recommend waiting until you can. Stop buying $5 coffees every morning, take lunch at the office instead of buying one, take the subway instead of getting a full tank of gas. There are always ways to save for something you really need.

I can see the appeal, making the payments in smaller increments, instead of all up front, but it’s dangerous. Say you’re on a payment plan and you break your arm. Suddenly, you’ve got medical bills, and are laid up. Patience only goes so far before you’re standing behind a desk on Judge Judy explaining why you never paid someone back. It’s a slippery slope.

Now personally, I decided to pay for an editor because I sat down and deliberately thought out the pros and cons. For me, paying for an editor was the right choice, but you? That’s really up to you.

Several of the tweet responses have stated that a manuscript doesn’t need to be perfect for an agent to sign an author. Some have even said that it’s better for it not to be perfect, so the agent has a good idea of the skill level of the author. If they get a perfect manuscript (no manuscript can be perfect, I find typos in published books all the time…), then they’ll expect a perfect manuscript every time.

Are you willing to pay out of pocket before submitting every single manuscript? I’m not.

I think there are good reasons to pay out of pocket for an editor. I did, and I don’t regret it for a second, but there are also good reasons not to. It’s 100% a personal decision, and a single tweet shouldn’t influence that.

Now, go forth and write!

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