FOULED! Part 2: Getting Your Editor to Edit

Predatory Publisher Month at Indies UnlimitedAuthors who have gotten sucked into a vanity press contract often get their first inkling of problems when they review their “edited” manuscript. It’s often riddled with errors – many of which have been introduced during the “editing” process. And if they complain, they’re pointed to a provision in their contract that states they need to pay extra for extra rounds of editing.

We talk a lot about Author Solutions because they’re a big outfit. But there is a whole host of other vanity publishers out there. I ran across this page of complaints about Tate Publishing while researching this post. And of course, there’s America Star Books, which used to be called PublishAmerica until criticism of their business practices got to be too loud.

(A caveat: I’ve linked to a website called Consumer Affairs above. The website operators apparently accept Google ads to help pay their bills – and Google matches its ads to content. If you’re tempted to click through on any of the ad links on those pages, please first check David Gaughran’s list of scammy operators in his post from last week.)

It’s not only vanity presses that create editing messes. The IU admins heard from an author from Moldova several months back. (I’m not telling tales out of school here, by the way. She said it was okay if we talked about her situation.) She had worked as a journalist, but wanted to come to America to study. So she quit her job to promote her novel in order to raise money for the trip. English is not her first language, so she paid FirstEditing, a company she found on the internet, $760 to give her book the final polish. In short, they didn’t. We minions did a quick online search and discovered several complaints against the company for fraud. When she contacted them about the errors in her book, they offered to give it a free second edit by another editor on staff. She took advantage of it. Then a couple of us looked it over. The verdict: the book still needed a lot of work. At that point, she gave up. She is still in Moldova and the book is still for sale.

Authors with vanity-press contracts sometimes hope that they can convince their editor to do a proper job of it. After all, they’ve paid these people a lot of money. Shouldn’t they be willing to make things right?

Victoria Strauss runs Writer Beware, a scam-spotting service sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has heard countless tales about vanity publishers since co-founding the blog with the late A.C. Crispin in 1998, and she doesn’t hold out much hope of getting satisfaction on this score. “In any of the scenarios that I can think of where an author might have to consider pursuing the publisher to do a proper job of editing, the publisher has already proved itself incapable of editing to professional standards and it’s a waste of time and energy to try and force it to do more,” she said. “If your publisher’s editing process has filled your book with errors; if the editor it gave you tried to re-write all your colloquial dialog; if the promised ‘content edit’ turns out to be a light copy edit; if the publisher promised editing and didn’t edit at all – all of these things demonstrate that it can’t or won’t do the job, whether because it’s incompetent or disreputable. Going after it to try and force it to do the job better will probably get you grief and stress, but not a better book.

“Also,” she said, “if the publisher can’t manage the job of editing–which is basic to a publisher’s function – then odds are good it can’t manage other aspects of the publishing process either.” Or in other words, don’t expect your book to have proper formatting. Or even an error-free cover.

Strauss said you may have one useful course of action: “If your publisher has done a crap job of editing, my suggestion is to seriously consider trying to get free of the publisher. (This is also why I strongly recommend that authors buy a book from any publisher they’re considering, to see if it’s adequately edited, designed, etc.)”

Of course, getting your book back has its own host of issues. I’ll talk about those in Part 3 next week.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

15 thoughts on “FOULED! Part 2: Getting Your Editor to Edit”

  1. I published and had a similar complaint about my book’s editing, and I was told I would have to pay an additional 70.00 to have a sentence removed that didn’t belong. I felt that was a big mistake on their part, after all, I was paying them for their services already as editors. This turned me sour and I am sorry now I even gave them any business.

  2. I’m all for the internet, but there is something to be said for walking into an office and talking to a service provider [or any sort] face to face. They may have talked the talk over the phone, but are they walking the walk in person?

    Online, however, due diligence is much harder to achieve, that’s why I really like the idea of buying other books published by the publisher. And not the ones they offer up on a silver platter either!

    Buying and reading a few books is a cheap, and relatively easy way of researching the company about to take your money, and your dreams.

    1. You don’t even have to buy one of the editor/publisher’s books, Meeks. Amazon offers that great “Look Inside” feature. It costs you nothing to use that and get a look at what you’re getting into.

  3. I’ve heard so many horror stories about so-called editing, including the “editors” using nothing but spell-checker, AND then changing even character’s names because the name the writer used prompted a spelling alert! I would strongly suggest having the editorial team take a pass at a first chapter before signing a contract. Anyone can say they are an editor, but the definition is open to interpretation.

    1. Wow, Melissa. I argue constantly with Word’s spellcheck. I can’t believe a real editor would take what it says at face value — and then charge someone for “editing” based on that.

      Agreed that having your prospective editor give you a sample edit is the smartest way to go.

  4. It is a real mess and a big problem. This is another great post by you Lynne. Thank you.

  5. My personal suggestion for avoiding problems with editors is to simply do your own editing. I do. And my work is always exactly as I want it and intend it to be.

    Okay, I know that is highly unconventional and it takes a long time to get a book finished. Being emotionally invested in a work makes it difficult to be objective during editing.

    One way to reduce the blindness that accompanies being too close to your own work is to set it aside for a few weeks or months while you work on a completely different project. Then, go back and re-read and edit after having been away from it. It works for me.

    Personally, I refuse to do it any other way. Whether that makes me a fool or a genius, costs me sales or makes me sales, given the uniqueness and impetus of my manner of expression and the subject matter about which I choose to write, I would not trust anyone else with such a critical task.

    1. Ilyan, I do most of my own editing, too. I have an editing background, and I came into this accustomed to reading and assessing my own work.

      *But* I’ve found that it’s not a bad idea to run your work past someone else before you hit publish. My cautionary tale is this: I drafted my first indie novel, “SwanSong”, and set it aside for several months. Went back in and edited it, and set it aside for several more months. Did a final pass and hit publish. And one of the first reviewers found several typos I’d missed — and posted them in her review!

      Since then, I’ve *always* run my work past at least one or two other people. But if you’re comfortable with your process, good for you. 🙂

  6. Having checked out that book from Moldova … no way did any kind of editor do anything resembling a decent job on it, not even a decent first pass.

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