The Cost of
Not Hiring an Editor

Dear Self Publisher,

Worried about editor costs? I didn't even think about an editor!

I got the idea for my book a long time ago and spent several years researching it. It took 4 months to write. I used spell and grammar checks on my computer. I was so keen to get my book into print! I had a marketing background so that part, promoting the sale of the book, was all worked out in my mind.

I spent the next months doing many things. I made a few phone calls to publishers and some calls to look for government grants to produce my book. I was getting nowhere so I raised the money to print 100 books myself at a cost of almost $1000. I was so excited!

I put my marketing plan to work. I thought if I designed the cover in a clever way people would pick it up and that would get me over the biggest obstacle.

I put some books into stores on consignment and sold some on my own. Then store owners pointed out to me that although many people were picking the book up, no one was buying it in the stores. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I was sure the information in my book had a niche. Was it the time of year? Was it the price?

Then my sister looked at my book and said, "Why don't you send it to this man I read about in the paper? He designs books for a living. Maybe he can suggest something." So I sent a copy to my first editor.

What came back was such a shock!

The editor told me my book was so full of grammar mistakes it would be a big mistake to have it on the shelves of bookstores. He said, "People will get to know your book for what it is now and you'll kill all your future sales as a result. You need to have an editor go through this work of yours and edit it."

I wondered about the cost.

"Probably $1800 and it will be back to you in about a week all ready to go to the printer."

And what was I to do with the $1000 worth of books I now had?

"Get them off the shelves!"

I was not happy. I did not have $1800 for an editor. I talked to several people about the grammar problem. For the most part they dismissed it and said the editor was probably just trying to drum up business for himself. "Your books aren't selling because it's just after Christmas and people are broke. Try again in the summer."

But something about what the editor had said seemed to ring true. I had to ask myself, what if he was right? I have a good education and thought I could write and speak with proper grammar, but I had to admit I had never written a book before. Maybe I had missed something.

I saw an article in our local paper promoting a writer's support group. I went to one of their meetings and my world changed. I met several people whose expertise and friendship I've come to appreciate. Audrey Owen was one of those people.

She is an editor extraordinaire. She looked at my work one night over tea and showed me a few places where I had made grammar mistakes.

As luck would have it, the writers' group was sponsoring a workshop on editing the following weekend. Audrey recommended I go.

At the workshop I learned there are several different edits a book must go through at a publisher's office before it gets printed. For example, in addition to being edited for spelling and typos, the book is edited for structure. The workshop presenter explained what that meant. Another kind of editing has to do with formatting. At the workshop they showed me how I had changed tenses within a paragraph.

I went back to Audrey. She showed me how to write more concisely and in the process trimmed 37 pages out of my book!

Now here's the tough part. These were my words and this was my labour of love. I had poured my heart into this book and wanted the words to have my style of communicating. Those words were not going to be easy to part with. This was due, in part, to the fact that I didn't understand why I needed to get rid of them.

Audrey explained to me a way for us to work together so I would be able to "stay in my comfort zone."

We decided on her Educational Edit. She would read several pages of my work, then show me what needed to be changed on those pages and why. Then I took that advice and made all those changes to all the pages in the book. Then I took it back to her for more. We worked together as author and editor for months.

At first the work seemed overwhelming. There was so much to do. I felt it was going to take so long and I just wanted to get my book on the shelves. I had a really hard time letting go of some phrases or thoughts I had expressed in my work.

Eventually I became so comfortable with her advice that when Audrey made suggestions I just trusted her and I was able to make sweeping changes without suffering angst over each one and the work went much faster than it did in the beginning.

The end result is a beautifully written piece of work that I am so proud of! It reads easier. It flows from thought to thought in a way that anyone reading it can follow along without confusion.

It may have taken me a lot longer to finish my book than I had hoped, but I now have something I'm proud of that will sell. The money I spent printing 100 books that are still in my cupboard would have been better spent on editing.

The difference is amazing! I learned so much from this experience. The way I write and speak has been changed.

I hope you invest in yourself and take the time to have your work edited. A writer needs another set of eyes to go over their work and trim out the weeds. Audrey is an editor you can trust and work with while you decide what to keep and what to trim away.

©Lee Haffner 2003 Used by permission. www.menusforamonth.com

Audrey's Comments

Lee is right. Her writing improved steadily and measurably. All writers -- even writers like me who are also editors -- need to have their work edited. Now Lee's work needs much less editing than it did at the beginning of our time together.

Educative Editing is my own invention. It meets my need to teach and the author's need to have a polished product. If you want to discuss this option of having me as an editor for your own project, contact me.

Lee's book is a labour of love. She's written from personal experience with passion to produce much more than a cookbook. She shares many tips as a caring neighbor would. She includes nutritional information, menus, and recipes.

Editor costs are an important consideration. Check the home page to see what services you pay for.