Monday, July 27, 2015

Editor Beware!

This week is going to be a rant, of sorts.  Maybe I should call it a "community service announcement" to all editors.  I'll let you decide...

I was given the opportunity to do an edit for a young man who wants to be a writer.  As we had coffee and we got to know each other, I began to have my apprehensions.  He assured me his story had been gone over with a fine tooth comb and read by no less than five readers.  In other words, he was telling me this was almost perfect.

Of course I asked the question: Why do you want me to edit your book?

The response?  He was told he had to have it professionally edited and that was why we were talking. I would do a sample edit of ten pages.  If he liked what he saw, he would pay for the whole book to be edited by me.  I agreed.  How could I not?  I want to make sure any new client is happy with my work.

He wanted me to edit pages 65 through 75.

HUH?  How could I edit something in the middle?  I prefer to start at the beginning and work my way through so I can follow the plot line and analyze how things form. You don't start reading a book in the middle, how could a person edit that way?

I discovered a little secret which I'm not sure he wanted me to know.  He had five other editors review his work.  Hmm?  IF each of the prior five editors did 10 to 15 pages for free, it could quickly add up to 65 pages.  I didn't say anything but suddenly editing from page 65 made sense.  It appeared he was attempting to get his novel edited for free in small segments.

It took a little while for me to get him to understand that for me to do a proper edit, I would need to edit the first ten pages.  He attempted many rebuttals but I finally got him to accept that only if I edited the opening could I tell if he was on the right track and was properly grabbing the reader's attention.  I could tell he wasn't a happy camper.

At first I thought I'd lost him as a possible client and that one of us would graciously walk away.  He finally agreed to allow me to review and edit the first ten pages.  Whew!  We'd both traveled several miles for this face-to-face meeting, both driving over an hour each way to have coffee.

He sent me the file and I performed the edits. I received this scathing letter in return about thirty minutes after I sent him my edits and findings.

Mr. Nailor,
For your information, these 10 pages were edited by another professional who found nothing wrong and thought my story very well written. You are a nitpicker and don't want to see any competition in the writing world. Your edits are worthless and know very little about writing. You wouldn't recognize excellent writing if it bited you on the ass! Please don't bother to contact me. I'll publish my book without your "professional" editing.

First, yes, he wrote "bited." Okay.  Well, if that's how you feel, I won't contact you.  BUT, I will show the world what I did and what you offered. I'll be nice and only show the first few sentences.

It may be difficult to read, the writing was very poor and he had fallen into almost every new writer trap available.  IF this piece had been professionally edited prior to my editing, I am speechless.

Normally I don't display a client's work so callously but I think I need to - if for no other reason than to let other editors be aware that this guy is sort of scamming us, getting free editing under the guise of sampling (testing?) our talents.

I attempt to edit yet maintain the voice of the author.  I also realize I am not perfect. If any reader of this blog finds my above edits to be of poor quality, please let me know. If I overstepped my place in my edits of this gentleman, I will apologize to him.  If you think I'm wrong for displaying his work, as I stated, I don't normally do this AND you are only seeing the first few sentences.  I edited ten full pages and by the time I finished, I returned almost twenty pages with over one hundred comments. My final recommendation was for him to start his novel about eight pages in.  IF he takes my suggestions (which I am doubting) - you will never know who the author is because the work will be unrecognizable. If he publishes (published) as is, then... what can I say.  I tried.

Until next I ramble on...


  1. You had a lot more patience for that man than I could show. I've never heard of editors being asked to do a sample edit, and to scam the editors like that is crass. When I hired an editor for my first book, the effort was better than attending a college writing course and a lot faster. Good for you, Bob.

    1. I've had quite a few "clients" ask for sample edits - which I have no issue with doing. As you can see, I can be aggressive and I would prefer to have the author know that up front than to send back 200 pages that offends their tender ego. It is amazing how many feel their raw work is perfection.

  2. Holy Wow... I think you need to learn from this Bob. You do not "meet" people and drive an hour for an edit job, you also don't do things for free - but what bothers me most is the scathing letter he sent you. Sorry you had to go through that.

    1. The hour drive for me was convenient - I had attended a meeting nearby which meant I was driving there anyway. Doing it for free? Ten pages of a novel is no problem. Ten pages of a short story - NO WAY! The real problem here was doing ten pages in the middle - not knowing the beginning or plot. The scathing letter - I've seen them before when I helped with the Emporium Gazette - an online writer newsletter.