What can you do for self-publishing authors who don’t have much to spend? Author and editor Vanessa Ricci-Thode shared some the strategies she’s used to help authors who can’t afford editing. Although she focused on fiction, many of her tips will apply to nonfiction projects as well.
Do a manuscript evaluation
For a flat fee, Ricci-Thode will evaluate a manuscript up to 100,000 words and provide the author with a topic-by-topic report outlining the main changes that the author should make to
- point of view
- mood or tone
She may also comment on other features, such as the story’s symbolism, humour, or reading level. Although she won’t edit the manuscript—and hence won’t mark it up—she will insert comment bubbles in the document so that authors can see examples of the kinds of problems they might consider fixing. Ricci-Thodes suggests using a “triage editing” mindset and tackling the biggest problems first.
To learn how write a constructive evaluation, Ricchi-Thodes suggests the seminar on fiction editing offered by EAC’s Toronto Branch or Ryerson University’s fiction-editing class.
If an author doesn’t have enough of their own money for editing, they could try raising enough money through crowdfunding platforms, including
Many of these platforms allow authors to connect with their readers by offering rewards for their sponsorship.
Suggest low-cost editing options (with a caveat)
If an author is desperate for editing, you could point them to low-cost editing options on freelancing sites such as Elance or even Fiverr. However, because many people claiming to be editors compete internationally for freelance contracts, these sites can be exploitative. Further, the quality of the editing will be a crapshoot.
Whatever you do, said Ricci-Thodes, don’t let an author talk you down. Don’t sell yourself—or your colleagues—short. You may be willing to reduce your rate to work on a particularly exciting project, but make sure your client knows the full value of the services you’re giving them.
Point authors to resources on writing and self-editing
For authors that need a lot of work, recommend books or websites that will help them hone their writing skills. During the session Ricci-Thodes listed the resources she recommends (her commentary in parentheses):
- The Artful Edit by Susan Bell
- Line by Line by Claire Kehrwald Cook (kind of dry but good for grammar)
- On Writing by Stephen King (good look at the process of writing; no examples or exercises)
- The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner (good for getting to know the editing process)
- The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (one of Ricci-Thodes’s favourites; concise)
- Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
- The Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich (includes a lot of exercises—great for new writers)
- Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (for film writing but also good for commercial fiction)
- The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
On style and grammar
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
- The Canadian Press Stylebook
- The Chicago Manual of Style (good for nonfiction or academic writing; not so great for fiction)
- The Elements of Style by Strunk and White or The Elements of F*cking Style by Baker and Hansen
- The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn
- Better Novel Project
- Canadian Authors Association
- Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog
- Fantasy Faction
- Inked Voices
- Helping Writers Become Authors
- SFWA Writer Beware
- Writer’s Digest
- Writers’ Union of Canada
Audience members chimed in with some of their own suggestions (in no particular order):
- The Careful Writer by Theodore M. Bernstein
- Editing Canadian English
- Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
- They Said / I Say (for academic writing but also good for popular nonfiction)
- Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
- The Art of Styling Sentences by K.D. Sullivan and Ann Longknife
- The Transitive Vampire and other books by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
Also, encourage authors to join a critique group or writing circle that has experienced writers.
Offer mentoring or “mini-evaluation” sessions
Ricci-Thodes offers face-to-face meetings in which she can offer an author tips based on a short writing sample and answer specific editorial questions. She lets the clients set the agenda for the meetings, for which she charges hourly.
For more editor-recommended, editing-related resources, check out my blog post from our September 2014 EAC-BC meeting: Hitting the books: Professional development tips.