Thursdays with Amanda: Respecting Your Art
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
An old college friend was telling me a story about a potential client he was talking with. This friend of mine does freelance editing and proofing (he proofed my book, The Extroverted Writer), and so he is regularly courting new clients, trying to meet their expectations while also sharing with them the reality of the business.
This particular client of my friend’s was one of those type A, demanding, bull-headed types. You know who I’m talking about…a real-life Miranda Priestly or Bart Bass. Shrewd. Demanding. With no concept or concern for how much work it takes to produce a quality result.
The client had a 58,000-word manuscript that he wanted proofread, but the real kicker was that he wanted the project done in two days. When my friend pushed back and told him that, with a full-time job and other responsibilities on top of his freelancing gig, there was no way he could get it done and done well in that timeframe, the guy refused to accept such an answer. Said something about how it HAD to be ready for publication and how there was NO ROOM FOR AN EXTENSION.
My friend politely turned the project down.
I used to edit and proofread for a publishing company. They’d hand me a fiction manuscript, give me a week’s worth of time, and then a month later a check for a whopping $150 would hit my account. I had gotten the job after hearing that they needed someone to edit and proof for under $200 a pop. I had taken it, thinking it wouldn’t be that hard…I mean eight hours on a manuscript at $150/per is some decent money for someone just starting out.
But reality was much less rosy. The manuscripts I received were in shambles–the things should never have been published to begin with, and it was MY job to whip them into shape. To not only catch the numerous grammatical errors (specifically, an inability to punctuate dialogue) but to point out any glaring issues I had with the story (where to begin??). By the second manuscript, the magic had dissipated. The spell was broken. I was no longer enthusiastic about the job. I abhorred it.
If they were going to pay me for $150 worth of work, then $150 worth of work was exactly what they were going to get. You get what you pay for, eh?
So what’s my point in all this? Why bring up cheap-o publishers and pushy self-pubbing authors?
Because I am sick and tired of people disrespecting the craft.
Self-publishing has made it so easy to do this …”authors” these days shop around for the cheapest, quickest editors and designers and proofers. And when they don’t want to pay a dime, they do it themselves. Microsoft Paint book covers plague Amazon, and if you ever meet a self-published author, they can tell you story after story of how much they learned AFTER they uploaded their book. The typos and the plot holes and the inconsistencies–so many things that had to be fixed after the fact.
In some cases, they just didn’t know better. They were trying to be artists, but they’d just learned to paint.
But in other cases…I’ve seen respected authors disrespect their own work.
So this is my plea to you! I’m going to spend a few weeks talking about self publishing and hybrid publishing. And the deal is that as I go down this route, you must promise that if you end up trying your hand at this self-publishing thing, you will keep the art pure. You must promise to respect your books, respect the process, and respect the fact that just because you could self-publish, it doesn’t mean you should.
Amanda, since I am planning on putting together a legacy of sorts for each of our kids and one for me, would self publishing be good in this case? Or I guess it may not need to be a book, but more of a bound thicker pamphlet.
I’m afraid you’ll be preaching to the choir, Amanda, but it’s still a good thing to discuss. Most people simply don’t know there’s a craft to writing/publishing. How do we let them know when they’re so determined to be a “published author?”
I love this article, Amanda. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years now. Typically, what I’ve seen is exactly what you describe…manuscripts in need of a huge amount of work (hence my rate hike earlier this year!). However, on rare occasions, I’ve run across authors who knew their writing was in need of improvement, and they came to me not because they wanted to publish their books in a hurry, but because they wanted to learn. Those people submitted their manuscript to me two…even three times. Every time, the work was better, the writing tighter, the story stronger. Maybe if every author took this approach before venturing into self-publishing, the entire industry would be better, and self-pubbed books wouldn’t have such a bad rap.
Exactly, Elizabeth. I’ve seen a few of those authors myself. They’re new to the publishing journey, and they’re teachable. I love working with those folks. Those who think they’re already great aren’t going to learn a thing.
This is a great message for me today, Amanda. At the first of the year, I started a freelance editing business. I’ve kept my rates really low, because I’m trying to attract clients, but also because I feel guilty about asking for too much money for something I love to do. I had a client last week send me a check that was for more than I’d asked–twice as much, to be exact. When I emailed her about it, she told me just what you’re saying here. That I’m a good editor, and I deserve to be paid for my work. By undercutting my own (already low) prices, I wasn’t valuing myself and my time. She’s right, and so are you.
I’ve worked with a number of multi-published authors who’ve gone on to self-publish the story I edited, and I’ve yet to see one that didn’t need a good, substantive edit. We can’t get enough distance from our stories to see the problems. I’m really looking forward to hearing what you have to say on the subject.
Everyone starts out with low prices…it’s how you attract business! But cheap freelancers are a dime a dozen, and a real mark of a true editing expert is a higher price tag. Such editors are so confident in their ability, they don’t have time for writers looking for a “quick edit.” So do give yourself the room to raise prices a bit here and there. Especially as you see your name become more and more respected in the field.
Good advice, Amanda. I’ve been blessed to have business constantly since I started, and I have had great feedback, so I will be raising my prices…a little, anyway. Thanks! Have a great weekend.
Good point, Amanda. As a self published author, I cringe when I hear about authors doing this. Those people give us all a bad name. However, they usually cannot compete with authors who hire professional editors and take their time to make a product that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a traditionally published book. Authors who rush and upload shoddy work will reap the benefits in the form of awful, soul scouring reviews on Amazon. The dear readers there aren’t kind. They aren’t supposed to be. They will be honest and it will hurt. But, maybe it’s a good lesson for an author who won’t take the time to do it right. Only fools rush in so they say.
I’m convinced, Katie, that the reason you have had the success you’ve had is because you’ve gone about it the RIGHT way!!! Yes, you are a talented writer, and yes, you have great story ideas. But you respect the process. So yes, the ones that rush it through and skip valuable steps just can’t compete with authors like you. You did it the right way, and you’re reaping the rewards.
Got it! But I’ve read enough self-pubbed books now that could have benefited from an editor that I’m already sold. I await your usual words of wisdom.
I love your passion, Amanda, and I totally agree!