For a multitude of reasons often expounded upon at this site, one of your main expenses may end up being editing services.
Why does editing cost so much?
Since editing is my business, I hear that question all the time. I thought I’d embrace BRP’s “Back to School” theme to provide a business math lesson as applied to editing.
“Back to School” isn’t just a late summer theme for me, it’s the theme of my life. To keep up-to-date on trends in the publishing industry, I’m constantly seeking out new learning opportunities. Here’s a peek at what I spend each year on my continuing education alone (previous investment in post-graduate college education assumed):
Professional dues $120
Resource materials $125
That comes out to almost $1,700 per year, or $17,000 for the past ten years. And I don't count here the money I pour into the industry by purchasing newly published novels, the reading of which is a valuable part of my ongoing education.
I’m sure many of our readers spend this and more.
My number is skewed to the low side. For one thing, I’m naturally frugal, and take advantage of many free and low cost resources. It also doesn’t reflect the fact that every few years I spring for a major conference requiring costly travel: the Maui Writers Conference and the Sewanee Writers Conference each cost me about $1,500. In addition, I’ve paid to have my own writing edited, another valuable part of my education.
(If you are an author who invests similarly in your education, may I please take this opportunity to thank you? You are, no doubt, a delight to work with. May your efforts provide the springboard to success that you deserve. Yet I’m not really writing this for you—chances are, you already can see the numerous benefits of purchasing a developmental edit.)
What if you work full time, have a family, and can’t devote the time and monetary resources to a $30K MFA program, or community college classes, or even the frugal education outlined above? You may not even have the time to join a writer's group, but you have a book that’s itching to be born. How can you make it competitive if all you have time for is the writing and promoting of it?
In addition, what if—and yes, I actually heard this on the phone one day—you flunked high school English, are dyslexic, and use creative spelling when you write, yet believe you have a good, marketable story to tell? After such a compelling pitch is no time to dicker about the editor’s stated fee.
By purchasing developmental editing services, you are taking an educational shortcut. You are receiving the sum total of your editor’s 10- or 20- or 30-year education, and all of her writing experience and developed analytical skills and natural aptitudes and insider knowledge, applied to your specific project.
That’s a huge jumpstart.
Suddenly, when you do the math, that $1200 fee for developmental editing services you might have griped about doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
As the former owner of the aging farmhouse in which my home-based business was located, I’ve paid that much for a single plumbing emergency. When presented with the bill, I had no choice but to pay my plumber’s stated hourly rate.
“But that’s different,” you might say. "Any business needs plumbing."
Fair enough. But as an author you own a special kind of business, with specific kinds of start-up and maintenance costs. One of them is good editing.
So next time you want to complain about the math, think instead in terms of the investment you're making in your business goal. The goal is not publication—that is simply a means to an end. The goal is connecting with readers in a way that results in repeat sales. That's how any entrepreneur stays in business.
What are you willing to do to make your book competitive?
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Formerly a dance critic and arts journalist, she now writes women's fiction and memoir. The first chapter of her memoir, Standoff at Ronnie's Place, modified as a stand-alone essay, was published online by Mason's Road, the online journal of Fairfield University's MFA program. She blogs about Healing through Writing.