I was terribly disappointed in the first editor I shared the opening chapters of my memoir manuscript with. Her specialty was fiction, but that was okay. Memoirs are written and sold like novels these days.
It was her financial arrangements that grated. When I contacted her, she gave me a reasonable estimate of several hundred dollars for 4 hours of her editing time. I sent her the ms. of My Mother’s Money—and the full amount of her estimate.
The Money Got Funny
She then sent me her edits, which took her half the time of her estimate. I wrote her with my thanks, and asking to return the balance of my money.
It still astonishes me that she said, in essence, “Oh, no. We work together until your money is used up.” But, her edits had been sufficient; there was no reason for us to continue working together.
I’m a professional editor, and I charge only for the amount of time I work on a project. If I quote 4 hours and the job takes me only 2 hours, I charge for 2 hours. It’s not the client’s fault that I overestimated the job.
So my experience with that editor left a sour taste.
When I was struggling with the organization of the manuscript, an accomplished writer friend, who also teaches nonfiction writing, offered to give me tips on structure. During her reading of the manuscript and afterwards, she praised it fulsomely. “Gorgeous writing.” “Magical.” She said she was “savoring” it and “riveted.”
I kept wondering if she’d read the right book.
Who I Really Need to Edit My Book
She also said something I’ve known all along—I need a reader who doesn’t know me.
And I know just who I want that reader cum editor to be.
He’s a well known publishing industry insider, who consults with writers on a freelance basis. His author list makes my eyes tear up—big names with a literary bent. He’s midwifed famous books—New York Times bestsellers.
So, why don’t I engage him without all this hand wringing? He’s expensive, but I’ve got enough dough in my writing account to cover his bill.
It’s just that . . . I think he delivers his edits verbally. Writing as fast as I could, even Skyping and taping his pearls of advice, I’d never get them all down. And I’d be doomed to listen to the tapes over and over, while I hunted for his comment on page 264, paragraph 3, line 5 of my ms.
As a writer, I absorb information best when it’s written, not spoken. To be altogether honest, I’m unclear about his methods. His web site says he gives “tracked changes” edits. But would this require an additional fee?
On the other hand, if he felt my manuscript had potential, he’d have the connections to help me find an agent.
I’ve continued interviewing other memoir editors. The whole process is making me antsy. I’ve decided to make a decision by January 3. I’ve gotta get the ms off my desk and into an expert’s hands.
So tell me: What would you do? Would you let this man edit your book?