The Joys of Editing

I have been involved with the thread in Goodreads on the joys of editing and the potential use of professional editors. I have not used such a service, yet, simply due to the economic case and from a return on investment. Selling a $1 Kindle book on Amazon attracts a 35c royalty payment before tax on the income. My current book currently in informal edit has 150,000 words. For a professional edit, a typical 150,000 word book for $0.015 to $0.06 per word, for a standard edit, deeper edits double this cost so at the cheapest I am looking at a $2,250 investment.

To cover this cost I would need to sell 6,429 books before I broke even on a basic edit. A full edit would cost $9,000 and I would need to sell 25,714 copies to break even. My current book has sold 3,500 copies although over 3,000 of these were as free downloads. Yes, I could put my price up, but that would likely result in fewer sales. To get on Amazon’s higher royalty rate of 75% I would need to charge $2.99 minimum. I may try this after an initial launch but….

Given my lack of success with software I may go down this route, but timescales for edits can be quite long. I have now made contact with some cheaper editors but they have a long waiting list as you might expect. At least their prices are more reasonable in the region of $500 to $750 but that is still a substantial amount needing 1,429 sales to cover the cost at the lower end.

I have now tried two software editors, Grammarly and Whitesmoke. Both are frequently endorsed in Goodreads as well as on line in other forums and websites; however, I have huge problems with both.

Grammarly ( Problems from the start. It only works on Windows. I am on a Mac, so I had to resort to using it on a virtual machine. That would have been OK if the following issues had not occurred:

1. It continually contradicted itself in its advice. After making changes it would then scan again and offer advice to change back.
2. It also took an awful long time to check and scan text. I could at least check a whole document, but the results were marked as errors even when it was an alternative.
3.The system did not seem to learn from my decisions even when I selected to apply for all instances. The next time I opened the document there were all the problems again.

Result uninstalled during test period and order cancelled.

Whitesmoke ( offers itself as a premium software, given its pricing I can only agree. I had the following problems though:

1. The lack of UK English setting. I write in UK English (English being the operative word) I do not want colour changed to color, or worse marked as an error. I have lived and worked in the USA, I have no complaints about spelling in that version of English in a changed version I just want to use English UK as my dictionary choice. No settings button to change this. Dictionary just has English no variations.
2. When sending back text to apply changes the programme changed formatting including adding line and paragraph breaks into the “Normal” style setting.
3. At 5,000 characters per effort it can only handle approximately two thirds of an A4 page. A lot of time wasted getting this small amount checked.
4. Having to be on-line is annoying, and would restrict use to my office desktop rather than a laptop in the garden – if it ever stops raining.
5. The F2 function key can be changed but not in settings although there is a section called Keys in settings
6. Mac version has no on-line help file associated

Result I have applied for a full refund because Whitesmoke do not offer a trial version for Mac.

I am going to give Scrivener a try. It’s installed now so we’ll see. I have tried Writers Cafe as well, but struggled with it.

The final method, and the one I am using, is to get friends and family to read and provide edit comments. I have tried this and of course I hope I have become better at it myself. One thing I have noticed and become frustrated by is Amazon not notifying existing owners that a version has changed on a downloaded book. You have to ask them to do it via support. New downloads get the new version, but existing ones don’t get told there is an updated version. The help of friends and family is duly acknowledged but the results are variable. The good news is that they get caught up in the plot so miss stuff. The bad news is that errors get missed. Oh well back to editing …….