Predators in the self-publishing world

Predators in the self-publishing world

What is about to occur in this post is a rant. There will be gratuitous usage of swearing and math. You’ve been warned. /rant on

Hello My Lovelies,

Here’s the backstory to this week’s rant. Two years ago I stumbled upon a writing class and fell in love with the teacher and their method of instruction. I joined their newsletter and their endless amount of Facebook groups. I sent all my novice writer friends to the groups to find their support system. It was an amazing time, and I learned a lot, or I thought I did (but that’s another story for a different day). Then the number of their emails quadrupled (there were days when I received up to ten emails). Each email had links to everything from journals at Amazon to expensive lessons from those they believed would alter our writerly lives forever. After a while, I began to realize that this individual didn’t know anything more than anyone else and their do-it-yourself MFA wasn’t going to make you a better author. You didn’t need every single product they offered on how to plot a book, how to blog (and when they got tired of blogging their anti-blogging classes), and you don’t owe them a monthly stipend via Patreon. Also, you don’t need to follow their lead and buy every single product or service they advertise in every blasted email or Facebook post that they are getting financial kickbacks for.

I was a dedicated follower, and I admit it. If they needed help with anything, I would do it. The death knell began when one of the group leader’s buddies (a published nonfiction author) told a newbie to put their book up for sale without editing it so they could make money to pay for the editing. Really? The final nail in the coffin was when the group leader put up a GoFundMe to help their admin buy a car.

Seriously? What the bleep does that have to do with writing? Why is that acceptable, when you remove every similar post put up by other members of the group because it’s self-promotion (even when the posts were put up by other members of the group)? How is your post not self-promotion? When I asked you about it, you told me how much the admin does for the group and how you personally pay him for ten hours of administrative work each week, but it wasn’t enough to help him get a car. I listened as you told me that he works tirelessly for you and how some weeks he spends more than sixty hours doing the work you need to be done for little financial compensation. The implication was clear, the members of the group owed him a car because we make him work so hard.

Then you say how you’ve done so well selling your classes, through affiliate programs, and Patreon that you quit your job to write full-time, and travel to conferences. Here’s a novel idea, pay your admin assistant a fucking livable wage. You even had the gall to tell me how selfish I was to consider this GoFundMe unfair to the other 10,000 members of the group. All because I felt the need to point out the number of requests you and the admin removed in the past from members who lost their homes in fires, had cancer, or other major catastrophes and needed a little financial help? How your post seemed like a slap in those people’s faces. I was offended when you told me I was ridiculous for finding your post somehow wrong. After all, it’s your group. You’re right, I was ridiculous. Ridiculous for not realizing the truth for eighteen months. The truth that your groups aren’t there to benefit anyone or anything other than your financial bottom line. So I left your groups but kept myself enrolled in one of your newsletters.

mistakes-1756958_1920Now that you have the backstory my lovelies let’s get to the point of this diatribe.

Yesterday I had a newsletter from this person. I opened it and read it, and then I lost it. I started cursing so loudly that my mother felt the need to tell me to stop (that doesn’t get old at 49 years of age let me tell you). I had to show it to my sister so she could understand why I was so pissed (sorry Mom, not sorry). In this letter, the person I’ve been talking about mentioned their new service. Perfect for the self-publishing author. A service designed to help them self-edit their novel. I just don’t have words for how I feel about this (total lie, I have words they’re just really bad words).

For the amazing price of $40 their admin assistant (in real life a community college student and an intern for a literary agent) and their child, also a college student, will edit FIVE pages of your manuscript and give you a detailed editorial letter so you can make changes through the entire manuscript. What the ever-loving fuck (still not sorry)? Five pages works out to about 1500 words. Most editors will charge around one cent per word for a copy edit or three cents per word for a developmental edit on the entire manuscript. How the heck are you going to give them a detailed editorial letter on a standard manuscript after only reading 1500 words? What about the remaining 48,500 words (I know most novels are longer. Heck my first was 84,000 words)? Why are you telling writers to self-edit a novel they plan to self-publish when anyone with half a brain knows they’re too close to their own work and won’t see where the pitfalls are?

So here’s the best part, they’re also offering beta reading services. For the bargain basement price of $150 – $200, they’ll beta read your manuscript and critique it for you. I guess those of us who’ve been doing it for free are feeling pretty stupid right about now. I should have charged for the sixty-two books I beta read last year while working on my own manuscripts. Wow, I wasted the chance to make nine grand by giving it away to my fellow authors, who knew? (yes, that’s sarcasm. I would never charge for beta reading.)

I hate predators, and that is exactly what this person is. They’re preying upon those who want to be writers. The classes, the GoFundMe’s, Patreon, all the affiliate programs, and now editing/beta services are preying on those who trust them, who believe in them. I got smart and left the groups, so I didn’t feel beholden to this individual any longer. This is after I spent far more money than I want to admit for their classes, programs, and other crap, but their group keeps growing today there are over 16,000 members who’ve all drank the Kool-Aid this person sells.

If only one percent of their main group buys this new service at the lowest possible price point of $40, that’s $6,400. If half of those decide to buy beta services, at $150 and receive the discount for the self-editing package, you are looking at $8,800. How can a person who exhibits this type of predatory behavior on those who trust them sleep at night? I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lot of money for what amounts to nothing useful to the person who purchases it. I guess it really is a case of buyer beware. So please, my lovely writer friends, check out your editors before you hire them. Don’t make the mistakes I made with book one (a mistake I’m still trying to fix). Remember, a college student and a literary agent’s intern aren’t the skilled professionals you need to make your baby shine. One last thing, if you need a beta reader message me and I’ll see if I can fit you into my workload. I promise I won’t charge you and if you don’t like what I have to say you can find another (in fact, I insist you find as many as possible). /rant off

Love you all,

V. L.

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What is Editing?

What is Editing?

I’ve been dreading this post for a while now, mostly because we authors get confused about the different types of editing and we’re over protective of our work. However, as self-published authors we need to be aware not only the different types of editing, but the process, the potential costs, and whether or not we should trust someone with our proverbial baby (translation: manuscript). I have been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with some amazing people, it is because of them that I write this post.

The job of editor is a thankless task. I cannot say that often enough. Editors take our hard work and rip it to shreds. They don’t do this because they are frustrated authors, although I know many editors who are authors, they do this because they love reading. To an editor there is nothing worse than reading a book that has not been edited, in any form, it makes them cry. Well maybe not really cry, but emotionally it tears them apart. Even worse, they fight with an author to make them see reason with regards to their critiques (yes, I am guilty on this count).

Types of Editing:

Types of EditingDevelopmental Edit – This is the edit that looks for developmental issues in the whole story (makes sense right?). It is not about correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. It is the edit that looks for continuity errors, POV issues, character development, showing vs. telling, dialogue issues, flow, and other problems. This is the edit that helps an author smooth out trouble spots to create a coherent, readable work. The cost for this type of edit will vary greatly from editor to editor. According to the EFA it should run between $45 to $55 per hour. Do an online search and you’ll find that the cost is typically $.03 to $.04 cents per word ($2820 to $3760 for a 94,000-word manuscript like Golden Opportunity).

Substantive Edit – Some editors use this type of editing as a synonym for developmental editing. However, they are actually two very different things. This type of edit is for a work that may have some scene or plot issues, but is actually fairly well-polished. This type of edit will focus on tweaking, reordering, cutting, and rewriting areas that are not working as well as they should. Costs should be between $40 to $60 per hour, or $.02 to $.04 cents per word ($1880 to $3760 for a 94,000-word novel).

Line Edit/Style Edit – The editor goes through the manuscript line by line finding weak language, passive voice, repetition, overused words, etc. This edit focuses on paragraph structure, sentence flow, and word usage, but not grammar and punctuation. It is used to improve paragraphs and sentences. Typical costs for line edits vary but should run between $40 to $60 per hour, or $.01 to $.03 cents per word ($940 to $2820 for 94,000 words).

Copy Edit – Spelling, grammar, word usage, style, syntax, and structure are all fair game during this type of edit. This edit will look for consistency issues, like a character’s physical description changing, making sure there are no obvious errors such as dialogue taking place one place and then having it shift mid-stream to another. Rates are similar to a line edit; in fact, many editors use both interchangeably when discussing the services provided. Cost should run $30 to $50 per hour, or $.01 to $.03 cents per word ($940 to $2820 for 94,000 words).

Proofreading – This is the final run through of a completely revised manuscript and is usually done after final editing. This will catch any mistakes in spelling or punctuation that slipped past the author and the editor and is done prior to publication. Costs will run $30 to $35 per hour, or $.005 to $.015 per word ($470 to $1410 for 94,000 words).

Scary isn’t it? If you think you need all those edits and you have a 94,000-word novel (like me), you’re going to look at a minimum cost of $7050 ($2820 + $1880 + $940 + $940 + $470), but you don’t need all of those edits at the same time. If you have a good group of beta readers and you trust their judgement you’ve taken care of developmental edit if you actually make the suggested changes. That’s a $2820 savings, if you trust your beta reader crew like I do. As for the rest. At the very minimum, you need copy/line edits if you have a limited budget. As for proofreading, no manuscript should ever be published without it! Spend the extra money and have it proofread before you publish.

I know a few editors that I trust implicitly with my work. The first is Candace Kuhn, she’s an excellent editor and brutally honest, something that I respect greatly. The other is a novice editor, who is in school and trying to expand her portfolio. You can contact her via twitter because she does not have a professional website yet. I let her have a crack at Golden Opportunity and I did not regret it. Her name is Rachel Lapidow, tell her I sent you (she knows me as Vicki), her twitter handle is @RachelLapidow.

I hope you found this little post interesting. If you guys happen to have any editors that you feel deserve recognition, let me know and I’ll add them. Make sure to include a website so I can link to it.

V. L. Cooke

Alpha and Beta Reading by Vicki

Alpha and Beta Reading by Vicki

I just thought I’d let people know I will be available for alpha and beta readings starting in July. I will only able to take one each week in July due to Camp NaNoWriMo being held that month. Since I have nothing booked, I have four spots open. In August, and beyond, I will bump the available slots to two a week except during November where I will go back to only having one spot each week open. Also, during the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years I would prefer to take only one.

If you have any questions feel free to use the contact form and send me an email. I’ll schedule on a first come, first serve basis for the available spots. If you’re unsure about how I read please see my post Beta Reading 101. It will give you some insight into my process.

Now for some extra details about me:

  1. I prefer to read fiction, if you have non-fiction, or a memoir, that needs reading please email me so I can ask you a few questions before I accept or decline.
  2. There are three genres that I will not read, mostly because I do not feel I can give them the quality readings they deserve. Those  genres are science fiction, horror, and erotica. If you’re not sure what genre your book is, send me a summary and the first chapter and I’ll see if I can read it and give a fair critique.
  3. I prefer documents that allow me to add comments to a manuscript. I have read documents that are PDF, DOCX, DOC, and Google Docs and have been able to add comments to all of those formats. I’ve also read in ePUB format, but I won’t be able to let you know specifically on the document where I find issues. You’ll have to rely on my report for that.
  4. If something happens and causes your report to be delayed, I will contact you immediately via your preferred method of contact. I’m open to email, text message, Facebook messenger, smoke signals, and carrier pigeon. I don’t Skype, mostly because I don’t like people to see me in pajamas and nasty goat-woman hair.
  5. I’m not an editor, but if I find spelling issues and minor grammar issues I will tell you about them. If you need an editor, I know that Candace is amazing and looking to build her client base. Her prices are very reasonable, especially compared to some of the other editors you can find online (try searching via Google, it will scare you). I really wish I’d used her for Golden Opportunity, but I didn’t want to take advantage of a friendship. However, she will be editing ALL my work starting with Golden Seas.
  6. All readings are FREE. I do not charge for readings and will never charge another author to help them create the best work possible. I do appreciate heartfelt thanks and the occasional gushing compliment, but mostly because I like knowing my clients are happy and satisfied with the work I’ve done, and I’m a little vain.
  7. I will sign a NDA if you need one. For those who are not sure what NDA means, it’s a non-disclosure agreement. Yes, I have signed them in the past, and I am willing to sign them in the future. I understand how scary it is to give our babies to a stranger. We worry they will steal our work and claim it as their own. This is why I have no problem signing an NDA or other document to give an author an extra level of security.
  8. My opinions are mine alone and you might disagree. I understand you might disagree with my insights and critique. I usually tell an author to take my critique with a grain of salt. You should have more than one beta reader, five or more would be best. If other readers agree, or mention something I have said, then I would seriously consider changing whatever the problem is. Don’t rip your book apart strictly based on one opinion … please!
  9. If you’d like me to read after another round of revisions, I will. I think this is pretty self-explanatory.
  10. I do not keep copies of your work. Once I’ve sent the manuscript and my worksheet to you I delete every copy of your manuscript from my computer, cloud, and email accounts. I do keep the worksheet for reference purposes. Keeping a copy helps me keep track of the number of readings I do, and lets me track the authors so I can buy their books when published. Yes, I do buy the books that I’ve alpha/beta read. I think it’s the least I can do to show how much I appreciate the trust an author has given me.

I look forward to working with my next round of authors, if anyone needs a reader fill out the Project Needing a Reader form and I will get back to you ASAP.

V. L. Cooke

Author vs. Editor: Cooperative Arrangement or War?

Author vs. Editor: Cooperative Arrangement or War?

One of the most difficult things an author will ever do is share their work with another person, whether it is a friend, beta-reader, or professional editor, agent, publisher, etc. We put everything we have into our writing, our hopes, dreams, beliefs, attitudes … everything. As an author, I am proud of my work and I fully understand, and accept, that some people will despise every word I ever write. There’s an old saying that “everyone is a critic” and as a writer I struggle with this on a daily basis. As the harshest critic of my work, I know it is NEVER perfect. Now, I’m sure you are wondering why I am sharing all of this with you. I am doing this because a friend, one who is an author, sent two manuscripts in a series to an editor to gain insight about where they needed to improve their work. I met this author when I agreed to beta read for her, I have read both of the works this professional “editor” evaluated and found them to be lighthearted, campy, kitschy fun. I saw what the author’s motivations were and realized from the first page that they were supposed to be a parody of the detective novels of old. Were they perfect? Absolutely not! Is anyone’s work ever perfect? No.

What she got back was at the very least, heartbreaking. At the worst it was an offensive, politically-charged discourse on why this editor’s style and beliefs are the only ones that should ever be touted in a literary endeavor. I will not share the actual comments that my friend received. What I will say is that this “editor” berated not only the mechanics of her style, character development, pacing, and world building, but also her treatment of the female gender as a whole, the archetypes she used, and the juvenile antics of her protagonist (the novel in question is a YA novel and the protagonist is male). Editing should look like this:

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Not this:

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As writers we have to trust the judgement of others to help us improve our craft so that readers will enjoy the stories we have to tell. We have to trust that those we give our precious manuscript to will be honest, and helpful. Sometimes we pay people to evaluate our work, like professional editors, so that when we are done our work will be the best we can create. We do this not for fame or wealth, as many believe, but because we are filled with stories. Stories that we want to share with the world to entertain our fellow citizens on this marble flying through space. What is worse, we pay for the privilege of sharing these stories. Between alpha and beta readers, editors, writing coaches, cover designers, and marketing, those of us who self-publish will end up in the hole the minute we put a novel up for sale through Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords, and others.

What most authors won’t tell you is we don’t write for the money. We write because we love stories and we think we have good ones to share. Don’t get me wrong, money is nice, but when you calculate what the average author spends before they ever get a novel published it’s a losing game. My friend hired an editor to help her polish her books for publication and she received the harshest criticism imaginable (trust me I read the report and saw the comments in the manuscript … harsh is being generous), and she paid for the privilege. Now my friend is doubting her ability to tell her stories, she’s been gutted by this so-called professional and I have no way of helping her deal with the emotional fallout. It’s heartbreaking to me.

So I am forced to wonder, why do those of us who suffer from the disease of writing put ourselves through this? Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t blame all editors for this incident. In fact, the editors I’ve met and worked with have all been amazing. Yes, they gutted me and my manuscript, but they helped me take it from a lump of coal to the still flawed diamond that it is now. They said some things that were difficult to hear, but they also told me the things that shined. The editor used by my friend did nothing but criticize in the harshest way imaginable. There was nothing kind in any of her comments. She criticized my friend for spelling, structure, and punctuation errors, yet her comments were filled with the same. I’ve always believed that you should try to temper brutal constructive criticism with saying something nice, am I wrong? Share your thoughts, I would love to hear your take on it.