Okay, the just shit got real. Yeah right Leights, you've been quiet for over six months, why should we believe you? I hear you, and of course you're right. But for everyone who has written a book out there, you know... I could blame that thing called life. But I'll admit it, it was me. It was that ugly praise sapping leach, self doubt. I was nearly there, I had my Manuscript (MS from here on in) done, ticked off ready for a proof edit and I went ahead and jumped into yet another project.
It wasn't even another book, it was a screenplay. I'd like to say it was something I could have made myself, but it wasn't. I'd have had to have a six zero budget and that's being conservative. It did modestly well at ScreenCraft last year and then I didn't do anything. I let the world get on top of me, and it took a special someone to kick my ass back into gear. That was around February this year, so I dusted off the MS and found my editor.
Finding your editor: Long process, choose your editor wisely. Make sure you find someone who understands the world you've created, you don't want to be handing a Lord of the Rings yarn to a Black Lace enthusiast. There are loads to chose from, ranging from £350 (the cheapest I found) up to £2500 for a book coming in at 110k words. I think I chose well, I paid £700.00 for the service and got a contract.
Always and I really mean always, not like when you say 'I always listen to my friends' because we all know at some point, you've heard enough of their life and start day dreaming about Blake Lively, Zac Efron (no I don't have a man crush - well, maybe) or what it would be like to be invisible, whispering to people as they walk past you. I mean always, get that contract signed before anything is past over.
Ownership: Make sure your MS is protected. The editor may suggest something you think could work better and you don't want to have them knocking on your door six months down the line (after you've made millions) claiming it wouldn't have been nearly as good as it was unless they'd touched it. No, I'm not saying don't go to an editor. They are worth their weight in gold and I doubt there are many unscrupulous ones out there looking to rip you off, but they are human after all. Have you not seen Dead On Arrival??? So yes, weight in gold - they will pick things up you will never see because your story is already in your head. After the twentieth pass you will not see the errors or notice you've forgotten to describe your protagonist's hair. What I'm saying is, protect your work. You've put a huge amount of time and effort into it.
Confidentiality: there should be something in there preventing them from showing your MS to third parties without express permission from you, the Author. If you do give permission, or decline permission make sure it's in writing. If you've spoken to them on the phone then follow it up with an email, bullet pointing the conversation and keep a copy. It's added work yes, but remember you are about to sell your baby and it's no longer just a hobby. This is now your business, treat it as such. If you know a lawyer, or solicitor have them read over it.
Editorial Tasks: Depending on what you're going for (I went for a developmental edit), you'll want to include exactly what you're getting for your money. A review of the manuscript, providing feedback on plot, pacing, characterisation, continuity and world building should be in there. Drill into this, I felt mine fell short as it was all glowing. I'm not saying it to have a big head, far from it. This is my first book and I severely doubt there's nothing wrong with it. That said, if they cover the areas within the contract you can't really complain, so agree before hand on what you expect. One page or five, you want to get as much feedback as possible even if it's going to cost you a couple more quid.
Make sure that each stage is clearly defined. How many passes do you want? You could play MS ping pong for months, but each pass is going to make your book better. How long are you prepared to wait before each pass? These are things you want to think about and discuss before going signing anything.
You'll probably be asked for a specific document type, MSOffice was the one I was asked to provide. I used Scrivener to write the book, it exports to pretty much everything. I had the MS back, it had track changes - what in the hell are these? You'll find them under the review tab, it's best you play about with them rather than me going through it here. I will say they are pretty damned awesome.
Payment: The contract isn't all about you, it's there to protect both of your interests and the editor is very interested in getting paid for correcting your spelling mistakes. This will be an agreed amount, if you're paying up front then make sure you do promptly. If you've agreed to pay in instalments, don't delay. Pay promptly, it's their business too.
Indemnity: This protects the editor for any legal action taken against you should anyone claim you stole the work and such.
Before you submit your MS you want to make sure you have done everything you can to it, it has to be the best you can do. If you're lucky to have a special someone, an Alpha tester like I do. Then that's half the battle right there. She's shrewd and doesn't let me get away with anything, that's how I know something is working, she calls it like it is. If not, it's up to you, or you can try your hand at Beta readers. I've not gone down this route, maybe for the next book. Either way by making it the best you can it ensures a quick edit, they won't have to stop every line correcting something and will be a more enjoyable read for them. Most editors have ties to a publishing company and if they enjoy the book, they will be more inclined to talk about it. I was very lucky to be offer a publishing deal from TicketybooPress.co.uk who did my edit. I turned it down, for reasons I'll be posting in my next blog. Which will be next weekend.