Crowdsource Editing

When last we met I was about to send my novel Entropy (which apparently, I should have been calling a “manuscript”) to a genuine book industry book editor. The hope was that she would give me an idea of what kind of a book I had written, and what the right next step was. I think what I learned was more about the publishing industry, than about my book, per se. But I learned a lot!

I found out that my prose was good, and my grammar was good, and all my novel needed was a complete rewrite and thousands of dollars of professional editing. Wait, what? Yes, she explained to me that my manuscript was exactly like every other “first draft.” They all need a complete rewrite. That’s just the way it is. But wait, it gets better.

So after I spend five thousand dollars or so having someone else completely rewrite my book, I might get an agent to look at it. If I’m lucky. And if I get one to take it, I might get a publisher to look at it. If I’m lucky. And if I get a publisher, they are going to—wait for it—hire another editor to completely rewrite the book again.

So I have a book that I thought was pretty close to ready for publication, and the traditional print industry wants me to spend a year and thousands of dollars to transform it into a completely different book that they will be able to sell lots of. Well not sell, exactly. Publishers are apparently no longer in the business of actually selling books. No, I’m told the authors need to do that themselves. If you don’t actively market your own book, they won’t either, and the book won’t sell.

Also, if you’re lucky they’ll give you 15% of the sales, except they don’t really because they charge you back for lots of things. And the agent gets a cut. Plus you’re out the $5K you spent on that edit that got thrown away as soon as the publisher took on the book.

I did the math. I would need to sell about 10,000 books through that system before I see one dime.

I trust this editor. I assume she’s right, but by luck I happened to get into a conversation with an actual book publisher. This is a small house that only takes 70% of the money instead of the usual 85%. (If you self-publish through Amazon, they take 30%.) So I asked what magic formula they have that allows them to sell 233% more books than I would. “We have a newsletter.” Um, what? No, there must be more to it than that. I probably have more followers on this blog than that little publisher has subscribers to their newsletter.

They will make a cover (I have a cover, thank you very much), they will edit it (smart people have told me it doesn’t need any more editing), they will take care of copyright registration and ISBN (so will Amazon), and if they decide to do a print run (if they decide?), they have a deal with a big publishing house to get that done (Amazon has a subsidiary called “createspace” that will print on demand).

I’ve decided that the book publishing business in 2015 is basically the record industry of 1965. They screw the artists out of almost all the money, and produce a generic product they think will sell. They mostly just rely on a few hits and don’t make much on the bulk of what they do, so if you don’t happen to become a star, you’ll get nothing.

Homey don’t play that.

So I’m going to self-publish. So far I’ve spent $29 on stock photos for my cover (I’ll show you in an upcoming post), so by my math I’ll hit break even when I sell 9 books. Instead of 10,000. I’m confident I can sell 9 books. I’m confident a big publisher would not sell 10,000.

But to be completely fair, my manuscript did need to be edited. So I crowdsourced that. I sent it to about 30 people, and they gave me a huge range of feedback. They found lots of typos, and places where I used the same phrase an annoying number of times. They suggested places I needed a little more back story to motivate the characters. They suggested places I could “hang a lantern” to let the reader know I was doing something weird on purpose. They clued me in to things that might be hot-button issues for certain people, so I could decide whether to embrace or avoid those issues.

In the end, I added about another 4,000 words in response to all that feedback. That’s a lot, so I consider what my crowd did a pretty through edit.

The process—unlike what I think working with a regular editor would entail—was delightful. I learned that a lot of my friends (by which, I mean people I know from Twitter), read really fast. Laid out as a standard 5×8″ paperback, the book is just about 400 pages. A lot of people read that in a day or two. And a lot of people gave me real-time feedback as they were reading, which was a blast. I got to see the emotional impact I was having on my readers! It was what I imagine a film director feels when they go to the opening of their movie.

So crowdsource editing: highly recommend. Five out of five stars.

Everything I’ve read says that I’m supposed to start blogging about my book before it’s ready. And who am I to argue, since that’s basically blogging about my favorite subject: ME!

So you can expect that I’ll do more of that in the next few weeks as I get the final typos fixed, and figure out all the tech puzzles required to get it available on Amazon.

Question: Should I bother getting it onto anything other than print and Kindle? Does anyone actually buy books from the Apple iBooks store? What about the Nook? Is that still a thing?

It’s probably not that much work to get it onto those other platforms, but I don’t want to waste my time, either. Comments please!

Update: I made a cover and wrote a blurb.


3 thoughts on “Crowdsource Editing

  1. You may get different feedback from others but I use Kindle every chance I get. I am all things Apple and I am not interested in using their book platform because Kindle already works on all Apple devices and they do a spectacular job.

  2. I have an iPad which has a Kindle app and a direct link to for Kindle purchases. It’s very user friendly, reasonable, and unbelievably fast. It’s the only way I purchase books now. Looking forward to reading ‘Entropy’.

    • Thanks! My wife is the same. When I was sending it to my crowd for review, a couple asked for it in iBooks format, but I don’t know anyone who actually buys books through Apple.

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