As editors, we must break out of our anonymous shell and shout our virtues loudly and clearly for writers to hear.
We’ve all heard the stories: a few authors who self-publish do extremely well, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, while the majority have little success, bringing in less than $500 all told. What we don’t hear so much about is a sizeable middle group who enjoy a steady supplemental income in the range of $1,000 to $20,000 every year.
At the end of May 2013, the Prairie Provinces Branch of the Editors’ Association of Canada teamed up with the Writers’ Guild of Alberta and the Get Publishing Communications Society to organize the Words in 3 Dimensions conference in Edmonton. This novel approach to bringing writers, publishers, and editors together proved enormously successful: some 350 people registered, most of them writers, and all the sessions and discussions were lively, informative, and very enthusiastic.
As one of the editors participating in many parts of the conference, I fielded a lot of questions and was asked for much advice. What do editors actually do? Why should writers need editors? How much would an edit cost? As the weekend wore on, it became obvious that the speakers representing publishers, literary agents, and successful self-published authors were also extolling good editing as an essential part of the publishing process.
Self-publishing is here to stay and will only increase in volume in the years ahead. Obviously it represents a major new opportunity for editors—and editors in turn can assist writers who want to self-publish to make their manuscripts as good, as professional, and as successful as they can be. We can offer our traditional skills of hands-on structural, stylistic, and copy editing for the texts, and we should also be able to provide sound advice about the process and the various options available for self-publishing. Collaboration of this kind should be a win-win situation for writers and editors alike.
How then to make more connections between professional editors and that vast number of authors who are looking to self-publish? As editors, we must break out of our anonymous shells and shout our virtues loudly and clearly for writers to hear. We must rethink our services and rates to accommodate a wide range of budgets. And we should broaden our teaching skills in university programs, EAC seminars, and corporate workshops to include writers too.
As we all know, good writing requires re-writing and revision—tasks that are just other names for editing. It’s not difficult to reorient what we’ve taught for years to editors to suit a new audience of writers. As but one example, the Creative Writing program at the School of Continuing Studies at University of Toronto is offering a course entitled “Edit Yourself—and Get Published,” designed to assist authors to improve their manuscripts before they self-publish or before they submit them to an editor, a literary agent or a publisher.
Let’s share our ideas on this challenging and exciting new opportunity. Some of you have already worked with authors who have published themselves, and we want to hear from you.