Earlier this year, I accepted a new client who had never been edited before. From the start, there were problems. She couldn’t follow the payment plan, which was bi-weekly. I gave her multiple opportunities to “get it right” before she did, but I didn’t start working until she paid in full. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t about to lose money over a person who wasn’t serious and who thought everything was funny. “Oops, I’ll have to pay you in two weeks. I put the money on the wrong prepaid card. Sorry.” I’d get these messages for weeks before I said “You have to pay by this date or I’m not taking the job.”
Her “manuscript”, and I use the term so loosely, rope should be involved, was a fucking MESS. I don’t exaggerate about the written word, ever. Mess, disaster, and “manuscript from hell” are words I’d use, and did, to describe the torment of having to work for this demanding, rude, insensitive, know-it-all who’d never been edited and is going to tell me, after 20 years of experience, how long a “dirty manuscript” on a first edit should take. I know people who have taken five years to write a book they were proud of. When it was edited a year after completion, so as to be thorough, at least they knew it wasn’t crap.
I’ve given her weekly updates, sometimes bi-weekly. I’ve done everything to be highly communicative, receiving responses like “Okie”, because apparently that’s how she spells “Okay”. Did you just empathize with me? Communicating with this person was like talking to a crash test dummy.
When I contacted her this morning to let her know that I’m moving and would complete her manuscript once I was settled in to my new place of residence, she claimed she’d given me two different deadlines that never existed. I know they didn’t exist because I never committed to a deadline, and she never specified one in the contract, or in conversation. It was 100% never discussed. I have a very sharp memory and yes, she bitched once, but I flat-out explained how much work was involved in her manuscript, and how time-consuming it was as it is not my full-time job.
Today she decided she’d prefer to part ways and “go a different road”. I returned the “dirty manuscript” with all of my notes and for the first time in 20 years, allowed myself to say “Good riddance.” I was the epitome of polite and respectful, but her demands during one of the worst years of my life and her deciding to “part ways” is a blessing. If I told you how much I got paid for this edit, you’d cry. Never again will I allow myself to be demeaned or disrespected by someone who thinks they’re the next Stephen King.
I had a moment where I felt like a failure. I have NEVER, not once, returned incomplete work to someone, but when a person is completely unwilling to work with you, to read their work before submitting it, etc., then I don’t feel it’s my responsibility, once they get vile, to do more than say “Here you go. Good luck.” Clearly she has NO idea how the industry works, what is and is not marketable, and that without a team behind me, yes, editing takes time. She said she wrote this manuscript in a few months and that “everyone who read it loved it”. It was barely a first draft, leave alone a fourth re-write. I can tell when someone is half-assing something. Even if they’re a New York Times Bestselling Author, I can tell when something isn’t properly thought out before submission.
So from here on in, I am only accepting proofreading, beta reads, and critiques. My writing focus now returns to my novels, which are quality. My creative focus will move to my career change because while I will always be a writer, I need more to keep me going. I need something daily that makes me feel like I have purpose.
A word of advice: Editors aren’t your punching bag and they don’t deserve to be shit on. If your editor is having a bad year, it’s okay to suggest moving on so that they can focus on their own life during a crisis, but it’s not okay to be a bitch to them. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Be respectful. Even more, if you’re barely paying them, you have no right to bitch about time unless you split everything up into chapters and allow them to work and submit chapters back to you as they complete them, because that’s when things can work in a much smoother fashion.
I highly recommend splitting your files up into chunks, perhaps a few chapters at a time, that way you’re communicating properly with the person who will be tending to your “baby”. Also, ask them to do a read-through before they edit, that way they can give you a fair price and an estimated time of delivery. Don’t freak out if the book that took you years to write takes nine months, or longer, to edit. I do a proofread, edit, fact-check, and then I double-check the work, so yes, it’s time-consuming.
The person you’re hiring is a flake only if you never see any results and never hear from them again, but a person who communicates with you regularly is being honest.
If my editor was having a bad year, I would never show them such disrespect. Shit happens, and it’s not the other person’s fault. If you want to hire a trained monkey who will kiss your ass, perhaps you should check out your local zoo.
I’ve never been so happy to delete someone’s work in my entire life. That probably sounds horrible, but at the end of the day, I shouldn’t want to remove my head off my shoulders because I was doing my job. No one should feel that way.
When someone tells me their story is SO good that it will be picked up traditionally and I’m editing it shaking my head “No, not in this lifetime.”, that means it will be 99 cents on Amazon Kindle. Granted, I’ve read some fantastic stuff for $5 or less on Kindle, but I’ve also been mortified by a lot of it.
Anyone who reads this sees my work regularly. They know I don’t eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, and when you see my writing style, you can see that I edit it thoroughly. I’m human. I have the occasional typo, I’m quick-witted, educated, and willing to admit my faults.
Today, I say “C’est la vie.” Write what you want to write, but disrespecting an experienced, talented editor is unacceptable to me. One migraine less to think about. I’m moving on.
copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.