In the last two weeks, I've had to turn down three clients.
They weren't ready.
Nobody's perfect, and one or two issues are expected in any manuscript submitted for edits. But if simple problems like improper punctuation, hundreds of instances of smiles and looks (She looked at him, he smiled at her...) rather than true body language signals, no indication of setting or time, too many dialogue tags or incorrectly placed dialogue tags, starting the story in the wrong place, and other rookie errors litter your manuscript, you'll easily be pegged as a newbie writer with a rough first attempt.
Sure, I could shove my conscience into a dark closet, take their money, fix their typos and punctuation errors and send them into the self-pub world without properly preparing them. After all, who am I to judge them?
Who am I? Well, I'm not just an editor. I'm an author. And I'm a reader. And if I allow a writer to release a shoddy product with my blessing, I'm basically peeing in my own pool. I'd rather not. I take great pride in my profession and in helping other authors achieve publication status. But I'm not about to tarnish someone else's dream to line my pocket with a little cash.
So...are you really ready for an editor? Answer the following ten questions honestly:
1. Do I have a complete story?
2. Do I understand and utilize the concepts of GMC, POV, and Show vs. Tell?
3. If my story is more than fifty pages long, does it include chapter breaks?
4. Have I used punctuation properly to the best of my knowledge?
5. Is this work entirely my own with no issues where I've cut and pasted info?
6. Am I confident in my research?
7. Has a beta reader or critique partner reviewed this work?
8. Do I use a good balance of description to convey mood and tone?
9. Have I properly formatted the manuscript according to the editor's requirements?
10. Can I handle criticism and make educated decisions regarding changes my editor will recommend?
If you can't answer, "Yes" to all ten of these questions, you're not ready, either.
I apologize if this bursts your dream, but your editor is not your ghostwriter. The emergence of self-publishing has opened doors to writers who might never have seen their work published otherwise. But that doesn't mean you don't have to learn your craft before you publish. A concert violinist doesn't just pick up an instrument, pluck the strings, and become first chair at the Met. Athletes don't just decide to play one day and sign a multi-million dollar contract with a professional team the next. Practice and education are crucial! You need to know the ins and outs of writing, grasp and utilize the concepts of good storytelling, and most of all, you have to work hard at it.
Join writing organizations, find critique partners, read. Don't just read for pleasure. Read to learn. Notice the way an author manipulates his characters to evoke emotion in you. Absorb the way the story unfolds naturally, smoothly, with you going along for the ride. Even if it's just to figure out how to end a sentence, pick up any newspaper, magazine or storybook and take a look at the sentence structure and punctuation.
By the way, if you can answer, "Yes" to all ten questions and you're looking for an editor, let's talk.