I take reviewing seriously. A few months ago, a writer seeking my independent review will have been disappointed. I read it and commented, but didn’t publish any review.
My policy: if my rating would be 3 stars or less (Goodreads, Amazon) I don’t publish. I send the review privately to the author. I’ve never seen the value of a highly negative review. It’s not as if the general public are rushing out impulsively to buy a novel from which they must be protected. The prize for the best hatchet job leaves me cold, in the same way that putting an obese person naked in a crowd of jeerers would.
The point here is that the fore-mentioned author had not used an editor. The novel was full of factual inaccuracies about the main dilemma, which made the plot unworkable. The first chapter alone would have caused any editor worth his/her salt to advise the author not to go further until the necessary research had been carried out. Furthermore, the minor character in Chapter 2 had a different personality when he sneaked in again in Chapter 11. Finally, there were two chapters in the middle that were not relevant, let alone essential, to the plot. They needed cutting. The writing itself was fine, so was the original story concept. Shame. I hope that writer took the advice.
RULE: Never submit any novel until it has been edited.
I always read and re-read and constantly correct my own work, yet a proof-reader will find several things per chapter that I need to tweak. It might be a lettr missed out, or a, comma misplaced or even word missed out. Once spotted I can’t imagine how these errors escaped me.
RULE: Always use a proof reader, even for a short story.
When you decide to publish, you’ll need to convert your book into e-pub and e-mobi formats. This is not an impossible task, thanks to Calibre but it is time-consuming and fraught with potential error-making. You can land up with ?eft? #blb instead of the word you wrote. The headaches this formatting task may cause you, even if you overcome your fear and time problems, can be eradicated by using a conversion service.
RULE: Even if your printed book is absolutely perfect, every page needs checking again in its e-versions.
Such services can stretch the writer’s budget unbearably but they are vital services. Without access to a known editor or proof-reader, it is safest to go to the Society for Editors and Proofreaders Directory of Editorial Services who will charge about £21-28 per hour according to the extent of textual work required (e.g. proof-reading alone would be at the lower end of this).
Of course, there are many tempting offers online but it’s a risk to take one up without knowledge of their quality. The dangers have been outlined on other blogs I’m sure, so I won’t use space detailing these. What I can do is point readers to affordable and reputable writer/reviewers/editors. The following people are all authors themselves and who offer proof-reading and editing. They charge about £4 per 1000 words for proof-reading, £5 per 1000 words for editing. A full structural edit is a long job so a 100,00 word novel will run you into the hundreds.
All the following people have different styles and strengths.
Firstly, there is multi-tasker Morgen Bailey, whose richly informative blog I have already mentioned in my post Towards a Superblog. I can vouch for her outstanding speed and attentiveness and for the reasonable prices she charges for her editing and proof-reading. She can rapidly spot where a story is going wrong as well as punctuation or continuity mistakes. Her work is worth every penny. She will also offer a critique – a very helpful service for a writer wondering whether their piece is worth pursuing.
Morgen also constructs websites – a nightmare for many writers. See the one she did for the journalist and novelist Jane Wenham Jones whose articles you’ve probably read in Writing Magazine and elsewhere.
Secondly, there is novelist Karen Perkins (Thores Cross; The Valkyrie Series, etc). Go to her for inexpensive help for converting files to the required format for publishing as paper-back or e-book. Not only does she offer editing, conversion and other services but she has just published two really useful books: one on editing, one on formatting. If you want to be self-sufficient, these books certainly fill a very important gap in the market. I will be reviewing these books in the near future.
Thirdly, there is Lucy Middlemass, YA author, with two books winners on the writers’ site Authonomy. Watch out for her lively character, Jinger Barley, when her books are published. She is a very good reviewer across genres. Her reviews are extremely thorough, helpful and fair, even when it’s clear she has not had a high opinion of a book. She manages a review thread for YA fiction where she encourages the same positive approach. Lucy similarly offers a thorough editing and critique of novels. It is clear that she has not only read thoroughly and made her line-by-line edit, but has thought out the writer’s intentions and can advise his best route forwards.
Finally, Tony Foster offers full structural edits. Tony has a B.A. (1st class honours) in Creative Writing. He begins his Ph.D focusing on Writing Theory and Cognitive Poetics later this year. He writes across disciplines, including radio plays, screenplays and prose fiction. Tony’s edit includes a detailed critique and chapter-by-chapter analysis. He charges £10 per 1000 words, negotiable above 50,000 words, which also includes proof read, line edit and manuscript layout to publishing standard. He can be contacted here: firstname.lastname@example.org
RULE: Never pay for one.
Not every reviewer writes to a high standard but you can look at their other reviews to estimate their quality. You can look at Amazon’s top 100 reviewers and hope to get a review. You can ask friends and family BUT have reviews that sing out what you have done. The best reviews are those from readers who’ve read your book and constructed their own, independent opinion of it.
I may write a subsequent post detailing online reviews that have impressed me.