Committed—Self-publishing Part 5: Development edit—pulling the trigger
While I had put a lot into A Perfect Blindness, I knew that alone didn’t matter. I’ve told many students who complained that they had worked “so hard” on a paper yet still got a low a grade that teachers can’t grade effort, only execution. The book market is far harsher and utterly pitiless—readers pay only for books they think they’ll enjoy: A writer can spend every spare moment on a book for decades, but if it’s not good, people won’t buy it. Period. No one can read the hours, emotions and sacrifices invested in writing it. They can only read the words on the page.
While considering whether I should take the plunge or not, I struggled less so about the book being good, or me being committed to the process of making better and then selling it—I was completely confident of these. Rather, I worried that I was being conned (spores of the cynic’s fungus had taken root in my mind, and started to spread) that these services would be expensive and useless, illusions born of my vanity; and now I had to overcome these doubts in order to sell the idea to my wife: it’s not my money, but ours.
Returning to my due diligence, I dove deep into the reputation of iUniverse, one of the family of companies Author Solutions owns, which Penguin-Random House had acquired in 2012. I delved back into the lawsuits, and actual success of self-published authors. Then, I queried my contact hard about these and a number of other logistical points, and she directed me to the dismissal of most of those law suits; I did uncover real success mixed in with oft cited statistic that most self-published books sell less than 500 copies; after a number of emails back and forth, I discovered that while a traditional publishing house pays their own editors to do all this work, plus might, possibly, give a writer an advance on expected royalties, they essentially buy the book, and then shape it the way they wish to get it ready to sell. If I pay, I do what I want: Interesting and all well and good, but of little consolation if I’m being taken advantage of.
My contact was patient, and told me everything’s up to me, but that even books that go to traditional publishing houses go through all this editing, and she finally pulled out a direct appeal to my pride: “The word the evaluator used was actually ‘stunning’.”
Flattering. That did swell my pride up. Then again, given the usual quality of writing that crosses that reader’s desk, I wasn’t sure stunning meant much more than “not awful”.
Another call, more emails. Money came up again. The additional editing would come to a few times more than the publishing service itself. But it wasn’t a firm cost: the cost of each edit depends on the number of words, and if I cut the manuscript down as planned, the costs for subsequent edits would drop. I might even get money back. Still…. This was more than a couple of month’s rent for us, and rent ain’t cheap in our part of Brooklyn.
My wife had read a draft of A Perfect Blindness, and liked, well, most of it. She had her issues, as did another couple of friends whose opinion I trust and who had read a much earlier draft that was 30% longer that what I had submitted. Their opinion, as seen between the lines of many comments, was that it could be quite good: if certain things got fixed. These things and how to fix them had always remained elusive, and after my 5th complete rewrite (7th depending on what one counts as a complete) in the past 20-odd years, I didn’t know how much more I could do with it. I was burned out on it. I had several other ideas I wanted to move on to.
After I talked all these things through with my wife, she said that since do have the money, I should go ahead with the full developmental edit package: developmental and content edits, wrapping up with a quality review and then, with luck, a recommendation to the Editorial Review Board to start on iUniverse’s version of the Traditional Publishing Path.
With her blessing, I pulled the trigger.
Next came the most serious challenges to the view I had of myself as a writer I’ve ever faced.