The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Forty-Nine
Another Happy Monday to You All
The Mailbag is back. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your mood at this particular moment. Don’t shoot the messenger, please. I’m just delivering the mail and then moving down the block to the next house. I won’t be intrusive so don’t turn the dog loose.
You know how this works so I won’t repeat it all. If you don’t know how it works then where have you been for the past forty-eight weeks?
Let’s get started with a wonderful question from Mary.
From Mary: “Okay, here's my question: How do you determine the average cost for say an editor, an illustrator etc., and is it still possible with all the authors out there, to get lucky and have a publishing company actually pick up your book and publish it? (I'm not saying that'll happen to me, it's just a rhetorical question.)”
Mary, this is another of those great questions that may not have a definitive answer.
The average cost of an editor is the real stickler. The average cost is what the market will bear at any given time, and it also depends on the quality of an editor. You might find your second cousin in need of money and more than willing to edit your manuscript for $250, but you might also get what you pay for.
I had a manuscript edited for five-hundred. I also had one edited for one-thousand. Most editors will charge either by the hour or by the job. A professional editor can do an in-depth edit of about ten pages per hour (maybe less), so if you have a 200-page book, that’s twenty hours at about $25 per hour….or more. Start searching for editors online and you’ll see prices ranging from $15 per hour to $50 per hour.
Who should you hire? Ask for recommendations from authors who have already had their work edited. Get a good one and take your time deciding on one.
As for illustrators, same answer. I’ve used two different illustrators for book covers and both cost me $100. I know darned well I got a great deal in both cases. I know of some illustrators who get $500-$1000 per book cover.
Is it still possible to get published by a publishing company? Most definitely, but it’s getting harder every day. There are still tens of thousands of books published each year the traditional way, but there used to be hundreds of thousands. That is my dream, by the way. I have a novel completed and I refuse to go the ebook route with that novel, so I’m sending out queries hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.
Good luck to you!
From MizB: “Now, another subject, you may answer this in a mailbag if you wish. What do you think of NaNoWriMo? I would never attempt to write a novel on that type of deadline, but apparently some people flourish with it. I just read a brilliant novel and was surprised to find in the author's notes at the end of the book that it was a NaNoWriMo project. As used to deadlines as I am, I just don't have that kind of inspiration.”
MizB, great question and one I haven’t seen yet. My opinion on NaNoWriMo has changed over the past couple years. At first I was against it because I didn’t think it was possible to write a “quality” novel in one month.
I’m still not convinced that it is possible to write a quality novel in a month (probably because I can't do it :)), but I am convinced that thousands of writers who needed a boost to start their first novel found that boost in NaNoWriMo, and I now think that is a very good thing. I believe the world needs more writers, and if NaNo can be the impetus and inspiration to get more people writing, then I say HOORAY to NaNo!
From Bradley: “I remember you mentioning once that you write biographies of your main characters and then you turn the characters loose and let them tell the story. I’m still a little foggy about how that works. Can you talk more about that? How do you turn a fictional character loose and let an inanimate object tell the story?”
Thanks, Bradley, for coming back to this topic. I understand that it must be difficult for some to understand. It sounds like some New Age b.s., doesn’t it? See the character….become the character…..blah, blah and more blah.
Let me try again. I sit down before writing a novel and I write a mini-biography about my main characters. I fix in my mind what kind of people they are. I know their background. I know what moves them and floats their boat. This is an important stage in the writing process for me, so I don’t rush through this. I try to make those biographies as detailed as possible. I really need to “get into character” before I proceed with the novel.
Once I’m there I can start writing. Novels begin with an instigating event, and they continue because of other events that propel them along. I call them sparks. A good spark can be counted on to push a novel along for a good twenty-thousand words.
Once I decide on the sparks, I then sit down and ask myself how my characters are going to react to the sparks based on who they are. This is what I mean by saying I let them tell the story. I ask “what would Eli do in this situation” and then I let Eli do it. What would Liz do facing this problem? How would Pete handle this great news?
And it all starts by getting to know my characters before I ever begin the actual writing.
From Mia: “What is your opinion on the proper use of punctuation? I spend a lot of time reading ebooks, and it seems like there are thousands of writers who suddenly either don’t understand grammatical rules or are choosing to ignore them. In particular I see commas misused often these days.”
This is one of those questions where I can’t win no matter how I answer it. If I say grammar is sacred then someone will point out that James Joyce was a bit lax with the use of commas and it didn’t seem to hurt him much, nor did it hurt Tom Robbins for that matter.
So who’s right?
This is just my opinion, okay, and I know there are many who would argue with it, and that’s fine.
I think a novelist who follows grammatical rules to the letter and never waivers is a self-shackled writer. Especially with regards to dialogue, it is practically impossible to be grammatically correct all the time because people don’t always speak with perfect grammar. There are times I will completely ignore grammar to improve the flow of a narrative, and I think that is not only acceptable but necessary.
Having said that, if every writer completely ignored grammar, then nobody would understand what they were reading, so we have to pick and choose our times to bend rules. Breaking rules for special effect is one thing; breaking them out of ignorance is a whole new ball of wax.
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And It’s Time to Put This Installment to Bed
Three more installments and we’ll hit a year with this series, so get those questions into me. I’ll hit a year with this just about the same time I’ll write #1000 here at HubPages. Two nice anniversaries at the same time, and none of it would have happened without your support, so thank you!
See you next week. Until then, keep your powder dry and your wick short.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”