The Greenleaf Difference

Book Editing – Then and Now

When I first started working with writers almost thirty years ago, I advertised my services in Writer’s Digest magazine. Back then there were a couple dozen of us who specialized in editing novels or book-length nonfiction. Most of us were successful authors who divided our workdays between our own writing and helping other writers.

Then the Internet came along.

Nowadays, large editing firms dominate this business. Many are “full-service” firms that will edit anything from term papers to movie scripts. Many outsource the work to editors in India and other countries. These firms handle dozens or hundreds of books per month.

Just as online retail giant Amazon has put thousands of bricks-and-mortar stores out of business, the growth of large editing firms has put most individual freelance editors out of business. With so many editors generating revenue, these large firms can afford to pay the high cost of Internet marketing. With their focus on marketing, they typically pay low wages to their editors – especially editors in India, the Philippines, and  Mexico.

The effect has been to replace a lot of professional, experienced, and well-qualified book editors with editors that too often are not professional, experienced, or qualified.

Another effect has been to move to production-line book editing. Often a “team leader” is in charge of an edit job, and he or she will assign the job to an available editor and proofreader. While this means that three people might be involved in the editing process, none of them have a personal commitment to the manuscript or the author.

Like everyone else, the Internet has changed the way I work. I wrote my first three novels on a Smith Corona portable typewriter. Revising a line of text meant retyping the page. My spell-checker was a Webster’s dictionary the size of a Manhattan phone book. When I needed to check facts, I consulted the Encyclopedia Britannica occupying two shelves of my office bookcase, or I made a trip to the library.

On the editing side – well, let’s just say that sales of blue pencils are way down.

What hasn’t changed is the way I work with my clients.

I know what it’s like to put your heart and soul into the writing of a book. I’ve been there, and I know that turning your hopes and dreams over to someone else isn’t like shopping for a new refrigerator at Sears or taking your car to a Firestone store for a new set of tires.

Which brings us to the Greenleaf difference:

The Personal Touch

Your book is a unique creation. It’s very personal and important to you, and thus it becomes personal and important to me. I won’t be turning it over to a “team leader” or an editor in India. I’ll be working one-on-one with you.

Focus

I work only with novels and book-length nonfiction. I know what literary agents and commercial book publishers are looking for, so I can help you make sure your book meets that threshold. If you need help with a short story, magazine article, term paper, collection of poems, or PhD dissertation, I can’t help you. If you need help with a novel or nonfiction book for middle grade, young adult, or adult readers, then I’m your guy.

Commitment

If I agree to critique, edit, or rewrite your book, you’ll have my full attention. I’ll reserve enough time on my schedule to do the work without distraction, and I’ll put everything I’ve got into it. If your book has potential to meet the threshold of traditional commercial publishers, then you can be assured that I’ll do everything I can to make that happen. If you decide to self-publish your book, I’ll help you make sure it’s a book that will snare the kinds of reviews that can generate respectable sales numbers.

Communication

Any healthy relationship needs open communication. This is especially true for those of us who work in the book publishing business. My clients know they can pick up the phone and call me or shoot me an email if they need advice about a publishing contract, have a question about a plot element they’re wrestling with, or want to discuss a story idea. I’m in my office from 9 to 5 weekdays, and I’m here many evenings and weekends. With most of the large editing firms, you won’t be able to communicate directly with the editor assigned to your book. Why? Because direct communication between author and editor is too disruptive to production-line editing.

Success

I’ve been writing novels and nonfiction books for more than thirty years. In this tough business, I think that’s a pretty good track record. I’ve been successful because I know what commercial publishers are looking for, and I can help you give it to them.

Quality

Over the years, I’ve re-edited dozens of books that have already been “professionally” edited. Simply put, the work of many of the large editing firms is pathetic. I’ve re-edited manuscripts that were full of punctuation errors, run-on sentences, capitalization errors, and improper grammar. This was after the manuscripts had been edited! Most of these manuscripts also suffered from dull, mangled prose that had either been created by or ignored by the so-called editor. Unfortunately, many of these manuscripts had been published by their authors before the authors learned the hard way (from reader reviews) that the edit had been shoddy.

I have one of the best jobs in the world. I spend my workdays reading, writing, critiquing, and editing books, and the best part is that it gives me the opportunity to work with new writers who are taking their first tentative steps into this business.

Questions about your book or the book publishing business? Send me an email at william@wgreenleaf.com or call me at 505-401-1021.