I’ve thought about posting regarding editors and independent or small-press writers for a while.
I am an editor (among other things), and most recently I’ve edited two of @Samuel_H_Young’s games, and I’ve begun editing two of his in-progress games. I’m hoping his opinion of editing has changed slightly from what he wrote in this post a good many months ago . . .
I’ve also edited several other pieces, including everything from a few more unusual works (under my maiden name, that particular one) to business blog posts for a tiny SoCal business, to documents for non-profit companies.
Editing and beta testing are two completely different fish, to my mind. Editing keeps a work stylistically consistent. A good editor (at least, depending on which services you’ve agreed to pay for) doesn’t just check for typos, but watches for other flaws, characters whose ‘accents’ change or dresses that mysteriously turn to trousers. When we work with independent authors, we develop a style appropriate for that author and book.
I’ve worked with authors using U.K. English, American English, Canadian English (it surprised me how different some of the typical style rules are in Canada to both the other forms!). I’ve also worked with sci-fi, fantasy, business writing, and so on. I don’t edit them all in the same way.
I’ve also done substantive editing (I did on the Demon Hunter series, for instance), checking for plot holes, doing research on Brazilian jiu jitsu, making suggestions for characters, whatever needed to happen. That’s obviously more time consuming and expensive, but it also allows an author to let someone who has read the whole entire work, not just from the perspective of play-throughs, to give extensive input. (Also it is fun! Especially with a good author.)
Beta testing, though, catches things that I could never, ever see when I’m reading the text files for a game. I might notice a coding error (that’s happened once or twice, things like 'hey did you really mean ‘*set happy %+500’ or did something odd happen?) or misplaced labels, but as often as not, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell if something isn’t coded correctly. Beta testers are great for that.
They’re also really important for flow, for making sure the plot all hangs together, for pointing out if a relevant piece of information is missing on path G. As an editor, I’d read ALL the paths that are there, so it’s potentially harder for me or the author to notice if a key piece of information is missing on a certain route.
All of that said, a note about indie authors and indie editors. I realise that it’s perfectly absurd to ask an author to pay more than half of what a game might eventually make, over years, to have it edited. This is especially true early in an author’s career. This is also on top of any artist fees and the like which the author might be paying.
Therefore, I’ve come up with a system that’s very similar to how the artist I commission for my own works is paid. I negotiate a price with the author, partly based on previous or projected sales if there’s already a published work out. I do try to work with authors who have had at least one thing published, when I can. Makes things easier for everyone.
Oftentimes the price we agree on is a lot less than I would normally charge, say, for business editing. That’s because then we agree on a percentage commission, a very small one, that I get from the sales once that percentage has built up past my original fee. I find it lets me do what I love, work in indie publishing with small, independent authors, and if a game or a book sells well, we both benefit.
I’ve known other editors to use similar systems. I know it’s very different to what typical editing, and editorial fees, have been, which in part was why I haven’t written anything about all this sooner. Publishing is definitely a changing world, though, especially online, and especially in newer or smaller markets like interactive fiction gaming.
So there’s my two pennies’ worth. Or two pounds’ and a wall of text worth more like, I suppose.