For the first #AuthorToolboxBlogHop post of the year, I thought we should find out more about the role of freelancers in getting our writing polished and sparkling (especially important when you’re self-publishing). To do that, I’m welcoming fellow South African, and author, Misha Gericke to share her expertise.
Thanks for having me over, Ronel! Let me tell you a bit more about myself and what I do. Basically, I started writing fiction sixteen (going on seventeen) years ago, and basically learned to edit as part of my journey as a writer (and as part of going through the publishing process). But when my publishing deal went sour (long story), I decided to go into self-publishing in 2014.
Thanks to Amazon and other e-retailers like it, self-publishing has turned into a phenomenon. On the plus side, everyone can publish now.
On the negative side… everyone can publish now. And they do. Frequently. Without doing the work required to bring their work up to publishing standard.
Sometimes, they do it because they don’t have the knowledge. Sometimes, because they have neither the knowledge nor the funds to put their writing through a rigorous publication process. So they’ll write something, slap together a cover, put their word document through some vendor’s auto-converter, and call it good.
The results are… Well… Lacklustre.
I saw all this happening around the time I was first going into self-publishing, and I didn’t want to be part of that particular self-publishing herd. But I’m South African. I earn in rands. This means that the cost (in dollars) of editing and producing a book that is up to my standards would cost me basically equivalent (in real money value terms) to anything between one and two years of tuition at our equivalent of Harvard.
And simply put, I am not stupid enough to commit to such a huge capital outlay either, when my writing career is still in its infant stages and it’ll be years before I earn back the money, if ever.
So what’s an intrepid girl to do? She learns. All of it.
Some of it, I knew. Most of the editing I knew from start to finish, but I invested in the style guides my former editor used to edit my books. Because my writing quality was good. I just had to make sure every use was consistent.
Some things like proper formatting and cover design, I had to learn. My three first self-published books were my schools.
None of this was hard, really. It just took a rather significant investment of time and some unique combinations of skill-sets. (My writing experience, plus marketing studies, plus photography experience to make good, well-balanced covers, for example.)
But then after a while, I realized that there are other writers like me, who might just need a bit of help here and there, but who can’t or don’t want to pay for the whole thing because they’re confident in what they can do. Or that there are other people who would like to pay for some services, but who don’t want to spend their children’s university tuition (or any large amount of money) on their publishing dream.
And that’s when I started offering my freelance services, to help other writers who are like me, or somewhat like me.
- What kind of freelance work do you do?
I do what I call self-publishing services. This includes critiques, editing, proofreading, formatting for ebooks and print, and occasionally cover design, if my client asks nicely.
- Do you offer different levels? (Different amounts for degree of work needed.)
Yes, firstly, I split my editing into three specific categories:
1) Structural and content edits, where I read through a manuscript and leave comments and suggestions for improvements on the manuscript, and send you an accompanying editorial letter summarizing the most important things I found. I don’t change anything myself, only give you my impressions as a reader, along with advice on how to fix things from a writer’s point of view. Whether you accept my advice, and how you end up correcting the flaws I might find, is up to you, although I do answer questions. I think this might be the most useful service I offer, because it’s almost like a one-stop plot workshop. That said, please don’t place this order if you want me to mince around. That’s not what I’m here for. If something’s good, I’ll say so. If something’s not good, I’ll say so, and I don’t pull punches. The idea is to let you see how an outsider experiences your story, and to help you think about how to improve the reader’s experience. Can’t do that if I have to dilute what I say with niceties and euphemisms all the time.
2) Line and copy-edits, where I activate track changes on Word and suggest improvements on your wording, sentences, etc. and also start correcting errors in usage, spelling in grammar. This is not proofreading. I do line and copy-edits sentence by sentence and word by word, as some extra polish to your writing, but I do this while maintaining your character’s voice and tone. The idea is to elevate your writing style, not to insert my own. And because I use track changes, you can see the changes I made and decide which to keep and which to ignore. I can use both US and UK English.
3) Proofreading. In this service, I read through the story one more time, specifically looking for typos or any errors that got missed in the previous editing rounds. I also use track changes for this.
Secondly, I structure my editing prices so the price per word drops for longer works. I also offer discounts if you send the same manuscript back to me for further editing rounds. This gives writers some flexibility, since they can pay for a single editing pass by me, or they can pay for 20 of them, if that’s what they want or need.
My formatting services are a bit different, I charge extra for longer books, but the cost of having me do two or more formats together is cheaper than having me do them separately.
This approach is a win-win. The writer gets more bang for their buck, and I earn more than I would have because writers get exponentially more value, the more they spend.
- Who needs your services?
Writers who can’t figure out why their book isn’t working. Writers who want a nicely-formatted book without going through the rigmarole of doing it all themselves. Writers who want another pair of eyes to help polish their writing. Writers who don’t want to break their bank while preparing their book for publishing.
- Do you work in all genres?
Almost. For editing, I don’t work with horror and erotica, since I don’t enjoy the genres. (Nothing against gore and sex in other genres, though.) And then in structural/content edits, I don’t critique memoirs either.
Non-fiction I consider on a per-project basis.
I’ll format basically anything, though, and I’m very good at making pictures behave in epubs.
- Where can clients find you?
You can also get in touch with me at mishgericke(at)gmail(dot)com if you have queries, but I will still direct you to Upwork before I officially start work on your project.
- What do you wish potential clients knew before hiring your services?
That an editor’s job isn’t garbage disposal. In other words, writers can’t send me their raw rough draft, hire me for a proofread, and expect the thing to come out shining at the end.
- How do you juggle your freelance career and your writing career?
It’s still a work in progress. My freelancing took off so much that I sometimes have to fight for time to write.
But right now, I’m trying this thing where I try to do at least something, even if it’s only for 20 minutes, towards my own project, whether it’s editing or writing something new.
- Any advice for writers seeking the help of freelancers?
Make sure you know what you want, and make sure your editor understands what you want. Ask questions before you hire. If you use something like Fiverr or Upwork to find your freelancer, go through their portfolios and/or their references for proof that the freelancer delivers on what their offers promise.
Misha Gericke is a writer and freelancer living in the Western Cape, South Africa. She currently has three books published, and she uses her experience on both sides of the publishing spectrum to help other writers publish their books. You can find her on Fiverr and Upwork, or you can follow her blogs and YouTube channel, where she mostly shares advice and opinions on her experiences as a writer/self-publisher.
You can find her at:
Thank you Misha for answering all my questions. Do you have any questions for Misha? Have you ever hired a freelancer to help you with your novel in any way?