When Bekah and I decided to self-publish Liefdom we had a problem. We had to show the world the greatest final product that we could manage. We had gotten it edited by The Genius. We had written it and polished it. Liefdom had been put through six rewrites. Bekah had sorted through every word and found the mistakes she could but still we were not satisfied.
We knew it was not a perfect draft. We needed to have it proofread and polished to perfection. So we went looking for a professional proofreader who could do the job and do it well.
We looked everywhere but the prices were out of our range and after hours of searching we were out of options. She went to bed discouraged and we had to regroup and find a way to get the job done without getting a second mortgage.
I found a site where you could hire professionals to do little projects for small money. I shuffled through as many as I could, seeking reviews on their work and seeing if anyone sounded like they might be a good fit, without knowing if I could find someone who would even take on a big project.
After hours of flipping through profiles I found my guy. He was Indian, he was a young guy, and the selling point was that he was a musician. He played guitar. Why that struck me as important is still a mystery.
Maybe it was because he was an artist. Maybe it was because he was multi-talented. But I think the reason it struck me as important is because he had learned an instrument. One of the most diligent things a person can do is dedicate themselves to an instrument. No matter how long you play, your first, second and third time you are still gonna suck. It takes hours of practice just to get to the point where the strings do not cause your fingers to ache. Too much at one time will cause your fingers to blister and bleed. Learning the guitar takes a lot of work. A lot of pushing through the pain and a lot of focus.
I chose The Accompanist for these reasons. And I reached out to him with the project in hand very carefully.
I wrote, “I was wondering if you would consider taking on a large project. I have a book that needs a proofread that is 97 thousand words long. Would you even be interested in that big of a project?”
He wrote me back a few hours later. “Wow I have never taken on a project that big. Can you tell me anything else about it?”
“It’s a fantasy novel about a warrior fairy. It needs to be perfect and I need a proofreader on my team. Would you be willing to do it for an extension of the price that the site agrees on or would you want something else?”
“Well, this is very exciting! Fantasy is my first love. I would love to work on this project. I would have to have X amount though. The rate on this page is simply not enough for a manuscript this long.”
Well the price he gave us was twice what the site said but we knew that the mental stamina that would be needed to get this job done would be immense and we wanted to give the guy a shot.
“I will not try to negotiate your rate. If it is going to cost me this much to get the job done then I will accept that. How do you want to do this?”
“Let’s break it into pieces. Send me 20 thousand words at a time and give me a deadline and the fee, then we will move on,” he said.
So we did it that way. Bekah read the pages he sent back to us and they seemed perfect. She found nothing that alarmed her. We did the job in five parts and when it was done we had a document we were happy with.
Liefdom was ready. The Genius had edited the content. I had written seven drafts. Bekah had edited it. The Accompanist had edited it. And Bekah had gone over it again. It was, as we could see, the best product we could put out.
A few months later we decided to put out a collection of shorts. I had done four rewrites on each of the stories. Bekah had edited it. But we needed a proofreader and we went looking for a different one. We wanted to get a lay of the land. Give a few different people a chance with my work and get some fresh eyes on it. We chose a woman I will not name. Any name I give her would be derogatory.
She missed her deadline. And on the day of her deadline had to admit that she had never even looked at it. She knew it was due today so she had run a quick spell check on it and had gotten the first five pages proofed but she would need two more weeks to get the rest finished. She hoped that would be okay.
We gave her a two-week deadline and two weeks later she said that she had gotten four more pages done but life had kind of gotten in her way so she needed another month.
The book was 185 pages long. We had to pull her from the project. We had no fast and hard deadline but we refused to work with someone we could not count on for professionalism. That became the very lowest bar we were willing to work with. Absolute professionalism had to be reached or we had to refuse to work with that person. We were building an empire and everyone who helped us do that had to be serious about it.
Again we reached out to The Accompanist and with the rate we had already agreed on. He asked for a bit more and we gave it. He had it done under deadline and we had a perfect product.
Chaste went through The Genius and Bekah after three drafts from me. Then off to The Accompanist. Same rate. He was late. He didn’t get back in touch with me and I had to ask myself if he was out. Chaste was considerably darker than anything he had seen from me before and I began to wonder if the darkness of my work was going to be a problem.
But it was a family crisis that had hung him up. He gave me a new deadline and got it to me. Bekah went over it again and found it perfect.
Mestlven had been edited by The Genius and we decided not to use her again. Her comments were taken by book. As they needed to be, but it was becoming a problem.
She would tell me that a character or a scene did not belong. That it was superfluous and needed to be chopped. She taught class about how every word had to count and nothing extraneous could make the final cut.
The only problem with that was that we were creating a world. One scene cut in this book would render the fourth book down the road useless. We needed to have one set of eyes that could understand the true scope, look at the book and realize we were not making accidents.
And that right there would become the plague of my early career. Everyone who read my books assumed I was making a mistake. They would read something they would not have done, or see something out of place, and they would assume I had messed up. No one came to my books accepting that I knew what I was doing and trusting that if a character did something odd, or a scene seemed out of place, it was part of the master plan.
No one could see the master plan, and when they did they would begin to laugh at me. See no one knew about Artist. No one knew about Informer. No one knew I had a mind that was capable of wild and amazing things because no one knew about the DID. No one knew that when I was yelling about impossible feats I was actually capable of doing them.
Well we had to part from The Genius. We couldn’t use her anymore. What we figured out was that she had found me when I had no idea what I was doing. Now that I had taken years to work out all the messes I had made and fixed all the broken things about my process and my goals, she still believed I was a novice. I realized that no matter what I did or how far I came, she would always see the baby colt stumbling around on wobbly knees.
She could never see what I had become.
With Mestlven we called again on The Accompanist and again he delivered a perfect draft.
We got a new story editor for Song and Hemlock. But kept working with The Accompanist and when Song won Book of the Year on the Drunken Druid contest I sent signed copies of the book and a watch to the new story editor and to The Accompanist.
We had to part ways after Crown. I was headed into some very big books and I couldn’t afford his rates. If I was going to pay that much for an edit, I needed it to be a story edit as well. I got my new guy and The Gunslinger to work on Legends of the Exiles and The Madness Wars books one through three.
We had set a bar for our work.
At least three drafts from me. One from Bekah. One from two different editors. Another from me, another from Bekah, and then we would publish. We refused to put out any draft that was not as close to perfect as we could get it.
I pulled The Accompanist in for Legends of Eastgate. We have plans to work with him the next six books after The Madness Wars is done. It will be fun to be with him full-time again. He is a professional and as good as they come.