“Who hires a book editor?” was my question when I joined Yellow Bird and another online editing company in 2014. I had spent 23 years writing and editing for large, traditional publishing companies before getting into the online, edit-for-anybody business.
Many authors in search of an editor are aspiring novelists, and the quality of their writing varies dramatically. Some are professional level. Others are great storytellers but their grammar is a disaster—or vice versa. I’m amazed by the number of fantasy and sci-fi submissions. Some of these books are in excess of 200,000 words, with the author often asserting that his or her initial book is the first of a trilogy. I edited one author who penned a 130,000-word fantasy novel and said it was the first book of a three-trilogy set! What’s 9 x 130,000?
I have edited both fiction and nonfiction over the last two years, and I’ve been blown away by the variety of the subject matter. These are some of the online nonfiction submissions I’ve edited:
- Brennan, a special-ops soldier, wrote about his experiences in Iraq—about his desire to kill and how fellow soldiers exploded into pink mist before his eyes. Derek, a jaded platoon medic, told Brennan: “That’s why we’re dying. People want training and the military to be all soft and cuddly but then wonder why their overweight, television-addicted little pussy got his arms blown off because he wasn’t looking around properly because he has the attention span of a hummingbird.”
- Jeff, a former Hollywood prostitute and Colt Studios model, wrote about the famous gay men he slept with, including Elton John!
- Keena grew up in the African bush as the daughter of paleontologists. Her diaries discussed her life-and-death adventures with lions, hippos, and crazy baboons…and the scariest creatures of all: junior high girls when she returned to suburban Philadelphia.
- Rex penned a biography of fellow Vietnam War veteran Ace Cozzalio, an eccentric, heroic helicopter pilot who always wore an 1800s cavalry uniform, complete with white hat and saber.
- Tina was raised by a coldhearted mother who adopted (basically stole) Tina’s two children and prevented her from seeing them for 15 years.
- Author Damon reminded me of a black Forest Gump. He was confined to juvenile detention simply because his father wanted him to be more disciplined; was unjustifiably bullied by cops on the streets of L.A.; lived through the Watts riot of 1965; and explored drugs in Vietnam, which caused him to attack his officer.
- David, who created the live play-by-play technology that you see on MLB.com and ESPN.com, described his court battles with Major League Baseball, which tried to use its legal muscle to invalidate his patents.
- Tana was looking for a roommate after her divorce. She found a seemingly nice fellow who owned a house in Florida who agreed to rent her a room…then turned psycho and wouldn’t let her leave the house!
What’s your story?