Not only do I write romance, I read it. Avidly. One thing I've noticed over the decades is a decided departure from traditional values. Being rather old-fashioned myself, I find that disturbing.
The particular trope that annoys me is promiscuity. All too often I read a book description that begins with the heroine seeking her next one night stand. Hopping from bed to bed with a variety of partners is, apparently, not an issue. It's a character trait, like a nervous tic or a hot temper.
I beg to differ. Promiscuity is behavior and behavior can be controlled.
In a novel I recently read, the heroine is "neurodivergent" undergrad and has had a few sexual liaisons prior to the beginning of the story. She found them disappointing, using her past bed partners to scratch an itch rather than because she felt any affection toward them. It's an attitude and behavior in women (female characters) that I find as offensive in men (male characters). That kind of promiscuity is just people using each other to get their jollies. Such behavior and attitude reduce human characters to their base instincts and desires. Two wrongs don't make a right.
In that book, the heroine is powerfully attracted to her professor's teaching assistant. He returns her affection, but resists her attempts to seduce him because ... get this ... he's got integrity. When she questions him on his failure to succumb, he again points out that the power imbalance between them forbids intimacy and tells her, "It's called restraint."
Restraint is what's missing from too many of the characters in modern romance. That lack self-control shows a lack of respect for oneself and for others. It's a "do what feels good when it feels good" attitude with an expectation of zero consequences, no matter whom the action might hurt.
Which makes me wonder in such books as to why there's always surprise when someone gets pregnant. Really? You haven't figured out that's how babies are made?
That, of course, leads me to the next annoyance: the "secret baby" trope. Of course, it usually occurs after a single encounter, a passionate one night stand. Often the resulting single mother is struggling financially but won't contact the baby daddy for financial assistance. In reality, this is stupid. There's no determination by the mother to ensure the father takes responsibility for his part in creating that baby.
Yes, I understand the trope is the catalyst for getting the bed-hopping parents back together for a happily-ever-after ending, but I don't understand the heroine's reluctance to force the hero to admit to the consequences of their promiscuity.
Like I said: I'm old-fashioned.
In my books, sexual relationships occur within committed relationships or at least where there's affection. Sex is far too intimate an act to be casual and dismissed as without consequence, even if it doesn't result in pregnancy. It smacks of believing oneself unworthy of commitment or a deeper relationship: one is only good for temporary amusement. That's where the lack of self-respect comes into play. If you don't believe you deserve respect and courtesy, then you'll be content with poor treatment.
Gender equality doesn't give one gender leave to treat the other as a disposable convenience. It's reprehensible when men do that to women and just as bad when women treat men like that: without respect.
Perhaps we need a return to those old-fashioned values.
Jump onto any of the many freelancing platforms (e.g., Freelancer.com, Fiverr.com, Upwork.com) and you'll find a plethora of projects seeking freelance writers and editors, among other services. More than once, I've run across a "buyer request" that includes a statement to the effect that the potential client has reviewed similar projects on the platform and knows that the budget specified for the project is fair.
What that so-called research omits is that the published budgets for those projects are low-balled 99.99% of the time. They're unreasonable to begin with.
So, if you're in the market to hire a "creative" (I really dislike using that word as a noun), then here's what to expect and not to expect.
Expect a skilled writer with native fluency in the language used for the document. If you're publishing an article in Spanish, then find a native speaker of Spanish. Proficient fluency doesn't catch idioms and colloquialisms, which leaves the content sounding stilted, overwritten, and overly formal.
Ghostwriting, nonfiction especially, requires work beyond actually writing the content. It may involve literature research, interviews with subject matter experts, and more. That pre-writing work takes time, effort, and the good judgment to know what information is relevant and what's not.
Writing is a craft and well-written content demonstrates competence or even mastery of that craft. Competence and/or mastery comes from years of practice and effort. The value of this expertise is calculated into the ghostwriter's rates. Beginners with little experience deliver less value, because they're basically learning on the job. They charge entry level fees. Skilled writers are professionals and invoice for their compensation accordingly. If that's not clear enough, there are two excellent sources for professional writing and editing rates: the Editorial Freelancers Association and freelance platform nDash.
These authoritarian resources show rates that may result in sticker shock. However, when it comes to writing, you get what you pay for.
Writers write content; editors refine content. That's the basic dividing line between the two. Editing may include some rewriting and revising of existing content, but it generally does not include wholesale creation of new content. That's what writers do. Editors improve existing content. That effort may entail reorganizing the sequence of paragraphs or sections and/or correcting grammar and readability errors. Different kinds of editors perform different tasks; some editors excel in more than one type of editing. Before hiring an editor, understand the kind of editing your document needs.
What an editor does not include in his or her services as part of editing is creation of new content or graphic design (e.g., cover art/design) or page layout. These tasks go beyond the scope of editing. An editor may have knowledge of document design and may offer suggestions for improvement. As with writing, it helps to hire an editor who's familiar with the topic or the genre, especially if you're looking for someone who will check facts for accuracy or who knows what works best with the target audience.
When an author hires an editor, the author does not receive a manuscript ready to publish. The author receives a manuscript that looks like the editor's red pen and yellow highlighter hemorrhaged all over it. The author is responsible for reviewing every single change and accepting it, rejecting it, or otherwise revising the content.
Authors should also understand that editing isn't usually a one-and-done process. Proper editing requires multiple passes through the manuscript, meaning the editor edits, the author reviews and revises, then the editor edits the manuscript again. Sometimes this cycle repeats several times, depending upon the extent of rewriting involved. The final round of the editing process is proofreading which detects and corrects those usually small errors that slipped through the cracks. Proofreading may occur before or after document formatting.
For an accurate range of rates charged by professionals, see the EFA link above.
Cover design differs from page layout, although graphic designers do both. Most writers and editors do not excel at graphic design and page layout, which pros execute using sophisticated software specifically intended for the task. Canva, Microsoft Word, and other programs don't make that cut. The necessary software isn't cheap and there's a steep learning curve to using it well.
Cover design concerns just that: the book's cover. Accurate calculations are required to ensure the correct size of the document. This task entails understanding the difference between light and pigment, the importance of resolution (and what it is), and various artistic techniques to alter images and text.
Page layout concerns everything between the covers and how the book appears when the reader opens it and turns each page. Choices in font and leading (i.e., line spacing) affect the readability of the content. Margin shift, image placement, and text wrapping must be accommodated. Page layout requires gut-level consistency throughout the document, regardless of how long that document runs.
Graphic designers consider how things look, not how they read. That means they are not responsible for typos and other content errors.
Follow the link for an accurate range of freelance graphic design rates.
As an independent author, you are responsible for the quality of the product you produce. Once you sign off a completed task, the vendor you hired is no longer responsible for any problems or flaws detected afterward. Many vendors, however, will do their best to accommodate after-completion requests for correction.
As an independent author, whether you want to publish a book or your business wants marketing collateral, you accept the responsibility and obligations of a traditional publishing company in the production of your material. That means the services a traditional publisher pays for either with in-house staff or hired contractors shift to you. You may have expertise in the above areas which may enable you to save a bit of money, but few people are skilled in all those tasks.
Don't do your book, newsletter, magazine, or other document a disservice because you don't want to spend money. If you want professional content, then be prepared to pay professional rates.
Underwriting the costs to pay for the publication of one's own story is an age-old practice. For the last few centuries, writers seeking to raise money or get their messages out have paid to reproduce their words for distribution. At its essence, publishing for one's own self is vanity publishing.
An entire industry devoted to publishing anything and everything, regardless of quality, style, or genre, covers both vanity publishing and self-publishing. In fact, the definition of a vanity press squarely hits self-publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, and others.
The key difference between a vanity press and self-publishing is transparency. There are other differences, too.
A vanity publisher will offer a publishing contract to an author agreeing to publish the author's work in exchange for a fee. That fee may or may not include a battery of services that a traditional publisher would use to produce a professional product: editing, proofreading, page formatting, cover design, copyright registration, ISBN registration. Online publishing platforms offer many of those services, such as templates for cover design and ISBNs. Vanity publishers, however, want to register the copyright to their ownership; the self-published author owns the copyright.
Vanity presses may suggest the fee being charged to the author as the author's share in the speculative investment that produces a book. What they fail to disclose is that not only do vanity presses make their profits from authors who pay their fees, but they also take the lion's share of royalties earned through book sales. Self-published authors--at least those who care to produce a professional product--pay editors, proofreaders, graphic artists, etc. to produce their books, but those vendors are open about how they make their living. They provide specified services for fees charged; they do not earn a share of those royalties.
Many vanity publishers promise to market and promote their authors' books. Those authors frequently report that marketing efforts depend entirely on them: the publishers made little or no effort to garner book sales. This is telling, because it shows that vanity presses don't make their money primarily from selling books (i.e., from royalties); they make their money from payments made by authors. A self-published author understands that book promotion and marketing is his or her responsibility. Those who have the time and inclination may do it themselves; others hire publicists and book promoters to take on that responsibility. A vanity publisher doesn't particularly care whether the book sells; they've got their money.
Unfortunately, that lack of marketing support has infected traditional publishers, too. They invest their marketing budgets into authors whose books they know will make a profit. That, of course, gives unknown and little known authors short shrift.
So, now that I've made the point to distinguish vanity presses from self-publishing, what's the difference between assisted publishing and vanity presses? After all, the author pays for the services provided for assisted publishing just as he or she would to self-publish or publish through a vanity press.
The difference, once again, is transparency. As a provider of assisted publishing, Hen House Publishing offers a menu of services for fees. The author retains control throughout the publishing process and pays for the services he or she wants. That may or may not include the actual publication process itself during which the book is uploaded to the author's preferred self-publishing platform. Here's the catch: the author keeps the copyright.
Why would an author opt for assisted publishing? As stated above, producing a book meeting professional standards entails skills that most authors don't possess and/or may not understand. Editing isn't the same as writing; proofreading isn't the same as editing. Page layout and cover design are similar, but not the same. Navigating the publication process requires a touch of marketing savvy helped by familiarity with the platform. These employ different skill sets that most people don't acquire, much less combine.
As a provider of assisted publishing, Hen House Publishing brings the needed skills, experience, and knowledge to the project. This shortens or even eliminates the author's learning curve while assuring a better quality book.
If you've written a book and seek to publish it, but don't know where to start or need help along the publishing process, e-mail Hen House Publishing now. Or call (937) 964-5592. Let's talk about your project, what the publishing process entails, and what you need to produce that book.
Every word counts.