Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ian Kezsbom talks about editing independent books

by Ian Kezsbom
There has been a lot of talk, especially with the recent Department of Justice lawsuit against traditional publishing houses, about the lack of quality books that will appear were we to move entirely to an independent/self-publishing model. Indeed, in my limited research of the independent book world, there are a vast number of books that are almost unreadable – either because of poor storytelling, poor copy-editing, or both. It’s a shame, but it’s to be expected when a creative industry that once had restraints on who could publish has had those restraints demolished. As a film and television editor by day, I’ve seen this in my industry as well. At one time the ability to picture edit required heavy machinery that the public didn’t have access to. Then, as technology changed, it required computer systems that were too expensive for most people. But today, most computers ship with some sort of digital non-linear editor – and suddenly everyone believes they can edit a film. However, picture editing is an art first and foremost – and just having the technological tools does not make one a picture editor. Years of practice, hard-work, and developing one’s talent does; the film and television industry realizes this, which is why those picture editors who have worked hard on their craft continue to work, even in the face of more “competition.” Writing is the same. Anyone can publish a book for little or no cost with nothing more than a word processor. And, sadly, many people have without first studying and learning the craft. So, I agree, in a solely independent world, that the number of poorly-edited and poorly-written books will continue to increase – and likely drastically. However, and this is the important part, I don’t believe the number of well-edited and well-written books will decrease. At the very least it will remain the same as before the independent publishing revolution, and the hope is it will increase. Why? Because those writers who have spent the time working on their craft will spend the same amount of time professionally polishing their books. And eventually those books will rise to the top. “Journeys of Wonder” ( came about because I was looking for a new outlet for my and my fellow writer’s short stories, while I continued to pursue traditional contracts for my novels. My goal, then, in creating “Journeys of Wonder” was two-fold: 1) to create an entertaining and professionally written and edited anthology of short stories and 2) to do it for as little cost as possible. To do this, I put together a team of people with varied skills. With my background in computer science, I handled the eBook formatting. In addition, my ten years of work in picture editing certainly helped with story and content editing. My wife, Deborah Pasachoff, formerly a proof reader for Houghton Mifflin, who has copy edited non-fiction books for years, stepped in as our copy-editor. We also hired, for a small sum, the talented artist Matt Filer ( to do our cover. Finally, and most importantly, we used the authors themselves as editors. Lisa Gail Green (, Leslie S. Rose (, as well as Sarah Lynn ( - who didn’t have a story in the first volume) all stepped in to work as editors for each other’s work. What we did was institute a series of editing phases. All the people involved had some degree of editing knowledge from years of working on their writing, critiquing others, and/or from being published traditionally.  The five of us would take each story and work in these three phases: 1) We did a pass where we discussed what was working and what wasn’t on a large scale level. Once the author revised and the story was in a place we liked (this often took multiple passes), we moved on to stage 2. 2) With the stories themselves in good shape, we focused on specific line editing and sentence structure. Here again, some stories went through multiple passes until we felt they flowed well and were enjoyable to read. 3) Finally,once the stories were “locked” they headed to copy-editing and proof-reading. As before, the stories all went through multiple passes until we felt they looked as professional as possible. Did this method work? I think so. By having multiple editors working on a story, each editor was able to find and solve issues another editor might have missed. In addition, by taking the time to do multiple passes we were able to truly examine the stories and make them as strong as possible. If this sounds like it wasn’t a quick process, it wasn’t. “Journeys of Wonder, Volume 1” is an 88-page anthology. It took about four months to produce. That’s right, four months for just 88 pages. 90% of that time focused on the editing (with most of the other 10% spent learning about the formatting for different kindle devices/applications), and I believe it shows. Everyone who worked on the book is incredibly proud of the finished product. And by working in this fashion we were able to produce the book for under $100 (this figure does not include marketing). What does this mean to other independent authors? It’s absolutely possible to make a professionally edited book, but it takes a serious commitment of time and effort from the author. However, regardless of whether the future of publishing stays with the traditional model or moves to an independent model (and I believe there is a place for both) there will always be authors who care about their work. And, because of that, there will always be professionally-made content no matter what the future holds.
Check out the book collections that Ian has helped organize:  Journeys of Wonder Volume 1 and Volume 2.


  1. I think this is an immensely valuable post! The industry is evolving, but people quickly pushing through stories that are 75% done just because they can is going to dilute the market, and forever mar their reputations as writers.

    For my second novel, I paid $500 for a professional edit. I have not yet recouped the cost, but I am proud of what I put out there, and so it was worth every penny.

  2. Thanks mmshaunkelley. I think we're entering a really exciting time for publishing - and it's good to know that there are others that care about their work as much as we do ours.

  3. Well said, Ian. I'm very honored to be a part of Journeys of Wonder because of its commitment to quality.

  4. Thanks, Leslie. As always we are happy to have you!

  5. Great post, Ian!
    Having been a part of your project with an editorial hat, I had the honor to watch your team work. What struck me as particularly valuable was the teamwork aspect-- each writer working both together and individually to hone and fine tune their project. Each writer had to stretch and struggle through the process of incorporating input from multiple editors, in order to come up with a final product polished enough to be published. It also allowed for all members of the team to help promote through their various venues.
    Well done!

  6. I haven't gotten around to reading the second installment yet, but it seems to me that the process works very well based on the first book.