I really like Barry Eisler. But Scribendi sucks.
No, I haven’t read any of his books. Except for Be the Monkey, which he co-wrote with Joe Konrath. I got a lot out of it, but if you’re not planning to produce fiction on at least a semi-pro level? Maybe you wouldn’t be interested.
I do plan to try his fiction, though. Eisler is a very smart guy & I’d like to see what he can do. (Aside from turning down a 1/2-mil 2-book contract in favor of self-publishing, though you might think that would be enough to justify my paying attention to the man.)
[UPDATE 1/7/13: I’ve read some of Eisler’s fiction now. It’s great! I’ve become a fan of John Rain.]
That led me to Eisler’s site, upon which I found this: “Scribendi offers high quality editing and proofreading, fast turnaround times, and affordable prices—all in a highly secure, confidential environment.”
Cool! So a while back I decided to try them out. Here’s the version of Pagan Sex‘s opening paragraphs I sent to Scribendi for a free sample of their editing services:
Freddy Shackleton stumped around a corner of the “B” building. Chest pains, smoke from the dump fires, the Young Gadjo sneering at him and swaggering like a boy who’d never been laid—was this why he had come to America?
No. Obviously it was to fix dishwashers. Freddy waited for the idiot boy to open the resident’s apartment door. Fifteen years in the job, fixing anything that broke, stretching the owner’s dollars till they screamed, and Freddy still didn’t get access to the apartment keys on his own. Who trusts a Gypsy? Naturally he had made a duplicate of the key to their cabinet just in case he needed them someday. But it was offensive. Fifteen years.
And here’s their improved version:
Freddy Shackleton stumbled around a corner of the “B” building. He was focused on the pains in his chest, the smoke from the dump fires, and the young gadjo sneering at him, swaggering like a boy who’d never been laid—was this why he had come to America?
No. Obviously it was to fix dishwashers. Freddy waited for the idiot boy to open the door of a resident’s apartment. He still didn’t have access to the apartment keys after fifteen years on the job, fixing anything that broke, stretching the owner’s dollars till they screamed. Who trusts a gypsy? Naturally, he had made a duplicate of the key to the key cabinet just in case he needed them someday. But it was offensive. Fifteen years.
(This went on for four or five pages, but I think you get the gist of it already. Don’t you?)
Seriously? I realize this was just one editor, and I have no idea how many are employed by or otherwise associated with Scribendi. But this reads as if produced by a moderately talented third-grader. Aside from weird passive construction, goofy non-parallelism, arbitrary word choices that change the meaning of my sentences, repetition that “sounds” awkward, issues with pronoun clarity, and gratuitous reduction of the “Young Gadjo” title to a generic reference, I have to ask: what was the goal here?
My further claim is that there were grammatical goofs in the extended bits, too, but that doesn’t mean you should have to read them. If you don’t believe me, I’ll send you the whole thing. Okay? Plus, “on” the job only works for certain sorts of positions. And I capitalized “Gypsy” for the same reason others capitalize “Native American.” Or “Indian” for that matter. For chrissake. (Which I didn’t capitalize…heh. Sue me.)
This editor-person went on to recommend that I pay several hundred dollars more for a full-book treatment on the grounds that a copy edit would NOT be enough (all-caps duplicated from original). This, I was told, would increase my chances of publication.
There were further comments on formatting issues…even though I’d explained upon submission that the actual document resided in Scrivener, and this was just a Microsoft Word format export. [UPDATE: Oops, that was from another source; I got ’em mixed up.] Oh, and that I’ll be publishing it myself.
So I guess that answers my question about the underlying goal of the exercise: I was supposed to be chastened, buffaloed, and willing to pay them to save me.
Scribendi? They suck. (Did you notice that the company was singular in the title but is plural here? If they’d called my attention to that sort of goof, I’d have appreciated it.)
Though if anyone out there has had good experiences with them, I’d like to hear about it. In spite of my 15+ attempts, so far all my searching for an editor who can actually improve a manuscript has been in vain.