About a year ago I ran into an old friend at a conference. We exchanged pleasantries and small talk, and I explained that I had spent the last year in London getting my Masters degree in writing. When he found out that I had worked for a publishing company in London as a copyeditor, he immediately grew excited and began describing his recent book project. He took down my information and we said goodbye.
A few months later he sent me an email that explained his book project in further detail, and I responded with my rates and an explanation about my services. To my surprise, his final email summarized, rather curtly, that he was not asking for my editing services, as he was a very good writer and very capable of editing his material. He attached a sample of his writing as if to prove his point. Instead he wanted me to pass on his manuscript to the publishing company I had worked for. He ended our correspondence by attempting a few personal jabs at my life as a "freelancer."
I refrained from responding to him because I didn't think it was my place. If I had, I would have informed him that he was misinformed about the book business. I believe that most people who want to publish a book educate themselves about the process. But apparently there are still some misconceptions. So here's my advice to anyone who wants to publish a book. First, (and this pertains mainly to nonfiction) don't spend a chunk of your life writing a book that won't sell. Study the market. Is there a need for your book? Are there similar books already on shelves? How are they selling? How does your book differ? Secondly, find an agent. In most situations you cannot send unsolicited manuscripts to an editor, even if you know them. Most publishers prefer to work through an agent. Finally, every writer needs an editor. Regardless if you're a good writer or not, you will not be able to see all of the content and grammatical and typo problems because you are too engrossed in your own work. In fact, books go through multiple stages of editing because one editor is not enough.
With that said, I'll shamelessly plug my new website for my copywriting and editing services! Even if you're not a writer or don't need any marketing or PR materials, you might know someone who needs it, or could visit just for kicks. It's fun to see what friends are up to on the net these days, right? :)