Sorry, my Saturday post disappeared in the agony of trying to decide what I was going to do about editing for Reckless Rebellion, so I figured that I could at least use the experience to write a post! From my (very small) pool of experience, I thought I'd share some tips on how to choose an editor.
Since the advent of self publishing, there has been a huge number of editors offering their services with a varied range of experience, price, attention to detail, and style. Finding and then choosing one isn't always easy, and can be very daunting the first time.
1. Decide what sort of editing help you need
All editing is not created equal. Editing types range all the way from content/developmental edits, which will give you a general idea of where your story is strong and where it is weak. I usually start with this kind of editing. On the other end of the scale, is proofreading, which only picks up obvious spelling and grammar mistakes. In between, you can get various forms of line and copyediting, and I'm not completely sure of the difference! Most editors will tell you what services they offer, and the different prices they charge for each service. Some will offer a mix of styles.
Once you know what sort of editing you need, you will be able to ensure that the editor you choose can do the things you need to improve your story. You may need more than one editor/edit pass on your book. I usually have two, a developmental/story edit, then a copy/line edit.
2. Don't just use Google to search for ‘editors'
Yes, if you do this you will get a LOT of search results. And the ones up the top will be the most popular, most expensive, and probably booked months in advance. If you have the money to spare, by all means, pick the best! If you're like me, and on a budget, this will probably just discourage you.
Turn away from Google, and head for your favourite writing forum. NaNoWriMo, Goodreads, Kboards, World Lit Café, the official Kindle boards, and many others, all have boards where people can advertise their skills, and you will find many posts with people offering their editing services. If you can't find one, start one to ask for recommendations! You should be able to quickly build lists of edits that are suitable, and hopefully some that are in your price range.
Which brings me to my next tip:
3. Know your budget
Before you choose an editor, or even before you look at too many, you need to decide how much can you afford to spend on editing. Be realistic. If this is your first, or even your second book, don't decide how much to spend based on how much you're hoping to earn! (Unless your first book sold thousands of copies, in which case, ignore me and go write more books!) The reality is, that a $2,000 editor probably isn't going to mean you earn an extra $2,000 on your book! Editing is important, but it doesn't sell books on it's own (cover and story are far more effective at this).
Once you have an idea of your budget, stick to it. The first thing I look for when I go to an editors webpage is the price section. If it's out of my budget, I close the page and go on to the next one. If they don't tell me what their price is, I do the same, because it's almost certain to be out of my price range! Generally I have a range – what I'd like to spend, and what I'm prepared to spend if I find an editor I just love.
Editors charge in different ways. Some (very few) will list prices for certain word counts, some will offer a price per page, and some will offer an hourly rate. If the price is per page, make sure you ask the editor what constitutes a page, as this varies! Some count 500 words as a page, other's just count pages, but when your manuscript has certain margins, font size and line spacing. Work out how much your whole manuscript will cost before you commit.
4. Consider your timeframe
When I first started looking at editors, I was surprised at how quickly they booked out. Many are booked out months in advance! If you're trying to find an editor at the last minute, be prepared to either pay a lot more than you wanted to, or to make do with an editor who wouldn't be your first choice. The earlier you can book an editor, the better.
Of course, this never works for me, because I'm just not good at figuring out how long it will take me to get my book to the point where I need an editor. I'm hoping I'll get better at this with more books/editing experiences under my belt. This often means I'm having to choose between working with the editor I want, and getting my book out in the timeframe I want.
5. Ask the editor if they will do a sample edit
I cannot stress this enough! Before you hire any editor, they should be prepared to edit a sample of your actual novel for you. Actually, you should ask three or four editors for a sample edit before you make a choice.
This will give you an idea of what sort of things they will be looking at, how many issues they pick up, and whether their style meshes with yours.
6. Be aware that it will hurt
Editing is tough. You don't want an editor who will sugar coat the changes you need to make, and no matter how good you think you are, an editor will find things you need to change! Every time I get an edit back, even a sample one, it hurts. I have to take a couple of days to go over the changes, and think about them, before I'm ready to make a decision. Don't rush it. Let the hurt pass, and don't pick the editor who makes you feel good, pick the one who will make your book the best it can be!
Have you ever had to pick an editor? Do you have any tips to share with us?
I go with recommendations. The last editor I used — for an evaluation, not line by line — was recommended by another editor who was recommended by a writing friend. The first editor had a waiting list and couldn’t look at the manuscript for another three months, so she recommended someone else. Yes, finding the right editor is very important — for example a science fiction editor may not be suited to read historical fiction.
Yes, recommendations, if you can get them, are very handy!
#3…”Editing is important, but it doesn’t sell books on IT’S own” – ????
Do you need an editor, too? 🙂
I never denied that I did. I always have my book edited for just this reason, that it’s impossible to catch every error.
With content/development editing don’t forget to source an editor who works with your genre.
Sounds obvious but people forget that and end up shocked with the changes that are suggested. Different genres have different conventions.
Good point Alexandra. I always check what genres editors work in. An editor who knows the conventions of your genre can help a lot, and you need to be aware that some editors won’t work with particular genres. (Finding one for erotica can be quite hard, from what I’ve seen.)
This is such great advice, and I’m so glad to see it out there! I think this is one of the more mysterious parts of writing/self-pub, and writers rarely get the chance to talk to many editors or see the editing process before they commit to it. I’d add that picking an editor for your work is often a very personal thing–find the one who “gets” your style and your work–and who works in a way that’s positive and constructive for you. Yes, it can be a bit painful in the best of cases–none of us like to have our “babies” critiqued–but I think it’s crucial that an editor respect the author’s voice and intention, rather than trying to impose his or her own, or some template of a genre. Your sample-edit advice is invaluable to this end–ask for it when you are considering an editor, and yes, get multiple ones so you have an idea of the way different editors work. We want our working relationship to be a good “fit” as much as you do! It’s not productive otherwise. And yes, most reputable editors book out at least a month or two in advance, so don’t hesitate to contact one before you’re quite ready, so you can line up your first choice for when you are. Finally, I’d add one last resource for finding a good editor–the Editorial Freelancers Association has a listing available to anyone where you can browse (http://www.the-efa.org/dir/search.php). Often this offers links to Web sites so you can see what types of edit an editor does, what genres he/she specializes in, rates, etc. Editing is a big investment, and an intimate working relationship–take time to find the right editor for you. And if it’s financially out of reach, don’t despair–often the right critique group or partner can be invaluable in fine-tuning your manuscript from a developmental standpoint, and many editors offer various types of edit in several price ranges that may help, even if you can’t commit to the full Monty.
Yes, I had NO idea what to expect when I first started contacting editors. The samples gave me a bit of an idea, and this time I’m (hopefully) a little more prepared.
This is one of the best articles I’ve read about finding an editor! Thank you!
I’m glad it was helpful!
As an editor myself, I would like to comment on tip #3. I do not post my rates on my website for the simple reason that I prefer to see the manuscript first so I can determine the level of editing and amount of effort I believe would most do it justice. Each manuscript (like each author) is unique, and each one requires a different amount of effort. One size does not fit all in editing.
Also, the industry standard page is 250 words. Most editors I know use this standard if they quote a per-page rate.
Thanks for commenting Sarah. It’s good to know an editors reasons for not listing an editing price.
Yes, 250 pages is a standard I’ve seen in many places. However, I’ve also had quotes based on actual pages set at a specific font size and line spacing, so I think it’s never good to assume.
Yes, overall this is a good post. As an editor I would like to address #5: “Ask the editor if they will do a sample edit… Before you hire any editor, they should be prepared to edit a sample of your actual novel for you.”
Keep in mind that editors are running a business and completing a thorough “sample edit” can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on how big the sample is, word count, etc. This work is not for free. It’s understandable that writers may be on a tight budget but expect to pay $25-$100 for a sample. Whether you go with that editor, you, the writer have now received valuable information that you presumably will use so be prepared to compensate the editor. Don’t forget that editors are writers too and we want to see you succeed.
I’ve done both. Most editors I’ve seen are happy to edit a few thousand words as a free sample. I have paid for a sample edit once, but it was much longer, and yes, I definitely learnt a lot from it.
That said, a sample edit is a good idea for editors too. It gives them a chance to check that the work is at a sufficient level to be edited. I’ve spoken with editor friends who have regretted skipping the sample, as the work was poorly formatted and needed far more work than they had expected.
A sample edit benefits both parties, and enables you to check that you can work together.
I hope that one day I will be looking for an editor for my book. For now, I’ve only worked with the Studybay editors when I needed to check my papers (essays, thesis, and dissertation). But I found a lot of common moments in your post.
#1 You are totally right that it is necessary to choose what type of editing help you need. Because, as you mentioned, there are services that help with proofreading and there are services that assist with editing. In my case, I needed someone who would guide me and correct me in those moments where I was wrong.
#2 There are A LOT of services that can help students to edit their papers. And choosing the best for you is a very difficult task. But I can say that I was lucky enough to find a good service on my first try. I worked with Studybay 4 or 5 times, and all of those, thank God, were successful, and I was satisfied with the result.
#3 Yes, it is necessary to know your budget. And I think students are more lucky, because there are promo codes and other types of discounts when they choose the editing service. But as a book author, it will take a lot of work to find an editor on your budget.
#4 Yep, the sooner you find an editor before your deadline, the more effective the result will be.
#5-6 You know, I want to finish my book faster so that I can quickly plunge into this process of searching for the best editor, trying sample edits, knowing how it feels to be hurt by edits, etc.