When I started writing ten years ago, I had no idea where to go or who to turn to when it came to the editing process.
Over the course of writing my first book and meeting other writers, I knew there were several options available to me, but as the story goes for most novices, I didn’t have a good grasp on how to find the best person for the job, so I began my search online and I was blown away by the results.
There were literally hundreds of editing agencies to choose from, all of which offered different services and different price ranges. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement, but I knew I needed an editor to review my manuscript before I began the querying process, so I dove into the search results, hoping to find a good, affordable editor.
What happened next took me by surprise.
After careful consideration, I selected an editor who I thought would be a great fit, but when I received my manuscript back from her, I was dumbfounded by her blatantly rude commentary, which was not only unprofessional, but it also hurt my tender writer’s heart. Her feedback was so critical that I stepped away from writing for a couple of weeks afterward, so disheartened by the experience that I couldn’t bring myself to revise my manuscript.
Naturally, after a few more weeks of reflection, I got back on the proverbial horse and I got back to writing. Then I sent my manuscript to another editor. She was awesome, and it was through our relationship that I finally understood that writers need to shop around to find their perfect editor. That first woman I worked with may have been the best editor in the industry, but she wasn’t the best editor for me, and that’s all right!
Over the years, I’ve found that a lot of new authors feel as though they’re locked into an author-editor relationship even when they’re unsatisfied with the feedback they’re receiving. I’m here to tell you that should never be the case.
The author-editor relationship is one of the most important unions you’ll have during your writing journey, so shop around and speak up!
Just because you hire someone doesn’t mean you have to stick with them. Instead, if you find yourself unhappy with their services, make a careful assessment of why you feel that way, as one of the most difficult parts of the editing process is learning the best ways to receive constructive criticism, and then move on to another editor.
As for my personal journey, it took me a while to find the right editor, and unfortunately, along the way, I discovered that there are folks out there who ask for a lot of money but offer little in return.
It can be a murky road to traverse, so here are some valuable tips I learned along the way:
1. Shop Around
There are hundreds of editorial agencies, so do your research. Compare prices and services offered. Some agencies may charge more because they have previously worked with well-known authors, but that isn’t to say they will make the best editor for you.
If you can’t afford the cost that is usually associated with these agencies, try newer, smaller ones that are just getting established. Many times, these agencies have talented editors who are beginning their careers, so they may have the expertise and affordability you’re seeking.
In the beginning of my writing journey, I didn’t think I had the right to question anyone’s authority. I was, after all, a student learning a trade, and so I didn’t feel comfortable opening up an earnest line of communication with my editor, but that’s exactly what I should have done and what I encourage every writer to do now.
Don’t just shop and settle for an editor. Open an avenue of communication so you can learn his or her editing style. Ask about the services they offer (i.e., copy editing, developmental editing, or line editing) and ask about other things too, like turnaround times.
Before signing a contract with an editor, let him or her know exactly what you’re looking for. Be honest in where you feel your manuscript is and where you’d like to see it go. This part is often difficult for novice authors because in the beginning of their careers authors have a way of seeing their work through rose-colored glasses, so if you aren’t entirely sure what you think is best for your manuscript, be honest with yourself and with your editor.
Some things to consider are if you want to self-publish right away (in which case, you’re undoubtedly looking for a copy editor) or if you’re more open to taking your time so you have a fully polished piece to send out to agents (in which case, a beta read or developmental edit may work best). Talk to your prospective editor about this up front so they can help guide you in the right direction.
Once you’ve found an editor who seems like the best fit and you know the direction you want to take your project, open up an honest avenue of communication. Ask all the hard questions. What type of editing do they specialize in? Do they have experience working with novice or seasoned writers?
You’ll also want to take this opportunity to get the logistics out of the way as well. Are you emailing your documents to the editor who will later return them in the same manner, or is there a print and mailing fee? Will there be an actual face-to-face discussion (usually conducted online), or will everything regarding your project be done via email? Once these important questions are resolved, you can safely move onto the final stage of hiring an editor…
5. The Trial Run
Over the years I’ve found that to ensure you’re hiring the right person for the job, you should conduct a bit of a test drive. What I mean by that is to talk to the editor about the possibility of a free consultation to review a sample of your writing.
Naturally, because the editor will provide this service free of charge, I recommend sending in the first five pages or 2,500 words of your project. I’ve found that this sample size works best to give the editor an opportunity to make an honest assessment of your work and in return, it allows the writer to learn the editor’s style. When both parties are happy with the end results, each will have peace of mind as they move forward with the editing process.
6. The Takeaway
After signing your contract, you and your editor should establish soft deadlines so the editor has adequate time to review your manuscript. In the meantime, your editor should keep you up to date on his or her progress, and when you receive the final critiqued draft, all the tracked changes and comments should be insightful, informative, and clear.
If at any time you feel that something needs clarification, the professional relationship you’ve developed with your editor will make it easy to address any questions and concerns, and when you’ve completed the necessary revisions, you should be left with a fully polished, ready-to-move-forward manuscript!