In our last post before a well-earned Christmas break, I’m delighted to welcome Ashley R. Carlson who I met through my adventures on Wattpad. As well as being a fabulous writer and award winning author, Ashley is also an editor and ghostwriter and she’s joining us to share some insights on making sure you’ve got the right editor working for you. Over to Ashley…
When you’re an indie author (and even sometimes with a small press), you have the ability to choose your own editor. This can be an exciting task or a daunting one, especially if you’re new to publishing. As an indie author myself and Head Editor for my company Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services as well as Midnight Publishing, I have personally heard and seen how some editing/writing collaborations soar, while others flounder—and I think it’s because an individual hasn’t followed this checklist. Here are my top five tips on what you must focus on when selecting the right editor for your book:
- Pick the right editor for what your manuscript needs
How many drafts have you written? One? Two? Ten? How many beta readers have already read the manuscript and given you their feedback, to which you’ve tweaked and revised it? If your answers to the above questions are “one/two” and “none/a few,” then you may need developmental editing. Developmental editing is an analysis of your story as a whole—the plot, character, world building, etc. It is not fixing grammar. It is looking at the fundamental building blocks of your book, and offering suggestions or highlighting issues with things like flat dialogue, clichéd characters, confusing scenes, parts that drag, and more. If you’ve not had several people read your book yet to point out these issues or you want a professional’s input, then consider this type of editing.
The next option is copyediting—sometimes combined with line editing, sometimes not—which does analyze the book’s sentence structure, verbiage, use of repeat words, etc. Copyediting also looks at continuity: ensuring facts and statements remain static throughout the manuscript (the character’s eyes do not go from “blue” to “green” halfway through, let’s say). Line editing is at times offered separately, as I mentioned earlier, and is a “less intensive” analysis of the things copyediting also looks at. It may be offered by an editor at a cheaper price, and is a great option if your manuscript is very clean.
For those with the cleanest of manuscripts, ones that have been through three or more drafts and are devoid of most errors, is proofreading. This is the final step before publication, when an editor (or “proofreader”) is looking for any final grammatical, punctuation or spelling errors before going to press. Proofreading is essential before publication to ensure a near-perfect manuscript; copyediting is not proofreading. Though copy editors do their best to find and fix all errors, it is not proofreading, and a separate final proofread should take place.
- Certain editors specialize in certain genres
Some editors work in fiction, some in non-fiction. Depending on the type of editing you want, you will want to select an editor who best suits your needs—aka, don’t pick an editor who specializes in cookbooks to developmentally edit your science fiction novel. Now, if you want a great copyedit that focuses strongly on continuity for your fiction, a non-fiction editor may be a good choice due to their experience dealing with historical facts, data, etc. But normally those who specialize in certain genres do not stray far from those genres—and steer clear of those who say they do.
Because editing is a subjective field, there isn’t one “set” type of education for an editor, though a college or university degree in English, journalism or creative writing is a good start. Previous work in other publishing fields, experience with traditional publishers and involvement with editing organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Copy Editors Society serve to support an editor’s resume. Keep in mind, however, that with experience comes a price: those who are newer in the field may charge around $20 to $60 an hour, while those freelancers with a long list of past clients (and publishers) can charge more than $160 an hour.
- Utilizing a free sample
All editors should be able to deliver on their claims, right? It’s absolutely fair for you to expect and request a free sample edit of your work. Utopia Editing & Ghostwriting Services offers an edit of the first 1,000 words, while other editors I’ve come across offer the first five pages edited. Be sure to utilize this edit and get a dialogue going regarding what an editor can offer you. Do they offer two versions—a “track changes” version with their comments included, and a clean edit with all changes accepted? Do they offer a separate summary? What level of work do they put into it? Do you feel that their comments and changes are relevant, useful and constructive? Do they edit in both Chicago Manual and AP Style? (**These are both U.S. style guides—obviously this will change for your prospective country, like Oxford Style/Hart’s Rules in the UK.) Do they have a specific style guide they utilize that is personal to them? All of these questions should be asked by you before signing a contract, and answered by them to your satisfaction.
- Do you get along?
This is going to be determined by your interactions early on. Does this person seem polite? Gracious? Do they seem like someone who won’t beat around the bush and will tell you like it is? Do you feel like they understand your vision, and are passionate about helping you to achieve it to the best of your abilities? Your editor is going to be the one person along the way to publishing who will be your confidante, your coach and the source of constructive criticism. You want to make sure that they’re a fun person who just “gets” you.
Good luck, and I’m always here to bounce ideas off of! Many thanks to The Write Romantics for hosting me on this wonderful website! I’m honored to have been invited.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Ashley. As I mentioned earlier, Ashley is also an award winning writer and you can read my review of her fabulous debut novel, The Charismatics here
Have a great weekend! Alys xx