Happy Friday, friends! I have a very special treat for you today. My fellow indie author and sweet friend, Sarina Langer, has written up some great tips for anyone looking for an editor. As both a writer and a professional editor, she knows what it's like to be on both sides of that proverbial desk. I also know from personal experience just how stressful this process can be, having hired a new editor just recently, so I think the information below will be a huge help to all our fellow writers out there.
Just the word ‘editing’ makes many writers feel a chill on their spines.
When I was working on my own debut novel, I had no idea what to do or what to expect.
An editor would charge me thousands, surely? How could I possibly afford that?
What would it be like, working with someone professional to pick apart my spelling?
Editing your own WIP is notoriously hard to do, but an editor can help and add a huge amount of value to your book. You never know what an editor might find--would you believe my character’s horse changed gender halfway through and silly me didn’t realise?
It’s so easy to miss little things like that, or even bigger issues like paradoxes.
Many new writers don’t want to hire an editor for various reasons. They’re worried it’ll be too expensive. They don’t want anyone changing their book. They’re convinced they can do it themselves.
(I mentioned the horse’s accidental sex change, right?)
Most of all, they don’t want anyone to change the soul of their stories.
Allow me to put your fears at rest and answer some of the above questions.
What does an editor do?
I had no idea what I was in for when I worked on Rise of the Sparrows. I knew there were different types of edit, but I didn’t know which one I needed, or what each would do for my book.
Let me save you the confusion:
When an editor does a developmental edit (sometimes known as a content edit), they look at your story’s overall structure. Are there any plot holes? Paradoxes? Is a character pregnant for eleven months? Was it the middle of winter at the start of the chapter, but sunny summer by the end?
Are you telling when you should be showing?
It’s the most time-consuming (and most expensive) edit you can pay for, but it will also change your book in the biggest way.
It won’t turn your WIP into something you’re no longer proud of. Plot issues are the hardest to find yourself, but easy to spot for your editor.
Editors have your book’s best interest at heart (if you pardon the cliché), same as you.
During a line edit (sometimes known as a copy edit), the editor looks at your individual paragraphs and sentences. If there are any unnecessary words or repetitions, they die here. If any paragraphs are too long, they split here.
What the editor doesn’t do is change your voice. This means that, if we come across a sentence we’d phrase differently but which is grammatically and structurally sound, we won’t touch it.
When the editor does a proofread, they look at minor issues like spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. It’s the last edit you’ll do before you publish your book, and the cheapest.
Anything the editor flags up at this stage needs to be changed since we’re looking for actual errors. It’s the fastest edit to apply since you don’t need to think about how to add that scene, or how to rephrase this sentence.
I can’t speak for all editors, but I include a line edit and proofread in the developmental edit, and a proofread is included in the line edit. Many editors do the same thing.
We take your book apart to help you.
If your editor tells you that a character needs to be cut or made relevant, it’s not because we don’t respect your time or don’t like the character. It’s because the character doesn’t add anything to the story.
If your editor tells you that the entire first half needs to be rewritten because nothing happens, it’s not because they are being mean to you. They’re doing it to save your plot and make your story more exciting.
We’re on your side. We don’t take away your individuality. All final decisions are yours--all we can do is advise based on our experience and knowledge.
Sometimes, the things we love the most are the ones we need to get rid of. If a scene you’re proud of needs to go, it needs to go.
Tip: If you cut something you love, save it in a separate folder. Just because it didn’t work with this WIP doesn’t mean it won’t be useful for another!
Editing takes time.
If you want your 100K manuscript edited in one week, expect the quality to suffer. Some editors will charge extra if you book them last-minute while others will refuse, so you’re not doing yourself a favour no matter how you look at it.
Book the editor you want in advance, and accept that it’ll take time. The shape your WIP is in will dictate how long your editor will need. Your 100K draft might not have any paradoxes while someone else’s 100K draft might be riddled with them. Guess which one will be faster to fix?
It’s a good idea to edit your draft once before you hire an editor.
You’ll spot so much yourself the first time you re-read everything, and will already be able to fix a lot of the mistakes.
Why pay an editor for something you can do yourself? If it’s obvious to you that your first chapter needs to go, don’t wait for an editor to say so.
Fix what you can, and then hire an editor. You’ll get a lot more out of it.
If you’re not confident that you’ll be able to make a positive difference on your own, there’s no harm in sending us a first draft. However, I do recommend you try.
Your editor doesn’t have to live in the same country as you.
I live in the UK and write British English, but I’m happy to edit your book in American English and have done so for several authors. My own editor is American, but edits my books in British English.
Most of us are flexible like that, so don’t worry if the editor of your choice lives abroad.
Request a sample edit.
Many editors offer a free sample edit--usually of one or two pages--so you can make sure they are the right editor for you. It’s a good way to get a feel for what an edit actually entails, too!
If you want to make sure you’ve found the right editor, a sample edit can set your mind at ease. If you’re not sure what type of edit your book needs, the editor can advise you.
I requested a sample edit when I first contacted my own editor, and it made my decision so much easier!
If the editor you like doesn’t state on their website that they offer this option, ask anyway. It’s little effort for peace of mind on your end, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask of the editor.
Editing isn’t cheap, but might not be as expensive as you fear.
When I booked my editor for my debut novel, I was scared it would cost me thousands of pounds--and all I wanted was a proofread!
I was surprised (and ecstatic) to hear that a proofread wasn’t going to break my bank.
But, friends, you won’t get a full developmental edit with line edit and proofread included for £100, either. Editing takes time, never mind a lot of effort and co-operation. Your editor helps you polish your book until it’s the best version it can be, so please don’t expect to pay £100 max.
No editor proud of their skills or serious about their business is going to charge pennies for something that will take months.
Editors are human, not machines.
‘Well, duh!’ I hear you say. But I once saw a tweet by another author who wasn’t happy that her editor was at the beach one Saturday. How dare her editor take a weekend off when the work wasn’t done?
We’re human, friends, just like you. We need breaks. We’re allowed weekends.
I assure you we’ll give your book the attention it deserves. We’ll work hard for you, but everyone needs a break eventually.
There’s this idea that self-employed people need to work all the time. I’ve put myself under a lot of pressure before and have come close to burning out many times.
You don’t want to be the reason your editor is perma-exhausted.
Be considerate, accept that we won’t work on your manuscript 24/7, or don’t be surprised if your editor is fully booked months in advance next time you get in touch.
Talk to us if you’re unsure about anything.
If you’re worried you’ll be late paying, or that you can’t afford the full deposit, let us know. We do need you to pay us, of course, but shit happens. If for whatever reason your finances come up short one month, let us know.
Again, I can’t speak for all editors, but I’m happy to work something out if you’re struggling.
Getting your book edited is an essential step on your self-publishing journey. I’m not going to complicate things for you by not being flexible.
That extends to your draft, too. If there’s a specific scene or gap you’re unsure of, let us know and we’ll be aware of it when we get to it.
It’s a team effort.
Again, I can’t speak for all editors, but I work closely with my authors. This is your book, after all, and I can’t make sure we’re getting the most out of it if we don’t work together.
The final word is always yours. If you’re not convinced that a change we suggested is right for the book, get back to your editor and they’ll explain why they’ve made that suggestion.
It’s not a cold back and forth, but a partnership of sorts. This is why it’s so important you don’t hire any editor but the one that’s right for you.
Your book will be 99.8% error free.
Or thereabout. Even traditionally published books have some errors in them. This is normal. Sometimes, the author overlooks an error the editor flagged up and it gets missed that way.
We’re good at what we do, but we’re not machines (and even Word’s spell-check isn’t perfect!).
We will work our hardest to make sure your novel is the best version of itself it can be by the time we’re done. It’s rare that we miss an error, but it happens. No editor has a 100% success rate, and I’d be wary of the ones claiming that they do. It’s simply not possible.
All editors are different. Request a sample edit and find your editor. It’s okay to trial a few until you’ve found the right one. It’s okay to say no. I promise you, we know that we won’t get hired every time. It won’t ruin future chances, either--if you say no to me today I won’t blacklist you!
If there’s anything you’re still unsure of, please get in touch by leaving a comment here or contacting me directly. If you’d like to see what an editor can do for you, I’d love to do a sample edit of your WIP. Don’t forget, it doesn’t bind you to anything--you’re not obliged to hire me. If you’re curious or genuinely interested, get in touch.
Good luck with your WIPs and publishing dreams!
Sarina is the author of the Relics of Ar’Zac trilogy. The first book in the series, Rise of the Sparrows, was released in late May 2016. She’s currently working on Book 3 in the series and is editing Darkened Light, the first book in her new fantasy duology.
She’s obsessed with books and all things stationery, has a proud collection of over twenty notebooks, and squees every time she buys a new notebook, pens (hmmm, fountain pens 💗 ) or highlighters.
In her free time she reads fantasy and sci-fi novels, plays video games, and researches human sacrifice traditions and the end of the universe.
Thanks for reading!