My manuscript is due back any day from my book editor. For authors who self-publish their work, I cannot stress enough the importance of investing in a book editor. Writers may view themselves as competent editors. I have more than 35 years of writing and editing experience and I would never edit my own work. Why? I’m too close to the novel to see its flaws. An outside review by an independent editor cannot help but improve a writer’s work.
So how does one find a competent editor? There are abundant resources on the internet, but I recommend talking to other writers. It’s impossible to vet the thousands of people out there who offer editing services. In my case, I found my editor by attending a Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA) conference in Hartford. Here are some questions to ask a prospective editor:
- What are the editor’s qualifications? Which authors has she edited? Ask for a resume or CV and a list of clients. Check out the editor’s website.
- What genres is the editor interested in? Is there a particular genre she specializes in? For example, I write family sagas. My stories are rooted in the real world. I’m not sure an editor who specializes in science fiction would be a good fit for me, though I could be wrong about that. For instance, my editor is a published poet (not my strong suit) and she has a wonderful feel for the rhythm and cadence of language.
- What are the editor’s fees? Make sure to get in writing the editor’s fees and when the writer can expect to receive the manuscript back with the edits.
- Would the editor be willing to edit a sample chapter for a mutually agreed upon fee? The sample will offer the writer some insight into the editor’s competence and thoroughness.
Once a writer selects an editor, it’s important to clarify and agree on the services the editor will provide to the writer. There are three levels of editing, which are discussed in this excellent post by renowned editor Victoria Mixon. A qualified editor should provide all three levels of edits:
- Copy editing: this kind of editing focuses on grammar and punctuation.
- Line editing: this type of editing focuses on the prose, which means paragraph structure, word choice, flow, and issues related to language. It also involves style, voice and readability.
- Developmental editing: this is the’big picture’ edit, which centers on the story telling. This includes plot structure, character development and motivation, theme, premise, pacing and tension.
An editor has an obligation to not only recommend edits, but to provide reasons for their suggestions. My editor will highlight a piece of text and leave copious comments in the margins, using the Track Changes function in Microsoft Word.
What can an author expect to pay for competent editing services? Writers should shop around. Some editors charge by the word, while others charge by the hour. If an editor charges by the hour, ask for a firm estimate on time spent per page. At any rate, expect to pay between $1,200 and $2,000 or more, depending on the editor’s qulifications and experience, for editing services on a 75,000-word manuscript.
For more on editors, author and blogger Joanna Penn has created this terrific resource page.
How do you go about finding a qualified book editor?