Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hiring a Qualified Book Editor

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?

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Sharing, Singing, Laughing, Writing

I returned from my first writer’s retreat filled with inspiration, motivation, a sense of accomplishment, and warm feelings. The retreat, which took place from Nov. 14-21, in historic Salem, MA, was intended as a reunion for those who attended the 2014 Writer Unboxed Un-Conference last November in Salem.

The John Edwards House, a rambling, three-story home built in 1846, was the site as 12 writers gathered for a week of writing, sharing, laughter, and cooking. My biggest takeaway was this: if you are going to attend a writer’s retreat, do it with people you already know. The comfort level  already established leads to deep conversations and uninhibited sharing.

Two common rooms became the headquarters for writing. Many of us arrived with specific goals, such as to write 10,000 words or to finish a work-in-progress. Most of us achieved our goals, but we got so much more out of this retreat.

The kitchen was the communal gathering place, where we shared our personal stories of life, love, loss, redemption, and pride in our achievements. There were heartwarming and heartwrenching moments. Fellow public policy junkie Gretchen Riddle and I even solved all the world’s problems over coffee each morning.

I had intended in this blog post to share with you some lessons and there were many. Among them were: set goals, take advantage of the opportunity to share with and learn from other writers, set aside specific times to check in with loved ones, and leave work behind. I didn’t do such a great job on the last one. 

More important than the lessons learned were the bonds of friendship, which were strengthened during the past seven days. We writers are a peculiar lot. Nobody really understands us except for other writers. The opportunity to engage in intense dialogue about our writer challenges with people who “get” us and to tap into deep emotions were the greatest benefits of the retreat.

One more lesson I learned, and it’s perhaps the greatest one, was not to miss the chance to have fun. We did readings one night, told stories, attended a reception at a colleague’s lovely home (thanks, Brunonia Barry), and even had a sing-along one evening capped by an epic renditon of Bohemian Rhapsody by Amy Rachiele and Theresa Guzman Stokes. Our voices may not have been ready for prime time, but the fine guitar work by Sean Walsh and Lancelot Schaubert made us sound passable.

 The point of a writer’s retreat is to get writing done, but you are missing out if you do not take full advantage of the opportunity to commune with other writers. 

I want to thank everyone who attended and especially Therese and Sean Walsh and Heather Webb for their organizational work. I can’t wait for the 2016 Writer Unboxed Un-Conference.

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