Imagine what it would be like if all freelance book editors were the same. Then you wouldn’t have to sift and sort through to figure out what the person does, and what it means to you.
But that’s not the way the editing world works these days.
We still have the 3 main types of editors, which follows the traditional model. Long ago, at least it seems that way now, although it’s only been 20 years or so, all editors worked for publishing houses. The acquisitions/developmental editors were the front line. Then came copy editors, and finally proofers.
Now, freelancers are a dime a dozen. And often, it’s tough for a writer to understand who does what.
I hear from writers weekly that they didn’t get the editing they thought they paid for.
Let me take a wild guess—it’s happened to you. I know, because again, I hear from folks literally all the time about it.
Copy editing and proofing are pretty self-explanatory, no? That’s what you need at the very end, to catch errors that your own eyes don’t see.
But all books need a deep developmental edit in the first place. Nothing—truly nothing—will take your book and your very career to the next level like working with a great editor.
And the services for such are also myriad.
Before you dive in, it’s imperative to ferret out what the editors you’re interviewing actually do, and what they don’t do, in the scope of their services.
So let me show you how to get clear before you’re out your time and money.
֎ First off, a real edit is very deep and comprehensive. Ask:
Do you delve into the arc of the storyline? Do you show me where it’s falling down, and needs to be shored up?
Do you give me instruction on how to make my characters more real?
Do you attend to the prose and the pacing and the organization and substance?
Those should be givens, but make sure.
֎ What follow-up does the editor provide?
This is all over the map, actually.
Often, you’ve purchased just the straight edit. But great books aren’t written in a vacuum. Nothing, literally nothing, takes a good writer and turns her into a great author like bouncing off of an astute editor.
The back and forth is gold. It keeps you on track. You learn so incredibly much more as you keep taking your writing higher and higher.
Make sure the editor offers the sort of mentoring you’re going to need.
֎ Do you get a second go-through once you’ve completed revisions?
A wonderful writer came to me not long ago, who had hired a freelance book editor on the advice of an agent. The initial edit went well. However not only did the editor not offer follow up, but when the revisions were done, to the writer’s horror, she found that she would have to pay again for the editor to even look at them.
Have I mentioned writing great books isn’t learned in a vacuum? Without the editor going over the manuscript again, no one knows if it’s ready to market.
֎ Is the editor connected to the real publishing world?
The point of this is two-fold:
- Your editor needs to know what actually sells to traditional publishers, and why. Even if your intent is to self-publish, the traditional models work for a reason. A tried-and-true reason. If your editor doesn’t know the ins and outs, you’re starting from 100 yards back.
- And if your goal is to traditionally publish (and that’s still far and away the gold standard), a connected editor can get your foot in the door with agents. And these days, that’s more important than just about anything.
By contrast, someone who isn’t connected may lead you down a very wrong road. And you may be years down it before you know the real score.
So while it’s always good to hire a freelance book editor, you need to know what you’re buying before giving your money, and far more importantly, your writing career, into someone’s hands.
Now you’re ready to ask the right questions, go out there and make that great book happen!