Is hiring a professional editor one of your New Year’s goals?
You’re finally ready to jump in, to go from being an aspiring writer into the world of successful authors. It’s a huge leap, but once you’ve mustered your courage, what a great vault over the learning curve working with an accomplished editor can (and should) be.
But how do you know where to turn? Where to look? How to find editorial services that are truly right for you? And to finally hone it down to that one great editor you’re going to work with?
You’ve probably heard stories of editing nightmares. I hear them almost every day. Writers tell me it began with a feeling of unease, which lead to major disappointment.
The thing is, finding the right “fit” for you is of vast importance. For your needs, for this specific book, and for your writing career.
Whomever you work with will have a huge impact on that career, and we want it to be positive!
Imagine what it would be like if you had a failsafe checklist. Here are the 7 most vital points to check off:
- Finish your draft.
That sounds like a no-brainer, right? But you’d be surprised how many writers jump into finding an editor before typing “The End.”
It can even seem reasonable to do so, no? Even if you’re not ready, you can (some even say should) start the hunt.
But what happens is that you prematurely jump into that other side of the brain. The analytical one. The sifting and sorting one. And most importantly—the one that brings up fear.
It’s the rare writer who comes to me with no trepidation of this process. As I often say when speaking at literary conferences: “We’re not selling bread dough here, but parts of your very heart and soul.”
And the last thing we want is for that fear to impact your creativity before the manuscript is finished.
Fear brings all sorts of pesky demons to the fore.
Now is not the time to deal with those—once you’re done with the initial creating, then we’ll deal with them. Together.
There’s an “editor” on virtually every street corner these days. Does that make one good? Successful?
How do you know if the person even knows what she’s doing?
Almost all editorial sites showt tons of testimonials. But from whom? Are these traditionally published authors, or self-published writers?
At first blush, this may seem not to matter, especially if you’re planning to self-publish. But by digging just under the surface, the differences become starkly apparent.
An editor who has verifiable book deals to her authors’ credit, has been vetted by the publishing industry. That means, she knows her stuff. Knows it well enough to have many successes in an extremely tough and demanding industry.
It means that other respected publishing professionals attest to her abilities.
As opposed to a litany of folks who self-published, and sold a total of 50 books to their friends and relatives.
Do any of these books make the bestseller’s list? Do they become award-winning books and authors?
Just get very clear about whom you’re working with.
- Interview the editor.
How long has the person been doing this? Duration, especially in this business, does matter. The best editors have been around a while, and know the ropes.
Does he know how publishing works, from the inside?
Even if you’re going to self-publish, the models from the traditional publishing world still play in the vast self-pubbed sea. That’s why they’re models. The specs of genres and categories matter, because that’s what readers of those expect. It’s not just a random word count, or the use or lack of sex and violence.
Traditional publishing is geared toward selling books.
And isn’t that what you want for yours?
Your point isn’t to create a new audience, but to plug into a huge already established one. A great editor will teach you how to do that as well.
- Find out exactly what you’ll get for your dollars and trust.
Because trust is a big component in this relationship.
Is this a clean-up edit only? I.e., grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. That’s copy editing.
Does the editor delve into characterization and plotting? Into organization and pacing? Into the arc of the storyline and how the characters move through that? Into the stylistic issues that cause the prose to sing? Into overall substance?
Will the editor go back and forth with you through revisions? Or does he send it back and say good luck?
Does she go over the revised manuscript again? If not, how do you know you succeeded in your revisions?
Does he help with finding the right literary agent, should you pursue traditional publishing?
The answers you seek are for your own unique personal needs. Knowing those answers will save you a ton of grief in the long run.
So many writers tell me they didn’t get what they thought they paid for. Don’t let that be you.
- Ask for references.
You want to contact successful authors the editor has worked with, and, other writers at different places in the process. One who’s in the midst of revision, and how that’s going. Perhaps another who has just begun the process.
This isn’t just to check up on the editor 🙂 But rather, to see if the way he works is a fit for you.
So many people come to me, referred by other writers and published book authors.
How another writer feels about working with a specific editor is gold for you.
- Don’t let cost be the deciding factor.
I hear folks screaming here! But real editing, with proven, successful editorial services, is expensive. As with anything, the cost is commensurate with the editor’s ability.
This is your baby we’re talking about. Would you clothe that baby in expensive designer clothing (the cover art, PR, marketing) when underneath lies a scrawny child, missing vital parts? Or would you work first to assure that baby is plump and healthy and darling, sure to catch the eye of all who see her?
I have seen so many writers stymied, and even harmed, by working with editors who didn’t know much. It truly sets you back—often a long way. We’ve had to unlearn bad habits (from bad advice) before getting into the real work.
Yes, cost is a factor. Just don’t let it cripple you.
- Go with your gut.
Once you’ve gathered your information, sift through it with a hard eye. Think it all through. Weigh the pros and the cons.
Then sit with it a bit. Let go. You’re not on a timeline. You don’t want to go backward, and this is decision of huge importance to you.
Then feel your way to your perfect choice.
As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the mind that created it.”
In writing fiction especially, if something gnaws on you that doesn’t feel right, or a plot twist or character trait keeps coming up to add, that’s telling you something. And it always speaks to the heart of the matter, and the road you’d be best to follow.
The same thing occurs when hiring an editor. If you’ve done all the above, you just know, don’t you?
In the end, this is one of the most personal decisions you’ll ever make regarding your book, and your writing career. Let’s make it positive.
Happy hunting, and let me know how it goes!