Editing is something that more and more writers are having to take on ourselves these days. Given the competition in the marketplace and the rise of self-publishing, our work needs to be more developed and more polished than ever before. So wise writers are taking some of their hard-earned money and giving it to editors, who help fill in the gaps and correct errors.
As one of those freelance editors and one of those writers who hires editors, I thought it might be helpful if I explained what type of situation makes for the most optimal work from an editor. As writers, we can do a lot to help editors help us.
1. Do as much work on the manuscript as you can BEFORE you send it to an editor. If you already know that chapter two needs to be fleshed out more, don’t send that chapter to an editor and then scrap her edits when you revise. That’s a waste of your money and her time.
2. Know what kind of editing you’d like to receive and ask for that level of edit. If you’re looking for someone to help you reorganize a dissertation or help you determine what isn’t quite working in that protagonist, you’re asking for content editing. If you need help with the flow of the language, the shape of your sentences, and corrections to grammar, punctuation, and spelling, you’re asking for line editing. If you want an editor to simply correct errors, then you are asking for proofreading. Knowing what kind of editorial help you need will guide the editor to provide only what you want – not more and not less.
3. Be willing to pay for good work. A good editor will charge his worth. Most qualified editors will charge between $25 and $50 an hour. It will cost more for an editor to provide content editing because this work takes more of his time. My rates are about average – I charge $150 for every 10,000 words of content editing and $100 for every 10,000 words of line editing, which means my line editing rate is about $.01 a word. Paying less for your work – unless you personally know the editor – is risky because you may be hiring an editor who is either inexperienced or who rushes through the work to be able to make his living at it. You don’t want an editor who rushes.
4. Communicate your expectations clearly with an editor. When you first contact an editor, let her know what you want her to do – content editing, line editing, or proofreading – and let her know when you’d like the work completed. You’ll also want to discuss the format of the edits with her – for example, I typically edit using the Track Changes feature in Word, but I have worked with clients who edit in Scrivener. Also, be sure you understand how to make payment – check, Paypal, etc. – and what day you can expect to have your manuscript returned from the editor.
5. Be prepared for the edits. No writer – this one included – likes to be edited, at least at first. We like to think our work is pristine and perfect. But it’s not. Ever. A good editor will always find ways for you to improve your work; if you get a manuscript back with no changes, there’s a problem with the editor, and you should address it. Your manuscript will probably come back a little battered, but just be ready for that and know that a good editor will give you suggestions to improve your manuscript. Evaluate those suggestions and use them as they fit your vision. Don’t let your pride keep you from hearing what needs to change in your work and don’t let the editorial suggestions steer you from what you want the work to be.
If you do your work – which begins with writing and revising your manuscript until you don’t know how to go further – an editor can really help you fulfill the vision for your piece. And trust me when I say that most of us who edit LOVE our jobs. As I say all the time, who knew people would actually pay me to read books? I absolutely love helping a writer achieve her vision; it’s an honor, and a good editor will treat it as such.
So what questions do you have about finding or working with an editor? Any experiences — good or bad – that you’d like to share?