This session will detail how a successful author-editor relationship works, no matter which type of editor your project needs. It considers the various types of editors and determines which type of editing your project need, as well as outlining what you should budget for editorial needs, manuscript preparation tips for a smooth project experience, and tips for a positive and constructive author-editor relationship.
At the end of this session, you will have an editorial plan, complete with action steps that will enable you to find the perfect editor for you book and understand how authors work with editors.
This podcast is part of Self-Publishing Advice Conference (SELFPUBCon), an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ network. Our self-publishing conference, which runs fringe to Digital Book World, features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox.
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Jodi Brandon: Hello and welcome to how authors work with editors 101. I know that this is something that authors have a lot of questions about, particularly self-publishing authors. So I’m happy to shed some light today and hopefully answer some of these questions. Let me just briefly go over what we’re going to cover real quick today. We’re going to talk about the different types of editors and editing because it’s definitely not a one size fits all profession. so you need to be aware of that going in as an author. We’re going to cover budgets, how much money this is going to cost you, which is one of the first questions I get pretty, pretty often when I’m speaking and talking with authors. We’re going to talk about manuscript preparation, a couple of tips for how to get your manuscript ready to deliver to an editor to hopefully have a smooth process for you.
And then just the author editor relationship. Some tips to make that a smooth one also because that’s something that’s critical to the editing of your book is the relationship you have with your editor. So let’s jump in. I Want to tell you a little bit about me first, just so you know who the heck you’re listening to. My name’s Jodi Brandon and I run Jodi Brandon editorial. I have worked in book publishing for a little more than 20 years now. I was one of those lucky kids that just knew what I wanted to do growing up. I’m not necessarily as an editor per se, but I knew I wanted to work in books and I knew that I loved words and English language and I knew that I didn’t necessarily love writing itself, but I loved working with the written word. So I graduated from college. I moved to New York less than two weeks later.
I knew that’s where the book publishing industry, you know, that’s where, that’s the hub is the big apple. So I knew that’s where I wanted to be a much to my parents’ chagrin, packed up and moved. I made a deal with my parents that if I could find a job by the end of the summer, I was staying in New York, otherwise I was moving home to Pennsylvania and anyone who knows me knows that I love Pennsylvania, but I really, really, really wanted to make it work. And so, I was able to find a job as an editorial assistant at Hearst books, which was then an imprint of William Morrow, which is now part of Harper Collins. So, one of the big, the big four, was the big five back then, but now it’s the big four. And then I went on to work at a book packager, which is like a publishing house, but they turn over a finished book to a book publisher.
So, the book publisher handles marketing and distribution and sales, but the package or handles, production, editorial design, all of those things that go into making the book of finished product. And then I moved onto a small niche publisher of business books and that sort of how I fell into working with entrepreneurs, which is what I do now. And I sort of had that entrepreneurial itch myself. I knew that I didn’t want to work a nine to five. I knew that I wanted to have more of a work life balance at that time. My husband and I were talking about starting a family and so I thought working from home would be a great a great thing. and so I branched out and started freelancing on the side while working my nine to five. And then eventually, you know, my, my own business sort of took over as I started working with more and more authors directly.
So, I sort of slowly eased into working with publishers only and then more mostly publishers, some authors on their own and then more authors on their own in some publishing clients. And now today I basically just worked with, authors who are mostly self-publishing these days. I do still have the occasional client who is traditional publishing or wants to traditional publish. But for the most part I’m working 24 slash seven with self-publishing authors. So this is the only thing I’ve ever done. And it is my passion. And I love, love, love working with self-publishing author, entrepreneurs to make their books a reality. So let’s dig in enough about me. Let’s start with the types of editors and editing that there are because this is definitely not just one thing. So the three big categories are developmental editing, sometimes called book coaching, not exactly the same thing, but the basic understanding is, is the same copy editing, line editing, and then proofreading.
So, most people, when they’re thinking of an editor are thinking of a copy editor, they’re thinking of seventh grade English class, they’re thinking of, you know, term papers coming back, filled with red lines and red markings and all of that sort of thing, which is mostly what copy editing is. So that’s the line, the line by line, this is what’s wrong here. This word is misspelled here. that sort of thing. But there’s really much more to editing than that. So, we’re going to Start with Developmental Editing and book coaching because this is sort of the big picture overview. This is where you’re not sort of in the weeds, your kind of looking. I described it to my, my teenage nephews as sort of like the drone view because that’s something that they understand. so you’re looking at the big picture of the overall book itself.
The pacing or the tone. are things clear? Is the material in the right order? Is the structure, is it right? Is that how it should be? Are there big chunks of material missing? Do you have things you know, appropriately ordered? Do you dive into something in part one that really doesn’t need to be discussed until part three? Do you have something in part two? There really needs to come way earlier in the book. And then the concept is the concept that you have in mind, is it being translated in your text? So basically what is your goal for the book? And then the developmental editor of the book coach can help you determine whether you’re meeting that goal with your text. So this works a little bit differently from the other kinds of editing and that sometimes the book is not finished, the manuscript is not finished when a developmental editor comes in or a book coach comes in, sometimes you’re working on this process with that editor and so caveat, I work only with nonfiction writers who were basically using a book as a marketing tool for their business.
So, this will look a little bit different for nonfiction versus fiction. So, keep that in mind if you are a fiction writer. I do know that a developmental editor for a fiction project is also looking at, you know, at plot holes and character development and things like that that I don’t really have to worry about as a nonfiction editor. But those are sort of, you know, some of the basics of the big picture overview. And so the way it works is it depends again on the editor. Sometimes you just have your concept and that editor is helping you flesh it out and work through your outline. And then the writing. Sometimes you have your outline when you hire a developmental editor and sometimes you do have a complete manuscript and you’re just open to feedback, rewriting and all of that. So, but this is really sort of the biggest picture, more general, you’ll get lots and lots of feedback, but it’s not necessarily a specific of feedback as you’ll get during a copy edit or a proofread.
So that’s the big picture overview of Developmental Editing and book coaching. And then we’ll move into copy editing, which as I said, is probably what you’re thinking of if you don’t know what these other types of editors are. So copy editing and line editing are not exactly the same thing, but for, for our intents and purposes today, we’re combining them because this is really the sentence level paragraph level edit gets its name because the editor is going line by line for your manuscript and you know, making sure your t’s are crossed, your t’s and i’s are dotted, all of those things, the grammar and the mechanics, the spelling usage, a consistent style throughout the book. So most of my clients use Chicago Follow Chicago style. There are lots of other style guides out there and as the self-publishing author, you are in charge, so if there’s something particular that you want in your book that doesn’t necessarily follow an established style guide, that’s okay.
Talk to your editor about that, but the editor will then make sure that your manuscript follows that style that you’ve selected or establish yourself consistently. If this word is, this number is always going to be spelled out, even if it’s a numbers zero through nine typically would be, I’m sorry, over nine. That would typically be spelled out. Then that’s the way it’s going to be throughout your whole entire manuscript. You’re not going to have it spelled out in one, in chapter two and then used as a digit in chapter four or chapter nine or whatever the case may be. You want that style to be consistent throughout your manuscript and that’s the sort of nitty gritty that a copy editor will be looking for and taking care of redundancy of material. Sometimes this doesn’t take get taken care of and the developmental stage.
Sometimes you have material that you already covered in a different section in the book and maybe you’re looking for a refresh or somewhere else, but you don’t need to get into the full, the full description again. So things like that redundancy sentence structure, you want, you know, a nice variety of sentence structure, you want a nice variety of paragraph structure, all of those sorts of things. But this is definitely in the weeds. Whereas that drone image we had from developmental editing, now we are, you know, we’re sort of in the ground on the ground, walk them through the weeds here with the copy edit and the line edit. And then finally a proofread is sort of a last look. you’re looking for typographical errors and type setting errors at this point. And the way proofreading is really at this point, more of a cold read.
It shouldn’t even be called approved read technically because technically approved for eve is you’re reading against the proofs. So, when I first started in publishing, for example, I would be given two documents, I would be given, you know, the typeset manuscript, which today is usually a pdf or something like that, but I used actual proof pages back when I started. and then you’d have the copy edited, marked up manuscript and you’re literally just comparing the two documents to make sure, okay, the copy editor said, you know, we’re hyphenating this word. Is it hyphenated in the proof, that sort of thing. Today, you’re really very, very rarely looking at two documents side by side. You’re just doing a cold read, a last look to make sure that one, anything that got missed and the in the copy of it you’re catching now and the sort of any typo, anything like that.
and then you’re looking also for typographical things like widows and orphans. You’re looking for any, you know, wonky thing that happened during the translation from Microsoft word to end design, for example, from the, you know, the word processing program to the design program. Because, you know, when you import a document, things happen. so, you’re looking for those sorts of things very improved for you and then just making sure, you know, tables, lists, graphics, anything like that are formatted correctly, captions are placed correctly, all of those sorts of things. and there’s lots of checklists out there that authors can find to sort of help do some of this themselves. in addition to hiring proofreader. So I mean there’s long list of elements. This is just a few of the things, but the important thing to remember is that you’re looking for both typographical and typesetting errors in a proofread.
So, so now that you know what these three types are, let’s talk a little bit about how you determine who you’re going to hire. So what you think you need is not always what an editor thinks that you need. So you might think, Oh, my manuscript is totally ready. I don’t need a developmental edit, I’m just looking for a copy editor. I think my manuscripts in great shape, you reach out to a couple of editors. One of them comes back and says, I don’t think this is ready for a copy edit. So, oh, now how do you know? Is that person correct? Is that person not correct? So what I suggest to all of my clients to reach out to me as you want to be talking to a few different people and that’s for a lot of different reasons. Number one, that’s to make sure you and your editor on the same page for sure, but it also will help you sort of get a feel for who you jive with, because it’s, it’s a really important working relationship an author has with their editors.
So, you really want to make sure you work well together, you understand each other, and you can do that by having multiple conversations with people. So it’s important though, before a project starts, that you are super clear about what you’re getting from an editor and what that editor feels about your manuscript. So you want to make sure that you’re listening to that editor that came back and said, this isn’t ready for a copy. Edit it. Why did they say that? Listen to the rationale, listen to their feedback, take it to heart, you know, see if a couple of other people say that, then maybe we’re onto something here. Maybe you do need to take a step back and think about, well, do I want to do a developmental edit? Can I afford a developmental edit timewise? What’s that going to do to when I want to release my book?
All of those sorts of things have to come into play. And that leads us to editorial budgets, which is obviously an important consideration for self-publishing authors who are, you know, putting out all of the funds, making their own investment in their book before it is published, and they make any money back. So I’m not sure if you are familiar with the editorial freelancers association. It is a group of editorial professionals, all different kinds. Editors, indexers, fact checkers. it’s a trade association that many, many, many of us belong to, but they do a survey every year and send out, send out a survey to all of their members and we all fill it out. and if they come up with established rates, average rates, so this is for, you know, if you’re an author, you can go to the EFA website and find these rates for all the different types of editing, fact, fact checking, indexing, all of these services just to make sure that what you’re being charged is in line with industry standards.
So, these are, again, they’re averages, but they break it down into copy editing and then heavy copy editing. And so your editor will let you know what potential editor will let you know. You know, a lot of us have this, this is a light copy edit, a regular copy edit or a heavy copy edit. Some editors just do regular and heavy so it’s just depends on what kind of work your manuscript needs. And they’ll go through all of that with you. They should go through all of that with you before you sign a contract. But so you can expect to pay anywhere from 30 to $50 an hour for copy editing. And that will get you, depending on how much editing your manuscript requires, you know, one to 10 pages an hour, they can get through developmental editing, a little bit different. Obviously you’re moving slower through that because you’re looking for different things and that’s a higher fee structure.
And then proofreading, typically you can get through more pages an hour, so you’re going to be paying less per hour overall. But this is available on the EFA website, which is. I should’ve put this on the slide, I’m sorry. Www.the-efa.org. and you can find all of the other rates as well. So, so the way you figure out, you know, you could do the math yourself once you have an idea of what your manager have to word count is going to be, you know, so some editors charged by the hour, just like the EFA rates are listed, some charge by the page, which is equivalent to 250 words and some charge by the word. And it depends on the service that you’re hiring them for, what their fee structure is different. It depends on their personal, personal preference with our fee structure is so, but you can kind of finagle the math depending if they charge per hour, you know, take your word count and see how many pages they’re getting through an hour divided by 250, you know, that sort of thing.
a lot of copy editors and proofreaders now are moving into a per word structure just because a word is a word. there’s no, you know, this page has 230 words and this page has 400 words and so, you know, to 50 is obviously the average, but you can get into all of that, but a word as a word, so a word count is a word count. So a lot of editors that I know are moving into that, I use that fee for copy editing, developmental editors and book coaches typically charged by the hour or even a flat package fee up to a certain number of words. So, but you have the ability to do the math and figure out if your editor is in line with those EFA averages. and if not, then you might want to keep shopping around. You might not, it depends.
It depends on your budget. So here we go. What matters the most? You need to determine what that budget is of course, because again, if you’re self-publishing, especially you’re shelling out all the money upfront and you’re not getting an advance from a publishing company like you would if you’re traditionally publishing. So you have to, you know, determine what’s the most important thing to you. Is it putting the money into a cover? Is it putting the money into a copy edit? Is it, you know, putting the money into an interior design. If you have a book with a lot of tables or photos or something like that, you’re probably not going to diy the design just because it’s more complicated. So you need to take what your budget and your needs are and then sort of find the balance and where the intersection is between them.
I urge my clients, so to remember that you know, you do get what you pay for a lot of times and you have to think of self-publishing as an investment both in yourself and in your business. You know, again, my clients are typically using their book as a marketing tool for their business. You know, they’re trying to grow their credibility and their visibility in all of those things so it doesn’t make any sense for them to put out a shot and book that isn’t going to do the things that they want it to do for them. So I know it’s a little bit different when you’re not using it as a tool for your business, but still an investment and you have to remember that you are getting what you paid for most of the time I should say. So now let’s move into away from sort of the nitty gritty there and into how you can make this process go smoothly. This editorial process. So let’s talk about manuscript preparation first. So you have to determine what kind of editor you need. You’ve hired that person and now it’s time to start your working relationship. You’ve got to contract starting in a week. You’re about ready to just deliver your manuscript. What’s happening now?
So, let’s just take one quick step back as a reminder that it’s not just, you know, writing is writing and then you’re done and you’re moving into another stage. There are five stages of the writing process and you can see here that editing is one of them, but you can see that it’s number four on this list. It’s not number one, number two, and it’s not number three. So we’re assuming as editors, that you have put in quite a fair amount of work to this point. You’re not delivering your first draft. You didn’t stop, you know, you didn’t write the end yesterday and now you’re sending it to me to edit. you’ve gone through multiple revisions, multiple drafts, and you’ve made this manuscript as strong as you can make it on your own and now you’re ready for professional help and you want to do that for a few reasons.
One, it’s going to make the process smoother or the actual editing process smoother, but it’s also going to cost you less money because it’s going to be a cleaner document that’s going to require less editing, less time on the editor’s part, which then in turn cost you less money. So as far as the specifics, the actual manuscript delivering preparation, every editor is different. so they will of course discuss their requirements with you. It’ll be in your contract, but you want to just make this person’s life easier by following those instructions. So I don’t know many editors that work in Google. I’m a lot of, a lot of my clients these days just asked me if I can set that. They can send a google doc instead of a word document. Nope, sorry, it’s word is the industry standard and we’re going to stick with that as you know, as long as we possibly can, you know, font size and type, all the spacing issues, any of those Nitty Gritty manuscript, you know, requirements that they have.
Just follow those, make it easier. The other thing that you want to provide them is as much project information as they’re asking for, and this is specifically usually for copy editing and proofreading this. It doesn’t matter as much. This is typically for my copy editing clients. If I’ve worked as a book coach for someone. I’m pretty familiar with all of this background project information, but if I haven’t, if they’re just coming to me for a copy edit, I want to have information that’s going to help me serve them in the best way possible. And what I mean by project information is you know, what are their goals for the book? What do they want the reader to take away, you know, if they’ve got their book broken into part one, part two, part three. What are the goals of each of those parts? now when I worked with a book coach and client and developmental edit client, we go through this chapter by chapter.
What’s the takeaway for this chapter? How does it fit into the takeaway for this? Check this part? How does that fit into the takeaway for the entire book? So we do all of that kind of work while we’re creating their manuscript, but it’s copy edited, manuscript comes to you, finished, it’s already done, it’s already complete. We’re not making big picture changes at this point for the most part, unless something is seriously, seriously wrong and out of alignment. So, but the more information I have about the project and what the author wants to get out of this book, what they want readers to get out of this book, it helps me make sure that the book is serving that purpose. And if that’s not happening then I’m not serving my client, the author because I’m allowing that person to move forward with a project and a book that isn’t, isn’t going to do what they intend for it to do.
And that’s no good for anybody. So if they’re asking for, you know, all sorts of detailed project information, that’s the reason why. And the more information and the more open you can be with them about that, it’s only going to help serve your book and your project. So, you know, I know sometimes it’s tedious, but it really does a bigger purpose. So then just to reiterate again, you know, the cleaner the text you send them, the less time it’s going to take less time, less hours, less money, you know, that’s it’s common sense. I know, but a lot of times, especially once you’ve been working on a manuscript for, you know, three months, six months, whatever the case may be, when you’re done you are, d, O, n e done and you just want to close it out, not open it again and submit it to the editor.
but I promise you the more self-editing you do and revising and all of that on that front end, the less it’s going to cost you in the end. Which, and I, I, I bring up the costs multiple times here just because having worked with hundreds of authors at this point, I know that that is a big, big concern. Budget is budget that they concern. So, so now your manuscript is with your editor and you have selected the right person for the job, for your job, for your relationship. All of that and so now it’s scary. this person now is taking your of vulnerable writing and they’re going to come back at you with, you know, criticism, suggestions, et Cetera, and so you want to foster a strong author, editor relationship, and so I have borrowed this quote from an editorial, colleague of mine who says an editor’s job is to foster direct communication between author and reader, not to help the author get an A in seventh grade English, and I said this to all of my clients at the beginning of the edit because I know that they’re going to be so scared when they get that edit back that it’s just full of marks and all of that stuff and I really want them to understand that it’s not about, you know, the right and wrong of grammar rules.
It’s just about figuring out what you want the reader to get out of this book. And me as an editor helping you as an author do that. So you know, sometimes that means bending in grammar rules. Sometimes that means ignoring the grammar rule. Sometimes that means you know, more explanation. Sometimes it means less, it means all different things, but the most important thing is that your book is as strong as it can be, and by strong I mean marketable and I mean editorially sound and I mean you know as correct as it can be. Again, no book is going to be perfect because editors are human and human eyes are not perfect. Even when you look at something you know, 500 times, you will always, always, always find something else that you wish you had written differently or said differently or a typo that slipped through.
Even after you looked at it 15 times, your editor looked at it 10 times a proofreader looked at it three times. No book is going to be perfect, but there are acceptable editing rates. They say about 96 percent is acceptable. So, if your error, if your editor has a four percent error rate, then that’s about as good as you’re going to do. So we, editors take editing tests all the time. Again, also available online everywhere on the EFA site. If you can google editing tests and good editors and editor worth their salt will be regularly taking these tests just to make sure that they stay on the ball and all of those things as far as the actual right versus wrong. The other thing is that editing is very subjective, so they’re going to be lots and lots of places with your text where it’s not, you know, this is not the right word here or this comma does not belong here, but it’s going to be more like, this isn’t totally clear.
Can you clarify? And you, the author might say, you know, I had six people read this and nobody had an issue with it. So it’s really subjective sort of things like that where you can always come back and say, oh, I wish I would’ve said this differently, or I wish I would have added a sentence of explanation here, or I wish, I wish I would have deleted that sentence. I don’t need it. and what I say to my clients on those fronts is you can always change your book for the next edition. but you want that. I’m going to switch to this next slide here so I can just repeat this at the bottom here. You want your book to be as editorially sound and marketable as possible, and that’s the most important thing. It’s not about, you know, diagramming sentences. It’s not about, you know, correct punctuation at every stage, all of those things.
Flexibility with grammar rules is good. Questioning for clarity and all of those sorts of things. Good. As long as you have a good relationship with your editor and the two of you get on the same page, you’re going to get that best book possible that I talk about here. So some of the things, some of the qualities you want to look for when you’re screening and potential editors, this is a collaborative relationship. You need to think of your editor, you know, as a teammate, they’re not, you know, a teacher and you’re the student. It’s, it’s collaborative, your partners, open communication. I, nothing bothers me more than when someone comes to me who has been trying to work with another editor and says they went through the whole manuscript. It took four weeks. I didn’t hear a word from them and then I got back, you know, a seven page editorial memo saying that everything, you know, this book is basically needs to be totally reorganized.
If that’s the case, you should have heard from that person much sooner than four weeks. if you don’t hear from me while I’m editing your book, it means it’s smooth sailing. If it’s not smooth sailing, then there should be some communication. You have to trust this person. You’ve worked really hard. You’re writing is vulnerable, even if it’s just, you know, a business book writing is vulnerable. It’s a vulnerable act and now no one probably has seen it and you’re sharing it with a stranger. So you have to trust this person. Respect. I think that goes without saying, with a working relationship on time and objective, you’re going to create together probably a working schedule and it’s important for both of you to stay on time. that’s, you know, that’s part of respect honestly. I’ve had a working relationship and then objectivity is, you know, your editor is pointing out the things that I don’t even want to use the word wrong, but things that could be improved and they’re doing it because their goal, again at the bottom there is the same as yours.
They’re not trying to nitpick. They’re not trying to get you, you know, create more work for you or anything like that. They’re trying to help you make your book as good as it can be. And so your role in that process, you know, again, trust and respect those both. They go both ways. Be Open to the process. You hired this person because they’re good at what they do and you think it’s going to be the best person to help your book get across the finish line, so now you have to trust that process and be open to feedback, open to their suggestions, open to their questions. You might not agree with every single thing that they say and that’s totally fine. Have a dialogue back and forth, but be open to what they’re saying and then understand that they’re coming at it with a fresh set of eyes.
So maybe they’re right and listen, maybe they’re not as a self-published author, you’re the boss, but you do want to, you know, take their feedback to heart and see if it’s worth incorporating or not. And then responsiveness, help them do their job. Again, this is part of the professionalism, the professional working relationship you have with someone, you know, if I’m stuck with something, you know, halfway through chapter five and I can’t move forward until I have it resolved and you are mia for two weeks, all that’s doing is slowing us down and then getting us way off, off schedule so you know, just be aware of what’s going on, where you are in the process and you know, get your editor what they need.
And that my friends is all I have for today. I hope that that gave you a pretty solid foundational level overview of working with an editor. This is my contact information here. If you have any specific questions or general questions or just want to say hello, please feel free to reach out to me and for attending today, I’m offering, I offer a book brainstorm sessions which are, you know, free. It’s my version of a discovery call. It’s a 15-minute free, you know, we can talk about your project, we can talk about anything book related, publishing related. I am happy to help you if I can. And if I can’t, I’m happy to point you in a direction that can be helpful to you. So I thank you for your time today and I wish you all the best in your book publishing career.