If you want your self-published book to meet professional publishing standards (and you should), it's important to have it properly edited, but choosing the right editor and getting the most from your investment can be tricky, especially at the start of your career as an indie author.
Karl Drinkwater, who recently posted here about how to polish your manuscript before editing, now shares his top tips as an indie author and freelance editor on how to choose the best editors for your books and how to work with them to best advantage.
Decide Which Type of Edit You Need
Apart from the kind of editing you do yourself, there are three different stages in editing:
- developmental edit (also called structural, literary, content, or substantive) to flag up the “big picture” story, character and prose issues.
- line editing to fine-tune the language
- proofreading to pick up typos and any errors missed or introduced since the line edit
Common advice is that it's better to have multiple editors rather one to do all three stages. The second and third of these processes are generally cheaper and quicker and generate less work for you than the first.
Use an Editor to Match Your Genre and Region
Seek an editor who is comfortable with your genre. Editors who specialize in a particular genre are more likely to know its tropes and the reader's expectations. They may also have their special strengths in particular aspects of writing – one may be great at dialogue, another at structure, another at developing mood.
Make sure they are familiar with your preferred use of spelling and idiom. If your book is heavily tied to a region or subculture, ensure your editor understands the nuances of its language or dialect.
Set Editing Criteria
If you use a particular style guide or have developed your own house style, tell your editor. If you don’t, that’s fine, but try to develop one during the editing process. Your editor will raise points such as when numbers need to be written as words. Note down the conventions you agree, and these will form the basis of your style guide for the future.
Test with a Free Sample Edit
Before you commit to a particular editor, ask for a sample edit. Most editors will edit a short sample of your work for free, and provide a quote based on that. If you disagree with their suggested changes, or you feel like you would not enjoy working with them, go elsewhere.
Try a Paid Partial Edit
If you suspect your work has problems of style and repeated errors, then you could save a lot of money by getting an editor to edit a few chapters initially. See what common errors they pick up on (mistakes of style, grammar, sentence structures, overuse of passive voice, speech tags, punctuation etc.), then go through rest of book yourself fixing them before submitting the whole, revised manuscript. Not only will you then really understand the errors and be less likely to repeat them in future, you'll also save money on editing costs.
You could get a developmental editor to look at just the areas you feel are weaker, such as the opening of a novel. I did this once with a short story collection where I knew most stories were good since they’d been polished in the past. Some had even been published already and just needed a few tweaks. Other stories were brand new, more experimental, and I was less sure about their strengths. In that case I just paid a developmental editor to work on the new stories.
Consider Loyalty vs Variety
- If you work with the same editor over time, they get to know you and your style, you build a rapport, and your writing can be taken to the next level. You may also earn a better rate once they realise your work won’t contain basic errors any more.
- If you work with different editors, you will learn different things from each of them. It's like having different teachers in school.
I adopt a mixed approach: I have my favourite editors, but when they are busy, I never mind trying a new editor.
Consider Each Book in the Context of Your Career
When you work with an editor, you are not just working on that single book. You are learning things that you will take forward and apply to future works. I always learn a huge amount from my editors, and I have worked with a lot of them over the last ten years.
You will need more editing at the start of your career.
Early in your career, money spent on editing is as an investment in your writing future. When I left paid employment to become a full-time writer, I invested most of my savings in my business, from buying ISBNs and software to going on writing courses and setting aside the money for editing and proofreading costs for a number of books.
I work on the assumption that an author needs to write 5-10 novels, in a reflective way that involves feedback from others, to become fully proficient in the craft side of writing.
The art side is a different matter, but in both cases good editors speed up the process.
Over time, an author’s style and writing improves, especially if they’ve worked with good editors. Eventually their first drafts need far fewer tweaks. To make the most of this growth in skill, consider going back to previous books and revamping them. I’ve done that with my early works, applying new skills, choosing new covers, reformatting interiors, and writing new blurbs. A lot of the rewriting was easy because I had learned more in the interim, having worked with other editors.
OVER TO YOU Do you have further tips on how to find and use editors? Any cautionary tales? We'd love to hear them, so join the conversation!How to choose the best #editor for your #selfpub book - by indie author and freelance editor @KarlDrinkwater Click To Tweet
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