Continuing our series of posts on the steps of the independent publishing process.
Editing covers a wide range of your book creation tasks, from reworking the first draft to proofreading. Some editing is done by the author — self-editing is an integral part of the writing process. But, sooner or later, you need an objective review of the work. No matter how careful you are, or what editing software you might have, at least one other person should read the work before it is published. This is your editor.
Beta readers and manuscript review can help ensure the work is clear and consistent, but an editor takes the time to check every word. That’s important, but costly. Editing may be the most expensive part of publication. The expense could easily be $1000-$2000 or more. (Check the Editorial Freelancer’s Association for a rough guide to rates).
With that kind of investment, it’s important to make sure the editor is not just a good editor, but good editor for you. Their technical skills are ultimately less important than their fit with your writing style and goals (including your budget). Most editors, including Somewhat Grumpy Press, will happily provide a sample edit to let you know how they work, and encourage you to provide information about your style preferences. For example, should the narrator tone be formal or casual? Do you want, or need to have, Canadian, British, or American spelling? Do you like semicolons, or believe they are too formal for fiction?
As for costs, some editors charge an hourly rate, while others charge by the word. Some editors provide a firm quote up front, while others track time through the project. Regardless of the fee arrangements, be sure you understand what they are.
Editors perform several tasks, often broken down into three or four stages of editing. The number of stages, and exactly what is done in each, varies by editor. Some editors specialize in particular tasks, while others tackle it all. Some authors hire different editors for different tasks. Before you commit to an editor, be sure you understand what tasks they will do.
Editing tasks generally fall into these types and order:
- Whole Book Concerns
- Plot development, timelines, and pacing check
- Review point-of-view consistency and appropriateness
- Review character actions consistency
- Suggestions here might include moving chapters and creating stronger character motivations.
- Line-by-Line Concerns
- Check for overused and weak words, phrases, and clichés
- Check for description and character consistency
- Check for redundancy or lack of clarity
- Check for use of offensive language or terms
- Add or remove regional expressions
- Fact checking, and reference checking if applicable
- Suggestions here might include reducing adverbs, replacing descriptions or flashbacks with actions or dialogue, ensuring character clothing and weather are in sync, removing trademarked terms, and modifying factually inaccurate descriptions.
- Ensure manuscript, including references if applicable, is formatted correctly
- Review hyphenation, abbreviations, capitalization, use of numbers, use of italics, and so on.
- Check spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
If all the work is done by one editor, the manuscript may go back and forth several times, moving from addressing large issues to small details. This can take some time, as does reviewing the manuscript when it is returned by the editor. In most cases, the editor doesn’t return a manuscript with all changes made. Instead, they point out possible concerns, ask questions, make suggestions, and propose alternates. Even spelling corrections are usually brought to the attention of the author, as the author needs to confirm that the correct word is used.
The point of editing is not to force the work to conform to some arbitrary standard. It is to ensure the author’s message is delivered as clearly as possible, and in the author’s voice.
Finding an Editor
Authors may credit the editors of their books. If there’s a book you like, and similar in style, tone, or content to yours, you can contact that editor and ask if they are accepting work. The author themselves may offer editing services — check their website.
There are editors’ associations that maintain lists of their members for hire. These include:
Provincial or state writing associations often have a services directory. Here’s the listing for the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia.
Other writing groups and clubs can also connect you with editors. Facebook has a number of editing and author groups, and editors are easy to find searching Facebook and Twitter.
Editing has long been suitable for remote work, so you can hire an editor anywhere, focusing on their portfolio rather than their location, but payments are often easier if the editor is in the same country, and local knowledge may help if your work is grounded in a specific place.
When considering a potential editor, be sure you are comfortable with their approach to your work, as well as their communication, rates, and timelines.
Somewhat Grumpy Press offers editing, from manuscript review to complete book preparation. In-house, we have technical writer Tim Covell and retired nurse Dorothyanne Brown, but we also work with a retired lawyer, a poetry journal editor, and others. We’ll consider editing works of any length and genre, from romantic haiku to YA novels to university textbooks. If you’ve got some writing that’s ready for an editor, contact us to see if we are the right editor for you.
If you have any questions about editing, or questions about hybrid publishing that you would like us to address in a future blog post, please contact us or comment below.