Collaborations That Count: Working with an Editor
Whether your book manuscript is soaring toward completion, not quite ready to fly or still waiting to be hatched, collaborating with a professional editor can help your work find its wings. Then again, the wrong editor can send you plummeting to earth in a jumble of feathers and dashed hopes.
Kinda sounds like choosing the right editor is a big deal, doesn’t it?
Good. It is.
1. Finding Freelancers
Freelancers are everywhere, which is both a good and bad thing for authors. The good: lots of options, a wide range of prices, a surfeit of personalities to nurture creative collaborations. The bad: low barriers to entry, a “bidding war” mentality antithetical to quality, rampant lack of professionalism. What I love about Reedsy—a new platform where authors and publishing professionals meet—is that actual human beings check each freelancer’s credentials and work history to ensure authors looking for high-quality professional book editing and design don’t get taken for a ride.
If you find a freelancer you like—on Reedsy or through a personal recommendation—do your due diligence. Explore websites, testimonials, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages. Check watchdog sites for any red flags, and trust your gut instincts. There are plenty of freelancers out there, so keep searching until you find someone whoreally “gets” you and your work.
2. Getting What You Need
There are various levels of editorial intervention, and good editors know where they’re strongest. The publishing world as we know it would not exist without the meticulousness of line editors and proofreaders, who may or may not feel qualified to give in-depth feedback on story elements like plot and character development, continuity, style and structure. On the other hand, plenty of developmental editors are interested in the big picture; they’ll help you get the story in your head onto the page efficiently, and ensure there’s enough of it to fill an entire novel—but they may not tutor you in the ins and outs of comma usage.
Find an editor who specializes in the type of editing you need, and you’re on your way to narrowing the scope of your search.
3. Make it Personal
You’re going to be in creative close quarters with your editor, so you have to feel comfortable with one another. Like authors, editors have a specific style. Some are mega-cheerleaders while others revel in sarcasm; some will carve out a clear plan of attack for you, while others like to amble along in the creative mist; some are great communicators while others just…aren’t. What works for you? Who do you feel a gut connection to after that first contact? Set a standard for credentials and experience, but trust your instincts about personalities and work style.
4. Paying the Price
Bestselling author and authorpreneur guru (and PubSense Summit keynote!) Joanna Penn said it best: “A good editor can mean the difference between critical accolades and scathing reviews. How much is that worth to you?”
Rather than regurgitate the hourly/per-page pricing models you can find elsewhere, I want to clarify what exactly you’re paying for in a really good professional editor.
An editor’s insights are honed across years of thoughtful, critical reading in a range of genres, in addition to a perpetual study of craft, style and conventions. This person will be your most caring, attentive reader, and his insights have the potential to raise you to unimaginable creative heights. The work is intimate, subjective, soulful.
Believe me—editors know what a huge commitment you’re making with your time and dollars, and the good ones are honored by it. I respect my clients’ investment by striving to offer invaluable service, as all worthwhile editors should.
As a last word on pricing, I’ll say this: if you have a budget, say so. Don’t waste my time by asking for a proposal only to decline my quote based on a price limit you didn’t tell me you have. While I don’t believe haggling is appropriate, there’s no harm in asking for a payment plan (though don’t expect an editor to work “on spec” in anticipation of a big publication payday).
A freelance editor should help bring your manuscript to a level of quality commensurate with traditionally published texts in your genre. She should make you feel inspired, creatively safe, and challenged; she should be an advocate for your success and a source of compassionate critique. Choose wisely, and you may just find you’ve made a choice that changes everything.