Editors – Part 2: How to find a good editor
Last week I wrote about the various stages of editing, this week it is about how to find a good editor. There’s nothing to say that you must use someone else to edit your work, but most people will probably find it helpful if approached well. Even people that mostly edit other people’s work find the fresh eyes bring something to the process.
‘Get an Editor’ is Bad advice
Lots of people bang on about getting an editor. This is good advice, but not when people just say “get an editor”. Unless you know what editing is all about how can you pick a good editor? You certainly don’t want to just pay the cheapest person. That might be good value, but more likely it’ll just waste money. The same is true of picking the most expensive option. The key is to know what you are looking for.
Primarily using a professional editor is about getting a pair of experienced eyes on your book. We become blind to our own failings, and we see what we think we’ve written. It’s easy to miss things when you are deep in the writing process.
What do you do if you have no money?
Don’t give up. Also, don’t just hit the publish button, the experience is likely to be dispiriting. Paying is normal, but you might be able to get experienced eyes on your draft without spending a fortune. Here are some ideas:
- Find a critique group (the only cost will be your time, you’ll need to share feedback with other authors)
- Software (as an aid, not a replacement, but it will make the editing process cheaper when you get there).
- Contact people who have editing experience and ask if they will help you out for free or a low cost you can afford.
- Use beta readers, these aren’t proper editors, but in quantity can help you improve. Ask them to be brutal and point out everything they don’t like or understand. Every mistake, plot hole, or leap of faith. It might smart, but you’ll know where you need to work on things.
- Put your text in a text to audio programme and listen to it. You’ll soon hear where it jars.
Finding an Editor
Tips for telling whether or not an editor is any good?
The points below are usually good signs, but every writer and every editor is different. You want someone that you get on with and can form a relationship with.
- ask the editor to look at a few pages of your work and see what they suggest (usually they’ll do this for free). You’ll soon see if you’re in tune.
- A good editor should provide low cost partial edits, distinguishing between the different types of editing (see Part 1)
- have a track record in editing (you might ask for titles/examples) and
- the ability to make suggestions, which show an awareness of the writer’s vision.
If you spot any of these, ideally in the free sample, then it’s time to look elsewhere.
- completely rewriting the story, or changing words that alter your style of writing.
- dogmatic adherence to a particular style
- not being able to explain their suggestions (or not seeing them as suggestions)
- Significantly expensive (unless you can see they have a track record with best sellers)
How much should you pay for an editor?
The price of an editor will depend on how much self-editing you have already done. The more work that needs doing, the greater the cost. That’s one of the reasons that good editors ask for a sample, it gives them an idea on the level of effort needed to polish your draft.
Another factor affecting the price is the track record of the editor. If you get someone that has decades of experience in the major publishing houses then they’re going to cost a lot more. What you’re after is a track record, this is more important than qualifications on their own. That said, you might still want to ask about that too.
Of those surveyed most paid £3-£5 per thousand words. This seems mostly to be for copy/line editing. Some paid a lot more, but most of those were people that had been ripped off by vanity presses. If someone wants to charge over £1,000 for 100k words then you need to get references from other authors and/or check their track records.
These are the editors that posted to the BooksGoSocial facebook group. I’ve not used any of them, although some of the other members have. All of them seem to say the right things, and they’ll give you a sample before you commit. If you use any of them, then share your experience with a comment please.
NB I’ve separated them into UK based and US based editors as the subtle differences in our common language are important when choosing an editor. You should choose the editor based on the language version you want your book published in.
UK based editors
- Wee County Books – email a word document of your book to firstname.lastname@example.org for a realistic quotation. No up-front cost and no commitment quotation. http://weecountybooks.co.uk/
- Karl Drinkwater – contact with details of your work (synopsis or description) and a sample; if available for editorial work he’ll read the first five pages and give you some feedback for free. £4 per 1,000 words. http://www.karldrinkwater.uk/p/services-for-writers.html
US Based editors
- Joanie Chevalier $220 – an indie author who knows the struggle. https://www.fiverr.com/joaniechevalier
- Jean Heller – author & manuscript editor. http://jeanhellerbooks.com/
Thanks for this post need to be given to those that contributed to the BooksGoSocial facebook discussion on the importance of editing. I’ve drawn on that material, especially the editor recommendations and pricing. Specific thanks need to go to Laurence O’Bryan, Karl Drinkwater, Anne Holt, Pat Obermeier, A M Rycroft, Matt Talford, Liz Hurst, Storm Reece, Jane Davis & Jean Shorney.