If this is your first time hiring a professional editor, I’m sure you have questions. It’s expected. There is a lot of information out there and some of it can be confusing. Here are answers to the most common questions I hear about working with a professional editor.
What exactly does an editor do?
That depends on the editor. There are different kinds of editors:
- Developmental/substantive/content editor: These names are used more or less interchangeably. This editor addresses content, structure, plot, story arc, etc., making sure they all work as well as possible. They may suggest adding or deleting components, reorganizing your book’s structure, addressing its overall purpose, focus, audience, and how to make it stronger, make it connect better with your audience.
- Line editor: Addresses how well the words work–the sentences, flow, rhythm, pace, cadence, word choice, connotation/affect on the reader, syntax, clarity, whether a word or sentence serves the purpose of the book or gets in its way or serves no purpose at all. Writing is inseparable from editing; it’s part of the process. In my capacity as editor, I will often rewrite a sentence or a paragraph for a client.
- Copy editor: addresses grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency, meaning, clarity, etc.
Many editors, myself included, do a combination of some or all of the above. I see myself as primarily a line editor, but I can’t ignore the technical aspect, so I am also very much a copy editor.
I’m a compulsive fact-checker, although that is ultimately the author’s responsibility, and I may send something I suspect may be wrong back to you to verify it.
I also notice whether the content works: Is it clear? Does it make sense? Are the characters in character? Does it work? To that end, I function as a developmental editor; however, if you have a serious structural problem or plot difficulty that you and I cannot resolve together, I might recommend that you consult another developmental editor before proceeding with me.
Beyond all the technical things a good editor does, I think an editor’s most valuable contributions to the process of birthing a book are support, insight, perspective, encouragement, even inspiration. By bringing a new set of eyes to an author’s work, a good editor helps the author realize and achieve–and often expand or fine-tune–their original vision for their book. This is what constantly astonishes my clients and students–the light turns on, and they bloom. They exceed what they thought they could do; their books become what they dreamed they would be.
What type of editorial services do you offer?
Editing: See the first question for details, but simply, I offer editing: Developmental, line, and copyediting. Proofreading as a final step is an inherent part of the process, but I don’t usually do proofreading all by itself (which is a simple check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation, without going any deeper). I edit fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books for authors who plan to use an indie publisher, to self-publish, or to look for a traditional publisher.
Writing: Writing is inseparable from editing; it’s part of the process. I will often suggest a rewrite of a sentence or a paragraph. I am not a ghostwriter; however, I will consider writing projects on a case-by-case basis.
Indexing: It depends on the project. I can index nonfiction books, but I am very particular about which indexing projects I accept, usually only one or two per year. If I am editing your nonfiction book and it requires an index, I will consider it, or I may recommend that you hire an independent indexer.
How do I know if I’m ready to hire an editor?
There are two basic questions to help you decide if you are ready to hire an editor.
- Is it done? Have you finished writing it? That’s the first thing. Unless your editor offers ghostwriting services, don’t expect her to finish writing your book for you.
- Have you done the work of editing yourself? Before hiring an editor, complete your own edits. Multiple edits. Multiple proofs.
Then, put the manuscript away for a while. Once you think you’ve exhausted every possible editing tool, give it a rest. Don’t touch it, don’t worry about it, don’t poke it. Take a mental health break from the book for a good month, maybe more. Then go back and read it. Vet every sentence, SLOWLY. Read it aloud. Pay attention to the things that pop out at you. Deal with them. This is your final proof before you hire an editor. (There will be more edits and proofs to come with your editor.)
I also offer an online class to help authors learn to work with a professional editor. If you want to learn more about working with an editor, learn more here.
How involved will I need to be in the editorial process?
Most of my clients are pretty involved. I ask questions all along the way, and I send them successive edits for their feedback and approval, as well as asking them for rewrites, etc., as I go. I consider the work I do as an editor to be a collaboration with my authors, and I need my clients to participate.
Most of the authors I work with are deeply invested in their work and how it turns out, and they want to be an integral part of the process. I encourage it: this is your book.
If you want to learn more about working with a professional editor, read about the online classes I offer.
How long do most editing projects take?
The truest answer I can give you is the same for every book: It takes as long as it takes.
The most accurate answer is that it depends on the project: How long it is, how complicated it is, what sort of shape it’s in, how much work it will take to bring out the best in it. How responsive the author is to questions or requests for input/rewriting, etc.
That said, you can generally expect a book to take at least an hour of actual work per one thousand words–if you have written a 50,000-word book, expect it to take about 50 hours of hands-on time on my part, depending on how much work it requires. In my practice, this includes a minimum of three full passes through your book, with lots of communication and back-and-forth along the way. Those 50 hours will be spread over several weeks, at least, and every book is different. Children’s books, in particular, operate on a much different timeline. No two books are alike, but we will establish a general timeline and incorporate any deadlines you may have.
How much does it cost to hire an editor?
That depends on the editor–her skill and experience and what services she is providing. A rough guide can be found on the Editorial Freelancers Association site, here: https://www.the-efa.org/rates/
The way editors charge varies. Some charge by the hour, some by the word, some a flat fee negotiated per project. Some projects lend themselves more to one method than another. I have used all of the above methods, depending on the individual project, but my basic fee is $0.05 (five cents) per word. This does not apply to children’s books, which are priced per project, and it is sometimes not the best method for other projects.
Bottom line is: each project will be priced individually. To get a personalized quote on your project, contact me.