I hadn’t really planned to cover editing in the How to Not Get Overwhelmed with Indie Publishing series–except to say that as far as I’m concerned, editing is a must–but a question arose that I didn’t want to gloss over.
Trust me when I say I know that editing can seem like a lofty, unattainable expense for an indie author, and I don’t want to tell you how to go about getting your editing done, but at the very least I do think it’s essential to have someone else read your work to correct grammar, spelling, typos, and punctuation. The human brain has this amazing ability to autocorrect errors it has already encountered, so no matter how many times you read something, you could still miss it. My goal with this article is to give you my thoughts, insight, and information all pertaining to the role of editing in indie publishing.
I’ve also invited editor Susan Hughes to answer a few questions in regard to what editing services are exactly and the benefit to writers. Susan earned her BA in English Lit from University of Houston which served her well as an educator for 29 years, and she is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association as well as American Copy Editors Assn. She was gracious enough to say yes when I asked for her help, and if you can engage an editor of her caliber, I think you’ll be pleased you spent the time and money finding her or him.
When I first started writing The Beauty Thief, I didn’t plan on having an editor and thought I could get away with just the wonderful help of some friends and maybe a couple strangers, but I did a lot of research that convinced me otherwise. I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating the self-published books I’d read and been dissatisfied with, the ones that really drove me to finally follow my longtime inclination to write my own stories. But I didn’t want to add to–or perpetuate–this false generalization that indie published books were second class or that indie authors didn’t care about what they were putting on the market.
Beta readers and writers groups can go a looong way in helping alleviate these issues, but I also feel that finding a good editor and being able to afford the services will offer writers that extra bit of support and polish. I want indie authors to not be overwhelmed by the false idea that it can’t happen.
As a writer who wants to publish, consider the idea that, sadly, indie authors in general have gotten a bum rap for producing sub-par books. This is why–especially for new authors–editing, revising, beta reading, more revising, more beta reading, and again, at the very least, a thorough proofreading by an experienced second person are essential for indie authors to do before they ever get to the point of publishing.
I see it this way . . .
I am not only representing myself, but I am representing every other indie author out there who works their butt off to produce quality work and have it recognized as such. If indies are diligent about getting trustworthy and honest feedback through beta readers and writing groups prior to publishing, I think it seriously cuts down on the amount and type of editing we choose, but choose one we should.
I’ve heard the arguments for and against editing, and I side on the part of authors doing everything they can to improve at their chosen craft while also realizing we are not supermen who can leap tall tales in a single bound.
Get an edit, whatever kind, with whatever help you are able.
Derek Murphy of creativindie.com had this to say in a comment following his article linked on Alliance of Independent Authors, from Self-Publishing Advice, Who Needs Editors:
I think they [writers] get enough positive encouragement and support already; I think what they really need is somebody telling them why their books are failing and how they can write better ones that earn money. There are soooo many failed and frustrated authors out there. Getting a good editor is not the solution to that problem. Writing a better story that readers love is the solution (and if authors do that, they should absolutely pay for a great editor – but maybe after they’ve given it to beta readers who love it).
I read Derek’s article and a majority of the comments on it, and it has convinced me further of the need to get great feedback from several sources. The big issue was the cost of editing services and how many of us cannot afford the huge expense, a conundrum with which I have struggled too.
If you are wanting to make the effort to both get an editor and publish your work:
- you want to put your best foot forward
- you need to grow a thick skin to handle tough feedback
- you need to learn to discern the good from the bad
- you want and need to find an editor that you jive with, not just someone with whom you make a professional connection because of the perceived necessity of an author-editor relationship. If it requires getting to know editors a little more personally, then by all means find every way possible to do it.
To help bring some perspective I’ll compare finding an editor with finding an agent for those who go the traditional route. It’s next to impossible to find an agent who will give you the time of day if you haven’t done your research first. In today’s traditional publishing market, you are essentially required to look up everything you can about the agent you are contacting BEFORE you contact them (and most people end up contacting more than a few).
- You find out what they’ve edited and figure out what is most comparable to your story. Then there’s the question of their editing preference, what social media they use, their length of time as an agent, who they work with and have worked with before, any reviews or comments made about them as agents by other writers or publishers, and so on.
In the same way one searches diligently for the right agent to approach one should vet editors to ensure they will be a worthwhile fit for not only your genre and editing needs but your personality. You need to be able to talk openly and honestly with your editor. Do not waste money or time on editing if you haven’t first established a confidence in the editor, that they understand your end goals and style, because not all editors are equal to the task of meeting your specific needs.
Save up what you can for an edit, don’t pay for what you don’t need or want, get your betas, and do your best.
Now without further ado, I really want you to meet my editor, Susan Hughes, who continues to hone her own craft and help authors be the best they can be. I posed some questions to her, and she’s going to help with the logistics of getting an editor and what types of editing are most often available.
1) If a new author is looking for an editor, where is a good place to start?
Thanks for inviting me to be part of this great series, Rachael! Writers definitely want to do their homework when selecting an editor. If you’re part of a writers’ group or have blog buddies or writer friends on social media sites, ask around for referrals. If not, there are many other great options. I’m a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, home to many editors. Writers can check their website for more information at http://www.the-efa.org/. Another good place to find high-quality editors is at Reedsy. Their website is https://reedsy.com/.
2) When choosing an editor, what are some of the services or other things an author should expect? Should authors only solicit the services of editors who are willing to give a free sample of their work?
Great question. I would definitely be wary of any editor who does not offer to do a free sample edit for you. After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without taking it out for a test drive, right? As an editor, I want to see the level of writing skills the prospective client has in order to gauge the level of editing needed and the amount of time required for the job. The sample edit allows me to do that while showing writers exactly what I can do to help them. Every editor has their own style, and you want to find one that will be easy for you to understand.
Expect the editor to provide references who can be contacted for more information. It’s helpful if they have a website you can go to for information about rates, procedures, etc. I (and many others) offer a written contract and invoicing upon request, so don’t hesitate to ask for those.
Another important thing to look for in an editor is someone who is willing to communicate with you promptly and in a friendly manner. You’re going to hand your manuscript off to someone you’ve probably never met, and you’re bound to have lots and lots of questions. You want to know that your questions and concerns will be addressed promptly, and you definitely deserve to know how the edit is progressing.
Be sure to ask the editor what kind of post-editing services they offer. Are they going to be available during the revision process? Does their fee include a full or partial second read-through?
3) Essentially, what are the different levels/types of editing services available through professional editors, and what do they each entail?
This is so important, Rachael. I have many clients who come to me for what they think is just a proofread, only to find that the manuscript needs a complete overhaul.
There are 3 basic types of editing. What follows is a brief description of each:
- Substantive/Developmental Editing: This includes a look at the manuscript as a whole—its structure, organization, consistency, etc. The editor might suggest the removal/addition/rewriting of sentences, paragraphs, and even chapters.
- Copy editing (line editing): This is what most writers expect when it comes to editing. Grammar, spelling, word usage, repetition, and style are addressed, among other things.
- Proofreading: Proofreading is the final step in the writing process. This is light editing to catch stray errors prior to publication. No changes will be made to sentence structure or the story itself.
There are some editors who only do one type of editing. Others offer all three, separately or as a package. And there are proofreaders who provide only that service. If you’re not sure what your manuscript needs, ask your prospective editor.
4) Since editing is one of the biggest expenses of publishing, what might be some options for people who are on a limited to non-existent budget?
Yes, editing is expensive. But self-publishing a book without having it edited is costly, too. In some ways, it may be even more costly. You certainly can’t put a price on your reputation as an author.
As you do your research, you’ll find a wide range of fees for editing. Some editors charge an hourly rate. Others charge by the word or the page or the project. I charge an hourly rate and use my free sample to help determine the charge. I use the EFA’s rate chart as a guide. You can find it here: http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php.
That being said, if money is tight, you will want to start saving now. Many editors offer payment plans or are willing to let you pay in installments. I schedule edits up to a year in advance and have clients who send me payments of $50 (or less) at a time. Just don’t expect to get your edited manuscript back until you’ve paid in full. A Kickstarter campaign is a great idea, too. Rachael can fill you in on how to do that.
Again, do your homework. The cheapest editor isn’t necessarily the best. Neither is the most expensive editor. Find a couple of editors you think will be a good match and then consider the cost of each.
5) What do you see as the most important reason for having one’s manuscript edited?
You only get one chance to make that first impression with your book, so it needs to be the best it can be. And while you might have a slew of smart, talented friends, family, and beta readers to comb through your manuscript for errors, you need a professional who is objective, thorough, and meticulous—someone who doesn’t have to worry about stepping on your toes or hurting your feelings when giving an honest critique of your work.
Writers work from the heart. Your story is yours; the characters become a part of you, and it is difficult to separate yourself from them. An editor works from the head, with no emotional connection to the story or its characters (though I admit I do become invested in some of them before the edit ends). When you put the two together, you have the best of both worlds . . . and your readers will thank you for it.
- If you think of something you’d like to add, please do!
A big thank you and Texas-size hug to Rachael for this opportunity. I’d love to connect with you and am always available to answer questions regarding editing, social media marketing, and the self-publishing industry in general.
- Visit my website: www.myindependenteditor.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/hughesedits4u
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MyIndependentEditor
You are so welcome, Susan, and thanks for taking the time to help us out with your expertise and offer of further assistance!
This is part of a series we’re putting together about how not to get overwhelmed with indie publishing. For a breakdown of what to expect in the series go to this article: Indie Publishing: How to Make Your Big Goal Manageable
Rachael Ritchey is the author of the Chronicles of the Twelve Realms, a series of young adult fantasy fiction. Her emphasis in writing young adult fiction is to make her stories accessible to all, be true to herself, and entertain her readers. Life is an ever-changing path where Rachael’s goal is to find the adventure at every turn. She currently lives in eastern Washington with her husband, four kids, and their dog named Hashtag (#).
Please leave a comment, question, or idea! I’d love to chat!