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Indie's Guide to the Self-Publishing Galaxy: Finding the Right Editor (Part 2)

*This post was originally published Feb 2017*

So in the previous post on this topic, we talked about the ends and out of preparing your manuscript for finding an editor and all the cool tools you can use to enable you to make that happen. In this part, we're going to talk about vetting and researching to find "the One"...

No, that is that "one." Neo can do many things, but haven't seen him edit a book.

I'm talking about finding the right editor to make your work sparkle. That is what we'll talk about today.

Now, as we talked about in Part 1, there are different literary editors that have a skillset for certain aspects of your manuscript:

First and foremost, you need to decide what you're looking to get out of the editor. Think about what help you need the most and search for that particular editor. This takes some self-assessment and being honest with yourself. If this is your first book, you should consider some developmental editing. If you've worked with a group of beta readers and feel pretty confident about the big picture of your story, then you may want to consider a line editor and proofreader. This is why independent authors are, well, independent. You are responsible for the success and failure of your book. That is a huge responsibility, so anything you can do to better your product (your book) will give you an advantage. Poorly edited books are the bane of indie publishing. Don't be "that person." Once you decide which editor(s) you need, then it's time to start going out and researching viable candidates to serve on your editing "dream team."

Where do I start to look?

Don't just type in "developmental editors books" in Google and try to feel lucky. There are so many editors out there, you'll overwhelm yourself. Think about finding an editor like finding a date. You wouldn't just pull a broad search on Google to find the perfect date, right? I mean, I should hope not, but maybe you live dangerously. Anywho, I make that analogy because an editor will be working on a very personal piece of your art. They will polish your manuscript--the book you're stayed up in the wee hours working on, tweeting about when you lose a whole chapter because you forgot to save, gallons of over-priced, over-caffeinated coffee drink to sustain yourself...let's face it, there's history there, written in our blood, sweat, and tears. With all that said, you can't just find any editor off the street to handle your "baby."

So (back to the dating analogy) what do you do when you'd like to go out with someone who isn't potentially a serial killer?

You ask people you know or people who can vouch for that person, right? Absolutely. That is where you will start to look. The best comfort is knowing that other's like you have received great work from that editor and their experience should at least get you interested in researching them more. So go on forums for authors and see what editors authors are praising. You can search forums on Writer's Digest, the community on Amazon's KDP, or even solicit recommendations from fellow authors via Twitter or Facebook. If you belong to some author Facebook groups, ask them. They don't call it social media for anything, and you'll be surprised who's open to suggest editors to you. Authors are usually so happy when they find "the one," they are all too happy to gush about them and help their editor get more business. We're all small business people, so word of mouth is king. Editors are no exception.

When you find a few options, visit their website and learn about their experience:

  • Do they have experience in editing your genre?

  • Are they a fan of your genre? It's always a plus to find an editor that enjoys reading the type of literature you're writing.

  • What is their typical turnaround time? Editors should be deadline oriented (just like you) so if you're reaching out to them, the editor should get back to you in a reasonable time. If not, that's a big red flag. If the editor says they will follow up with you in a certain amount of time, they should deliver, so first communication with them can give you a glimpse of how they work.

  • Confirm what type of editing they will cover for your book. You should also be very clear with informing the editor what you're looking for. You know your book better than anyone else, you should be able to elaborate of what you want out of the service.

For example, when I was making contact with my prospective editors, I told them that I needed someone who could help with sentence flow and point out weird metaphors, because I know sometimes the metaphors may make sense to me, but they may be awkward or obscure to others. I also knew that I needed someone to preserve my writing style. I know a grammar nazi would not be fond of my sentence fragments, but as a whole, that's my writing style. I needed someone who could identify the fragments that didn't work and suggest alternatives.

I needed a fan of Paranormal Romance because I needed someone that understood (and appreciated) world-building and romantic elements in the story. Readers of the genre would have that level of insight.

I also knew I had a deadline to get my book formatted and published on Kindle via Kindle Direct Program (KDP). I had it set up for pre-sale so Kindle requires you to have your final version ready at least 10 days before release. If you're late, they penalize you by not allowing you to do pre-sale for other books for a period of time. So, I knew I needed someone who could give me a turnaround time that fit the deadline.

Tip: A good question to ask to see if an editor is serious about deadlines?
Ask how many jobs they do at one time.

A good editor will not risk juggling multiple editing assignments. That runs a risk of the editor not giving full focus to your manuscript and also your deadline can suffer. An editor that is focused on one manuscript at a time tells you they believe in devoting their skill set to YOUR book only during the process. That is why you're paying them good money: skill and time. If they aren't giving 100% to your story, then what are you paying for?

Sounds detailed, huh? That's because self-assessment is key. I knew my flaws and how they stacked against the norms. What I needed was someone who wasn't out to change my style, but to enhance it. That should be your goal as well.

Audition Time

Now, after connecting with your ideal editors, ask them to do a sample edit. Some will offer it for free, others will do it for a small fee. In either case, you MUST get one. How else will you see what editing you're expected to get? A sample edit is like an audition. Review it and ask yourself:

  • Do I find their feedback valuable?

  • Did the editor address the needs that we discussed?

  • Can I understand what changes the editor is suggesting?

You may not believe it, but you're under audition too. The test? How you interpret and accept critical feedback.

We're all writers here, so I can speak candidly. Remember when I talked about "the one" handling your "baby"? Your precious manuscript you're worked through under the influence of Monster energy drinks and sleep deprivation? Yeah, we tend to get really sensitive about our work. It's normal, because sharing your writing is very intimate. However, in order to grow as a writer and improve your product (your book), you need to be able to accept feedback without getting butthurt over it.

You really need to take a step back from your manuscript and be open to what feedback the editor gives you. Really think about the suggestions before you dismiss it. Sleep on it. Re-read it. Let someone else read it and give feedback on that specific issue to see if they give the same feedback.

If you do all of that, and still feel the editor is way off, then you have a choice to remove them from consideration or just ignore the feedback. You don't have to accept all of the feedback the editor provides--ultimately, you are the captain, remember. Just remember, in the sample edit, if you find yourself dismissing a number of items the editor raises, then why bother paying for the editor to do your whole manuscript? If you and the prospective editor aren't a good fit, then kindly thank them for their time and let them know you will pursue other editors. It's nothing personal, just be kind and move on to the next.

Back to the dating analogy, be prepared to try a few times to find "the one." It may not be the first or second one you contact. Searching for the one can be a feat, but an important one. Don't give up. Finding the right editor for you is a beautiful thing!

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