You’ve written a book. You’ve had it beta’d, you’ve gone over it yourself several times and fixed all the obvious garbage (typos, punctuation, awkward sentences, etc., and if you haven’t done this, shame on you), and now it’s time to submit it to a publisher. Or perhaps you’ve decided to self-pub. Either way, your manuscript needs editing.
If you go with a publisher, you get this service for free. Well, their cut of your royalties pays for that, but you don’t suffer money out of pocket. A manuscript will usually go through several edits before it’s pronounced ready for the next step. Remember my novella, Blue River? Betas went over it. I went over it. I didn’t think DSP could find anything wrong with it.
WRONG. Their eagle-eyed editors caught some things, and one of them was important. That manuscript went through three freaking edits! Three! I was humbled by their focus and attention.
That short story I submitted for the Shakespeare anthology? Yup, another three edits. On a short story.
Editors can make or break your book and career. Bow before them and sing hallelujah!
If you decide to self-pub, you’ll have to find an editor on your own. It’s a jungle out there. Prepare to weed through Those Who Are Not Worthy, and trust me, they’re waiting in the shadows to take your money and give you a piss-poor job in return.
You can’t even tell if an editor is good by what they charge. Paying more doesn’t mean you’ll get more. Hell, I’m underpriced. I should be charging way more than I do, but being an author, I know not all writers can afford a huge outlay of cash up front. Some, maybe even most of them, won’t make back their investment until several titles are released, if then.
You heard right: publishing, for better or worse, is not as lucrative as it once was. Even as Amazon handed out the tools to help authors put their work in front of readers, so many poured in to take advantage of it that individual sales are weak at best except for those fortunate few. KDP/KU, depending on who you talk to, either helps or hurts. If you’re someone like me, who doesn’t enjoy sky-high sales, all those borrows, paid to the author at a really cut rate, hurt.
The point is, in a packed market like this, the smallest things can relegate your book to the bottom of the pile. I never buy a title with a badly-written, badly-edited blurb. I figure the story will suck, too.
You need to hire an editor! Here’s how you do it.
First things first: ask your fellow authors. Most of you belong to writer groups of one kind or another. Put the question out there, and you will get names. Next step? Contact an editor. If they don’t ask for a sample, consider it a red flag. An edited sample will tell you what they look for and how they work. It also tells the editor what kind of writer you are. Not all editors and writers can work together. The sample is vital to indicating whether or not a professional relationship is possible.
Want references? Ask for them! Freelance editors just starting out may only have a couple names, but you can go to Amazon to “read inside” to check their work. Warning: do not base your decision wholly on the end result; not all authors follow their editor’s suggestions.
Test two or three possible editors. Choose the one you like best. Get a quote on turnaround time and price. Send them your book. You’ll know soon enough if this is the editor for you. If it is, hang on to them! If it isn’t, keep looking.
Do not hire an editor because you recognize their pen name or they’ve sold a lot of books. Not all writers can edit. Vet this person who is going to rip your manuscript apart and hopefully put it back together so sparkly, it will make you beam with happiness.