Hire an editor.
I wouldn’t dream of doing this without a paid professional making sure all my words are in top notch condition. I’ve had probably two dozen sets of eyes look over this story, many more qualified than mine. I’ve been through it countless times myself. I know there are things I missed. If you are a self-published author and feel like you don’t need an editor, please take your document and move it to the little bin in the corner of your screen.
“Well, <insert bestseller here> had a typo on page 34.” Who cares. Chances are I’ll have them as well. But if you are convinced your work is perfect, your grammar skills are infallible or happy that your mother didn’t find mistakes and she taught 3rd grade English, most likely the quality of your book is about as delusional as you are.
“Well, <insert latest fad book> started as a self-published book and it sold tons of copies and they got a big publishing house to sweep in and clean things up.” So what. I’m an adult, I clean up my own mess. I want this to be professional, look professional from day one. It’s about self respect and quality control. About wanting to learn the craft and not make a quick buck. In the long run, it will pay more to present a professional, quality image.
“But that costs MONEY.” Yep. Takes money to make money. Sure, you can shoestring a business, but you need to commit financially to it if you want to have any chance of success. Put aside money when you finally make sales because, guess what? That second book, you’ll NEED AN EDITOR. If you believe in your book, do what’s right.
Hire an editor. I need an editor. So that’s what I’ve been searching for since wrapping up the final draft.
Google was my starting point at this stage of the journey. (Not sure, but Google might be everyone’s “helper” or even closet mentor.) A bit of social media networking provided another hook for gathering friends and allies – I tweeted about editing and got a few direct messages right away. To avoid too many challenges (because, unlike a good book, I want this to go as smooth as possible) I have been looking for certain qualities in my editor-to-be. At the top of the list: verifiable references and a distinct interest in my genre.
Past examining the initial contact (can they use proper grammar and punctuation in their emails? Are they quick and courteous?), the first thing I do is read through testimonials. Writers, however, are known for a high degree of bullshit so the next thing I do is head out to Amazon and check on the book the happy customer had edited. Open up the first few pages. Check how well it is selling. What kind of ratings and comments? True, this reflects more on the author than the editor, but if you see comments like “UGH ALL THE TYPOS!” it’s a good indication you need to continue your search.
I’m also interested in someone who knows my genre. Sure, you could hire anyone with a good grasp of the English language, but I want them to be invested in the book. I want them to do more than move commas around and tweak words. This is another set of eyes helping to make my book the best possible book it can be and it can only help if they understand some of the conventions or tropes. This is especially important depending on the type of edit you want.
Many freelance editors will make a distinction between the following: line edits, copy edits, developmental edits. A decent guide to those edits is here, however in short: copy edits are those really nitpicky grammar corrections, line edits concern themselves moreso with style and flow, a developmental edit is about big picture issues such as plot, POV, and scene content.
Most will have different fees for each service and usually charge by the hour. However, price is a hard thing to nail down. At least one editor I have queried lists a single hourly fee and will provide the entire suite of edits. All have requested a sample of my project (first ten to fifty or more pages) so they can gauge how best to approach it and provide an accurate estimate. At this point, I’ve seen everything from flat rates of $300 for 100,000 words to $195 an hour for editors with decades of experience and resumes that included managing editorial positions at big name publishers.
The other qualities I’m searching for are ease of communication and flexibility. This won’t be my last book. I’ve got another on the drafting board, stories still to be published (and someday, I’ll have a backlist which will need anthologized.) While I may not be able to judge this quality until we’ve gone back and forth on the manuscript, it bears keeping in mind.
When I finally decide, I’ll post the who and why. Right now though, I’ve got to get back to some short story edits which piled up during my third draft revisions of Collateral Damage. One publishing credit so far this year (I’ll post details for a promotional soon!) so I’m back in the game.