Hiring an Editor: An Insight to the Process

 

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Do you have any questions about hiring an editor that you want to ask, but you think would be inappropriate or make you look uninformed?

Let’s answer some of them.

The publishing industry is fierce and ever changing. In a world where only one in a thousand manuscripts are accepted for publication each year and the self-publishing market is continuing to grow and mature, hiring a freelance editor has become more and more of a talking point amongst writers. Should you do it? What’s the process look like? Is it worth it?  Some think it’s necessary—others are terrified of the idea.wrong-page-wrong-book

An editor is a skilled professional who will work with you, dear writer, to polish your manuscript into the best version of itself. Editors can look at the flow of your ideas, the marketability of your content, the grammar and style, the emotional impact of your characters and scenes—there’s no piece of your project we won’t give a thorough examination. But more than what we do for your project, an editor is there for the writers themselves.

The relationship between an editor and writer is vital to the project succeeding. That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything and want to hang out after work, but you do have to understand one another’s role
in the process and work together to achieve the same ultimate vision for the manuscript. If you start off on the wrong page, you’ll end up with the wrong book.

I don’t want that to happen. I want to be excruciatingly transparent with my authors and students when it comes to what they’ll expect out of a project with me. That’s why I have my rates posted on my services page. That’s why I’m always asking for feedback. That’s why I offer so much advice outside of a paid contract. And that’s why I’m going to talk about the following four questions before talking about my personal process.

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question-1

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Honestly, no. It’s not a requirement. But, there are a few advantages to hiring an editor before submitting your query letters that you should seriously consider when you finish your draft. For starters, if you’re a first-time writer, an editor can help identify the missing pieces in your manuscript that keeps your book from getting accepted.

If you know you struggle with grammar, a copyedit alone can give your manuscript more credibility. Remember, when an acquiring editor is looking at your submission chapters, they’re also looking at how much work they think the book will need. The less work they have to do pre-production, the more attractive your book will look to busy publishers.

You’ll be assigned another editor when you sign a publishing contract. That editor is going to tweak your book to align with their house style and the reader demographic they’ll be marketing towards. If upon submission your book has no clear audience (ask yourself, “What shelf in the bookstore would I find my book?”), an editor at a traditional publisher may be more hesitant to take on your project. Hiring an editor beforehand can help you gain direction and clarity in who will be reading your book, thus making your submission more appealing.

You can also always consider hiring a writing coach instead of an editor during your drafting process. They’ll slog through the first draft with you and help shape your story while the clay’s still moist.

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question-2

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An editor will enhance your story, not set out to make it their own. You have to trust that whatever revisions your editor suggests is for the story’s best interest. Sometimes, that includes killing your darlings. It’s not that what you wrote was bad, it just means it didn’t work with the story you’re trying to create. Sometimes writers (including myself) get so attached to a scene or idea that we’ll go through hell and high water trying to make it fit in the story. Trust your editor’s experience and devotion to your work.

At the same time, it’s your vision. If your editor is trying to change something in the manuscript that drastically alters your end goal, talk to them about it. Stand your ground and explain your vision. (Remember that whole same page same book thing?) If that particular darling is truly critical to your story but it’s not working, then maybe you need to take the harder road and scrap most of your draft to redirect your manuscript. But if you don’t tell your editor your vision upfront, it’ll be harder to catch this early on.

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question-3

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An editor is dedicated to making you a better writer through tough love on your manuscript—you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. But just because something you wrote is broken doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. Even Ferraris break down from time to time. We’re here as your manuscript mechanics, not empty encouragers or snobby critics.

I know it’s tough. You put a lot of your soul into the words your write—and I’m not just talking to fiction writers or memoirists. Informative texts like business books or manuals contain a lot of a writer’s personal beliefs and habits. But stories are meant to be shared. So take a chance and let someone read what you wrote.

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question-4

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They better not!

Going into your editorial relationship, you should already have a good feel for what’s working and not working in your manuscript based on your writing group or beta reader’s feedback. If the editor says something is way off and the people you trust to honestly assess your work disagree, something’s not right.

Editing is a profession, sure. Of course we want to get paid. But tearing down a perfectly good story for the sake of financial gain is disgusting. Most editors get into the business because they want to help writers, not because they’re grammar Nazis. Personally, I’ve always viewed editing as being part of the service industry. We’re rarely given recognition for the work we do, our names don’t go anywhere in the front matter of a book (even illustrators and designers sometimes get their names near the barcode), and for all the emotional and intellectual investment we make in your novel we don’t see a dime of your profit. And that’s all fine by me. Editing isn’t about fame or fortune, or even recognition. It’s about supporting someone else’s dream. You’re not being supportive if you make someone think their craft is less than it really is just so you can gain something. Simple as that.

Have other writers you trust read over your manuscript before submitting to editors so you have a ballpark idea on the areas you’ll need to work on.

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my-editing-process

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You can read detailed descriptions of each type of editing process on my editorial services page, but I wanted to talk a little more about the actual relationship between editor and author at Rooted in Writing. When I work with a client, I start the relationship off with a discussion about their writing goals, project vision, and how I can best serve them to achieve those things. Some want a thorough reworking of their manuscripts, others just a direction to follow.

I think a common misconception authors have when hiring an editor—me or anyone else—is that they’ll hand the manuscript off to us and it’ll magically be perfect a short while later. Guys, it’s a lot of homework on your end. I’m going to tell you to rewrite things, do research, cut x amount of y. I can’t—and shouldn’t—always do it for you. It’s your book.

This isn’t to say that I’m not doing my fair share of work on my end. I read your chapters with the full scope of the project in mind, jumping across the manuscript as I cross-check information, check for plot holes, make sure the tone and character arcs are consistent, and a lot more. I’ll do research on your genre and its market in today’s industry, sending you relevant information to help you acquire an agent or proceed in your self-publishing journey.

A content edit and a grammar edit aren’t the same. Each requires a different side of the brain, a different way of looking at your words. An editor who tries to do both at the same time ends up compromising the quality for each. Besides, copyedits take precious time you don’t want added to the hourly developmental edit. So I see your dangling modifier, but I’m going to wait until the copyedit stage to address it.

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What can I do to make our project smooth and easy? You’ve already written the first draft, so I’d say the hardest part is over. The key to a happy editor is to honor your deadlines and communicate honestly. That’s it.

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What do you think? Has this been your experience with editors? Do you have any more questions you’d like me to answer? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!