Part of my business as a freelance editor, proofreader and indexer is educating people about why they need an editor and how they can hire one more affordably than they think.
Why didn’t we see that error or typo in our writing before we clicked on Send? It’s almost inevitable. You need a fresh pair of eyes. Proofreaders are trained to catch those mistakes and save you embarrassment: I recently proofread a 281-page book with typos on 30 them. Unfortunately, it was already published… [Proofreading is done at the end of the editing process and concurrently with the end of the publishing process. I only discuss it first because most writers begin their inquiries by asking for proofreading and then editing.]
So what is editing, anyway? Let me tell you what it isn’t: it’s not a Mean Teacher type scribbling all over your pages with red pen (and most editing is done electronically now). It’s not a ‘quick look’ and it’s not a one-email reply. Good editing is an ongoing, collaborative, creative process. An editor should take time to get to know a little about you and about your written project, and then he will be able to tweak things that will make your writing even more polished. Your voice should be maintained, not stripped away. Basic errors will be corrected, but the writing itself should stay yours.
A lot of writers feel they can’t afford editing. In the case of those seeking to be published and sell books, they can’t afford NOT to have an editor. Well-meaning friends and relatives are great for initial feedback, but you need a trained editor to work on your manuscript if you want a chance to be printed or to make sales. So here are some tips to reducing the number of hours, and dollars, required to get edited.
1. Keep all emails and take notes from all discussions so that decisions can be easily reviewed. That way, nobody is wasting precious time trying to reach each other and ask what had been decided about certain plans for the manuscript.
2. Send a tidy manuscript. Would you send a pile of messy, loose, mismatched papers in an envelope? An electronic file needs the same as a hard copy: a system of filing, order, identification and professional presentation. It’s hard to get started on the actual work when you have to sift through disorganized information first.
3. Strip out some basics on your own. A horror story need not be set in Gothic type. Someone who is going to closely read some 50,000 words needs a streamlined type such as Arial and a sensible font size ~ something that renders an average of 250 words per page. Also ensure that other elements of your manuscript are editor-ready: standard margins, black print on white background, properly formatted foot/endnotes and bibliography, and most importantly the whole manuscript! Adding more text later will elongate the editing timeline and the invoice will reflect that.
4. Send a style sheet along. Save time corresponding with the editor by making an alphabetical list of names and special spellings and other writing conventions that you used; the more you explain up front, the less time is spent consulting.
5. Share some concept art about your text. Do you have art, music or film examples of the mood and atmosphere you’re trying to evoke with your writing? Help the editor get inside your head by sharing them.
6. Respect the terms of payment. Don’t balk at a deposit to secure your place in line, and pay promptly for even better service: I give one of my clients a 25% discount because she routinely pays her invoices within the hour.
7. Don’t rely on computer programs to fix spelling, check grammar and make indexes. That’s like using Easy Bake Ovens to make delicious food. The market is saturated with writers all competing for exposure and sales: you need to stand out right from the start of the publishing process or you’ll stand less of a chance. Do you want to be the author of the book on Amazon where a reviewer writes, “Needs editing”?
Editing is an integral part of writing a book. If you’d like more information about what an editor can do for you, contact me or your local branch of a freelance editors organization.
About Vanessa Wells
Vanessa was a Latin and English teacher for almost twenty years. Although it was hard to put down the textbooks, she is now happily ensconced in copy editing, proofreading and indexing, with more dictionaries than ever. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her writer husband and her cat, the children having flown the nest.
Vanessa Wells can be reached at Wells Read Editing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, connecting to her LinkedIn profile at ca.linkedin.com/in/vanessawellseditor/, or following her on Twitter @vwellseditor.
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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