Thus far in our epic adventure in publishing, the task that has given me (personally) the most stress has been finding our perfect(ish) editor. I’ve learned a bit since I began, and here’s the roll up.
Aristen has mentioned how there are some scammers out there: $500 WE HANDLE EVERYTHING! I wonder what kind of product would be produced out of that headline? I tend to worry about plagiarism, but that’s the attorney in me. So BLUF, we’re looking for a professional who will not steal our work who is reasonably priced. We also specifically are looking for somebody who is interested in not only our genre, but our work. Not too tall an order but we shall see.
Looking throughout the Internet, you rarely find a no-BS kind of explanation on what you’re to do or how to find somebody. Well, here I’ll try to help by providing the knowledge I’ve gained from my own (short) experience.
How much does an editor cost?
Well, that’s an interesting question, and there are a myriad of factors to consider. So far, I’ve seen everything for $500-over $5K+. I assume some of the big names are even more. One editor’s website “warning” stated something along the line of “make sure you’re sitting down when you ask about an entire manuscript critique.” This editor, from what I remember, had extensive experience, including big five editing experience. However, when I was writing up this blog, I couldn’t get her website to pull up. Maybe she’s busy?
Anyway, here are some factors to consider:
Editors come in all levels. The more experienced will be the more expensive, but they’re people like us. They have goals; they want to get paid. The more work they’ve done in the past, the more likely they’re going to want more money now. Reasonable. I get it.
Experience also has to do with the successes of the work they’ve done. Tons of best sellers? Well, you’re going to pay more. The number of successful works has to do with their quality.
I know what you’re thinking, “but my book is AMAZBALLS. The editor would be riding my coattails!” You know what I say to that? You’re an asshole. Get your head out of your forth point. Editors are professionals; they have a profession. I assume they’re, as a whole, reasonable people, but they deserve to get paid too. I’m not saying be a doormat, but give credit where credit’s due.
I know this might sound weird if you’re unaware, but hear me out. I lived right outside of New York City for a few years, right before I moved to Fort Worth. The cost of living up north is astronomically higher than down here. Take for example where I live now versus where I lived there. I live two miles from downtown. I can walk to restaurants and to the gym. It’s great, but I also have a three bedroom house. Two miles outside of Manhattan, even in one of the Burroughs, there’s no way I could own a house with a little yard and a two car garage.
I’ve found editors located in NYC and the northeast are more expensive. It’s a well-established fact. If you’re savvy about how you do it, you can find a quality editor who lives somewhere outside “the” national publishing hub and save some money.
3. Types of editing for the Newbie
a. Beta-readers and Critique Partners
Technically not editors, I figured I’d mention these lovely individuals as they can really help you out. Possibly, you can find a beta-reader online and for free. FREE. $0. Yes, it is possible. The beta-readers we’ve enlisted are poor bastards who volunteered when asked or volunteered when not having been asked, but they’re people we know. There are also threads on Goodreads, which is where I got my start beta-reading (and the author I read for got published! YAY! Check it out!!). Also check Reddit for writing and advice.
Critique partners are usually found by personal relationships with another writer, and often, you trade with this person. In a sense, for us, we have each other: Aristen is my critique partner. Critique partners can help you with the same things that beta-readers can.
I haven’t turned down any beta-readers yet, but you should consider a few things before you fill you ranks.
First, consider who the audience for your book is. Are your betas they type that read that sort of literature? When Aristen and I considered who to ask, I thought of people who might enjoy our work outside of helping out.
Second, think about your relationship with the beta. Family is a tough one. We do have two family members who will be reading for us, but both of them are people who were interested in our story in more than a “oh my sister’s writing a book, guess I’ll suffer through reading it” sort of way. One is my cousin. Originally, stupidly, I didn’t ask her, or maybe I was afraid of what she’d say if I asked. I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve really put myself out there, and my life is always under a microscope with my family. That’s how we are. But my lovely cousin reads in our genre, and we like some of the same books. I should have asked her a long time ago. Mistake corrected.
Third, consider how big of slackers your betas are. We’re hiring an editor post-beta read, and so we’re going to have to stick to our deadline. We need our beta-readers to also stick to the time table offered. My incredibly intelligent husband was the first to get his hands on the manuscript and gave us initial direction on where to go. Based on his suggestions, we made changes to the manuscript. That being said (and yes I do love my husband), he did not stick to our deadline. A deadline he assigned himself. Yeah. Thanks, hubster. It worked out in the end … I guess? ❤
I should also mention for beta-readers, we’ve devised a worksheet we plan to give them with questions. Our inspiration for this sheet came from Jami Gold, a self-described paranormal author, and we used a lot of her ideas when fabricating our own. She has a blog post about worksheets that is incredibly helpful. Please check it out. She also wrote a blog post titled “How to Make Beta Reading Work for Us,” which has great ideas and advice on how to find beta-readers if you’re struggling.
Websites also exist for you to post your work and receive feedback from strangers. We have had some mixed success with them. Try writeon or Scribophile; the latter requires you to read and get “points” or pay to post. Wattpad is also a possibility, but we haven’t used it.
b. Proofreaders/copy editor
I lumped these together mainly because they have similar goals, and I just didn’t feel like making two headings for them; they’re not actually exactly the same. See this blog for a deeper explanation of the difference written by Amanda Foley. Proofreaders and copy editors are going to be the cheapest, because they do the easier work. Fixing grammar and ensuring consistency, whether its with abbreviations or with a standard used by that editing company or manual, is easier than taking an overall story into account.
From what I’ve read, and the universal advice I’ve received from others, you need more than a proofreader/copy editor for your manuscript. What you will need at a minimum is…
c. A Line Edit
Here’s a good explanation on what a line edit is. An editor will go line by line and ensure quality of your work. These individuals can also help with organizing sentences in a paragraph. Titled “Finally, an answer! Here’s the difference between line, copy, and content editing,” this blog posting explains not only line edit/ors, but also the other types of editors. I found this after I had organized my post, bit it appears my thinking was pretty much spot on.
d. Developmental/Content Edit
I’ve seen this type of edit called both Developmental and Content. I’m not sure why, but they seem to be the same. In this type of edit, the editor goes over the entire story as a whole and makes recommendations on things like character inconsistencies that a copy editor couldn’t care less about. Another thing mentioned by the Finally and answer! blog is a developmental editor may also ensure you’re keeping your content in the correct genre (Young Adult (YA) v. New Adult (NA) or YA v. Middle Grade (MG) for example).
If this is what we end up doing, which at this point it is, we’re going to ask our editor about organization of the chapters. Some of our chapters are long, and we might need to change them up a bit to increase flow and readability.
e. Critique…? And other edit packages
I found a couple of places offering “manuscript critique.” Maybe you’d find it too. I believe, from what I’ve read, it appears to be a sort of ad-hoc edit rather than a standard. The definition of a critique appears to shift from blog to blog, and it’s not mentioned in my printed materials.
4. Resources Online to Find Your Editor
a. Lists made by Agents
Worthwhile so far have been blog entries including this one from agent Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary Management. I like this page because there are a list of “recommended” editors, but the page specifically notes the agent has no specific monetary agreement. I’m always looking out for conflicts of interest, for reasons we’ve already discussed. I can’t help it.
After having contacted one of these editors, I’ve found them to be receptive and quick to respond.
b. Editorial Freelance Association (EFA)
In their own words: “EFA members are editors, writers, indexers, proofreaders, researchers, desktop publishers, translators, and others who offer a broad range of skills and specialties.”
What I liked about this site was you can search for an editor by key words (e.g. “fantasy” and “new adult”), and the editors also often have their website addresses and their resumes posted. One thing I also loved about this was many of the editors offered FREE samples of their work. This is important, especially so you can get a sense of how they work and if you’d work well with them. We want our editor to understand our vision and having a good rapport with this person is essential to do so.
The way Aristen and I dealt with such a large pool of potentials was we made a spreadsheet on gdocs to track who we’d contacted. Although it reminded me a little bit of a college application tracker, like the one I’d created when I applied to law schools, it makes the most sense. I assume when we pitch to agents and/or publishers, we will likely use something similar to keep track of who we contacted.
Costs for these editors varied wildly, but many had their costs (by word or manuscript page) right on their website or page on EFA.
I will note that of four editors we contacted through EFA, only one responded.
c. Canned editing Companies
There are companies offering editor resources online. One such company is NY Book Editors. When you contact these companies, you fill out some questionnaires and include descriptions of your manuscript. NY Book Editors will then email you with a matched editor.
We did go through this process and were paired with a what seemed like well-established editor with big five experience. However, she was more expensive than a lot of the other editors, did not offer a free sample (it was $165) and had done mostly YA edits. As she wasn’t exactly what we wanted, we’ll keep the email, but it will likely be a pass. The cost for such an editor was from around $2500 for a line and $5k+ for a developmental.
d. Word of Mouth
Some people have connections in the publishing world. They know someone who knows someone who is willing to help connect me with somebody who will actually help get me published. I might be in this category but for the last part. I know people who will answer questions, and who have been helpful in that respect. But understandably, publishing peeps are busy trying to, you know, make money so they can eat, buy a nice car, get that last beanie baby they’ve been searching for for 20 years. Whatever it is, they have goals, and they don’t include some untested dweeb like me. I’m not mad, I’m realistic. I’m a professional too, just not in the publishing sphere. YET. (I just want to put out there a lot of people have told me I couldn’t hack it. Needless to say, they’re still coughing up my dust way behind me, and I’m here, where I am.)
Otherwise, we’ve been trying to find somebody by other connections and word of mouth with mixed results. I asked a friend of my husband’s who has published books on Amazon. Check him out. He got a friend’s wife to edit his stuff. I have friends who describe themselves as “writers” or are married to people who call themselves “writers.” Nothing there either. Who knows what the reason is, probably just life.
While most all editors offer “flat-fee” arrangements, ask the question: are there any other fees? Some editors require a minimum too.
Also, have a discussion about what will be offered. Some “critiques” do not appear to offer proofreading/copy editing. ASK.
The bottom line, and life rule, is to communicate. If you’re unsure ask. And if you have any feedback about this post, please message us or leave a comment.