If you’re serious about publication, you’ll need to hire an editor before you send your manuscript off to agents. I’m directing this post mainly to fiction writers who want to be traditionally published, but this information also applies to nonfiction authors, as well as those who are considering the self-published route.
You’ll get the best bang for your editing buck if you give your editor a manuscript that’s already revised, proofed and read by a few key readers. If you have plot questions, place them in a separate section so she can address them head-on. Don’t give your editor a dirty, unproofed manuscript unless you have agreed you need ghostwriting and/or developmental editing and that’s another post altogether. Always know that the more work your editor does on your manuscript, the more it will cost you.
Now on to why you should hire an editor:
A good editor will help you with
1. timelines so you don’t confuse your reader
2. keeping your plot in focus so you don’t veer off
3. ideas you didn’t think of before
4. making your book reader-centered
Your editor will
5. help you understand the writing process and its conventions
6. show objectivity and won’t be afraid to offer gentle honesty if you get lazy with your writing
7. give you accountability
8. help you get published by giving you an agent-ready manuscript
9. force you to examine your work and think about more possibilities. Are you using metaphors, does your work have a theme, what value does it provide the reader?
10. ask the tough questions of your characters, especially if you have a habit of protecting them and not placing them in enough conflict or challenge
When you’re hunting for the right editor, look beyond their fancy website, Facebook Page and testimonials. Try to find someone through referrals and not through an ad. Find someone who has experience with editing fiction either freelance or with a publication house. Also see if you can find someone who teaches or who has previous teaching experience. Check out their publication credits. How many are fiction? Are these credits recent? Ask for references and check out their former clients. You may not receive all of your answers, but you will get a feel for this person before you invest your time and money.
Now you are ready to set up a phone conference and/or meet this person for the first time. Come prepared with questions and while you get to know your future editor, try to get a feel for their personality and work ethic. Is this someone you can trust? Do they seem to be reliable (you can check this if they respond well to phone calls or emails). When you are satisfied, ask for a contract and a deadline. Try to negotiate a flat fee if possible so you know exactly what you are paying. Ask to have your work edited in Word Track Changes so you can see exactly what you need to fix. After your editor completes your work ask for a follow-up meeting to answer any questions you have about their editing marks or their thought process.
When you find the right person to edit your work, you will see your writing grow. Try to keep this relationship for as long as possible. A good editor, like a good mechanic or hair stylist is hard to find and necessary to hold on to! For if you and your editor collaborate on more books, both the writing and editing will get easier and smoother, which will probably lead to more publication success.