Books·Self Publishing·Writing

What Do You Want to Know About Working with an Editor?

2 minute read

By the end of this month, I’m aiming to have the first draft of a short ebook done that offers practical advice on how writers can work better with copyeditors. It’s mostly targeted toward first-time indie authors who might be wary about paying good money to have their books edited.

Last year, prior to the release of my own indie-published book The Gospel According to Breaking Bad, I was that kind of writer: fearful to release my words to the public, hesitant to hire an editor, and utterly convinced that if I did hire an editor, my book sales would never recoup my investment.

Now, after having been edited and reading as much as I can about the state of both self-publishing and traditional publishing, I’m an ardent proponent of always having your book professionally edited.

Of course, as a freelance editor I’m much more biased than I used to be, but even if part of my livelihood didn’t rely on copyediting, I would still encourage every writer connection of mine to seek a qualified and competent copyeditor to work on their book before sending it out into the world.

In my forthcoming ebook, I go into much more detail about why all writers should seek copyediting. In fact, next week (should the scheduling remain the same), the first chapter of the book will go live as a guest post on Simon Whistler’s Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast website. In that chapter I cover the basics of copyediting, like when an author should hire an editor, how much it might cost, and how the process tends to work.

Until then, what questions do you have about working with a copyeditor?

I want to ensure that my book covers a majority of the questions writers might want to know, so ask away.

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9 Replies

  1. When deciding between editors, what should I bring to the table (as the writer), and what should the editor bring to the table?

    I think making sure both parties “gel” right off is good, but if there’s a choice between several what would you look for as the ‘deal breaker’ ?

  2. Great questions Devani.

    You should offer the best possible version of your book. It doesn’t have to be perfect (you’re paying the editor to help with that after all), but you should be at least 90 percent happy with it.

    You should also be absolutely clear in your expectations as to what you’re looking for from an editor. Do you need developmental help, or just copyediting? What’s your budget and timeline? Many issues that sometimes creep into the process can be prevented by clear communication up front from both sides.

    The editor should bring their knowledge and a willingness to help make the book better without imprinting their own biases and styles onto the work. They should also be available, within reason.

    In regard to your last question, ask for a sample edit. I offer free edits for up to 1250 words of a manuscript, and many other editors do the same. It’s a mutually beneficial strategy as it lets the writer see if the editor’s worth his or her salt, and it lets the editor judge how much work they may need to pour into that particular manuscript.

    If you receive a sample edit back and don’t believe it’s made your book any better, there’s your answer.

    I go into some of this in more detail in the upcoming guest post and the ebook, but you’ve given me more to consider. The deal breaker question is a good one, especially because there are so many choices for editors online and you have little way to know whether they’d be good for your book before contacting them.

  3. Wow! Thank you for that answer, Blake! Really appreciate it. I agree that asking for a sample of work would be best since you want to make sure you’re a fit for each other, and that they ENJOY working with you / your book and that you like their input.

    So that makes a lot of sense.

    re What I should Bring to Table: That is a good point I never thought of. Making sure you’re pretty happy with “draft 1” …

    Maybe it would be beneficial to have a friend/family member (that you know you can trust for honest feedback) to give it a look through as well. I know my mom has an eagle eye and catches so many things that I miss… When ever I give her something I’ve written it comes back red 😀 But that is so helpful for me to learn how to improve my writing.

  4. If you’ll be quoting from the Bible a lot, yes. If you’re looking for developmental suggestions, then you will absolutely want someone who knows their Bible.

    It’s always helpful to find an editor who has experience in the genre or type of book you’re writing. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for a writer to do their due diligence in locating an editor and then asking questions about the editor’s prior work.

    There are issues that any editor can fix in any book, but an editor who’s unfamiliar with your particular kind of book won’t know what to look for in regard to the minutiae of your work—and you’re paying your editor to ensure that that minutiae fits recommended style guides.

    If you’ll be writing a Christian book, I highly recommend getting a copy of “The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style” (http://amzn.to/1t2wQQC). It will help you learn much about what’s considered standard for Christian publishing.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’m an editor with a strong Bible background. : ) If you’d like an editing quote, you can provide me with details about your book at http://editfor.me/editing-quote.

    Thanks for your excellent question.

  5. Thank you so much!. I am definitely going to do both. I am just starting; you just saved me from some major obstacles.

  6. Glad to help. By no means do you have to seek my services, but promise me that you will seek a professional editor’s help before publishing. Everyone needs an editor!

  7. When should you edit your editor?

    • When their change goes against your purposeful style or tone.
    • When they can’t support their argument for a change from a relevant style guide, like the Chicago Manual of Style.
    • And, well, whenever you feel like it.

    Editors do their best to make their client’s books better, but it’s your name on the cover! You are the final arbiter of truth when it comes to your book.

    But, I would always ask an editor at least once why they made a particular change if I had a particular disagreement with their suggestion.

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