Finding the right editor

Editors are usually nice people. At least, the ones I've met are. They are nowhere near the baddies or pedantic nit-pickers editors are made out to be. (Thought I'd better get that cleared up straight away.)

But the question: how do I know if I've found a good editor? is a lot harder to answer. 

Because the short answer is you won't. Not until you've worked with them. And, believe me, you'll know almost as soon as you start working with an editor whether they 'get' your writing, and honestly want the best for your story. That's the type of editor you need. That's the type of editor you should try and find.

 

My best advice? Be open and willing to work with someone. But also be clear about what you want and have realistic expectations. Because editors can't read your mind. I mean, we're good, but not that good.

 

Okay. Let's start with what an editor does and doesn't do, so at least you'll know what to expect when hiring one. After that I'll give you some suggestions on where to look when you do finally get around to engaging the services of an editor.

What an editor will do:

This really depends entirely on what you want the editor for in the first place. Yes, there are different kinds of editing. If you don't understand what these are, read three phases of editing - that'll hopefully help you work out what you need.

 

If you want someone to go through your story to check for inconsistencies, to make sure your story makes sense and that the story flows in a relativity smooth and logical way, then you're probably looking for a structural edit. This takes longer, and will cost you more, but is definitely worthwhile. So, you'll need to seek out editors who specialise in doing this type of editing.

 

If you're looking for someone to check your grammar, then you're probably looking for a line or copy editor, or even a proof reader. Because that's what they do. They pick up any spelling mistakes, any grammatical errors, and, sometimes, any passive voice or changes in points of view.

But what every editor will do is help you with your story. They'll do the job you've asked them to do to the best of their ability. If that's to make your story flow smoothly, effortlessly, and at just the right pace, then that's what they'll do.

 

They'll most likely use track changes (I know I always do). This means it'll be your decision whether to accept or reject their suggested changes. They may add comments - both good (this is great!) and instructional (you might consider....), depending on what you've engaged them to do.

 

Nevertheless, good editors always want to make your story better. To improve it, make it clearer or more succinct. To get your message across without all the fluff or distractions. These are the types of editors you should be considering.

What an editor won't do:

They will never, ever, write or rewrite the story for you. They should keep your style of writing intact. They should never try to impose ‘their’ writing style on your story. That is not their job. That isn't to say they won't suggest structural, grammatical or logical changes to your story. They will. But it'll be up to you whether you accept these suggestions or not. Because, at the end of the day, it's your story, no-one else's. So that decision is firmly and wholly in your court.

Also, an editor shouldn’t take your story idea and make it their own. Not only is that illegal, but it's also morally wrong.

How to find an editor that'll suit you

  • Seek recommendations
    Personal recommendations are the best way to find an editor. But be warned. What works for your friend or associate or colleague might not work well for you. But gaining recommendations from others in a similar field as you is definitely the first step towards hiring an editor.

  • Ask questions.
    Questions like: How much do you charge? What's your estimated turnaround time? What do I get for the fee you're charging? Can I speak to your other clients to see how they found working with you? Who else have you worked with? What's your experience working with xxxx stories? 
    You should be able to gauge how well you can work with them by how wiling they are to answer your questions, and how long it takes them to respond. Not a fool-proof method, by any means. But there's no harm in asking as many questions as you need to be assured you're both on the same page before you hand over your hard-earned money.
     

  • Ask them to do a sample edit.
    Sample edits are like those sample chapters you can download from the Kindle store. It gives you a taste. It allows you to assess whether this editor is a good fit for you and your style of writing.
    How it works in practise is you send your first chapter or certain number of words through to your prospective editor to work on. They do their thing on your precious words and send it back. You get to see the way they'll approach your writing, and it'll give the editor a good idea on how long they'll need to complete the tasks you want. 
    Most editors will be happy to do this, but if they're not, or want to charge you for the privilege, drop them immediately. Mind you, some might send your sample back to you without doing anything because they don't have the capacity to take on more clients or for various other reasons. This doesn't happen often - they wouldn't have agreed to do the sample if they didn't think they could fit you into their schedule, but it does happen sometimes.

I've done sample chapters many, many times. I like doing sample chapters for a brand new client because this allows me to see what kind of writing you do and the amount of work your story will take. And that'll translate into me being able to give you a more accurate and detailed quote. So, a sample edit is a win-win, for everyone.

For new clients and sample chapters, I usually include a few more comments than normal, explaining why I've suggested the changes I have. I note this in the covering email, so my client doesn't get too overwhelmed by the number of changes and comments. [The more you work with someone, the more you can tune into the way they write, the way they express themselves and hopefully, they'll also learn some things along the way, too.] But with this initial interaction, I'm a 'more is good' kind of person. Doesn't always get me the client, but it does allow them to see what I do, how I work and what I'll probably do to their full manuscript.  
 

If you are looking for an editor and think I might be a good fit for you and your writing, I'd love to hear from you. I'm not cheap, but I'm not expensive either. And I will do my best to help you make your story, your article or web content the best and clearest it can be. For more information, see Editing Services.

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© 2016 Wendy Lee Davies

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