by Harrison Demchick @HDemchick
|We all need editing.|
Great idea! We all need an editor. (Even those of us who are, in fact, editors.) But if you’re new to the publishing industry, odds are you don’t really have a clear idea of what you should be looking for. The internet is filled with eager and enthusiastic people claiming that they, and only they, can enable you to complete the very best version of your story. Who do you pick? How do you know?
Finding your editor is a tricky process, but here are some questions that may make the road a little easier.
Are you looking for feedback on your story? Are you concerned about characterization? Conflict? Description and dialogue? Then what you want is a developmental editor. A developmental editor, sometimes called a substantive or content editor, works with you on the big-picture issues—everything from character arc to logic to writing style.
If you’re looking more for someone to catch all the spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors, then what you need is a copyeditor. And if you want someone who will make more intensive changes than that, ensuring that each sentence is as strong as it can be, you want a line editor.
Knowing what you want is the first fundamental step toward finding your editor. Also helpful is knowing when you want these editors. A developmental editor typically appears early in the process, while a copyeditor usually comes in toward the end, when all substantive issues have been resolved.
2. But can’t I just have someone do both at the same time?
You can. But you shouldn’t.
The problem with simultaneous developmental editing and copyediting (which I practiced myself for many years) is that you’ll probably end up paying for copyediting at least twice. Suppose a substantial logic issue uncovered in the developmental editing necessitates a complete rewrite of Chapters 6 through 10. What was the point of having those chapters copyedited? You’ll only need them copyedited again once you rewrite them.
Focusing on one form of editing at a time keeps the process efficient and effective.
Here’s the really tricky part. Everyone with an English degree and a love of reading believes they can be an editor, but the truth of the matter is that editing, like any creative field, requires a particular set of skills. A developmental editor needs a unique combination of creativity and logic. A copyeditor needs a near-perfect eye for error. And these are probably skills you’re not in a position to evaluate.
So what can you evaluate?
You can look at experience. Does this editor have a background in the publishing field, or is she just starting out? Does she have a history of published books? Are there previous clients you can speak with? Someone who has been succeeding in this field for more than five years or so is probably pretty good at their job.
Consider your manuscript as well. Does this editor have experience in your genre? You don’t want to send a fantasy novel to an editor whose emphasis is prescriptive nonfiction. (Or vice versa.)
4. Can’t I save a lot of money by hiring someone without experience?
Sure. But it’s pretty risky.
In much the same way that you wouldn’t hire a med student to perform a tracheotomy or a law student to defend you in court, you should be wary about bringing in an amateur to edit your manuscript. You could wind up with a prodigy, but it’s more likely that you won’t, and without experience there’s really no way to be sure. Some seek out sample edits to alleviate this, but honestly, you learn a lot more from an editor’s history than from five pages of free edits—especially when you are, again, probably not in a position to evaluate.
That’s the other consideration. If you’re a first-time author, you get a lot more from someone who knows the field than someone every bit as new to this as you are. You will save money—there are tons of aspiring editors ready to work below minimum wage on your manuscript—but if your manuscript doesn’t improve, then it doesn’t really matter.
What are some other questions to ask a prospective editor? What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Share your own editorial experiences in the conversation below!
4 Questions to ask BEFORE Hiring a Freelance Editor - via @HDemchick on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)
Hiring an Editor, @HDemchick shares the questions you should ask BEFORE you choose someone (Click to Tweet)
Harrison is also an award-winning, twice-optioned screenwriter, and the author of literary horror novel The Listeners (Bancroft Press, 2012). He's currently accepting new clients in fiction and memoir at The Writer's Ally (http://thewritersally.com).