Choosing My Editor (the How and Why)

Choosing an editor was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do yet sucked.  It was time consuming, hard work and, though I discovered several awesome professionals with whom I would love to work, as with my cover contest, in the end I could only choose one.

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Now, before I hired anyone to edit my manuscript, I had to decide exactly what I would be hiring them to do. Editing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Broadly speaking, there are four types of editing.  Ok, that may be like saying there are two ways to get hash-browns cooked at the Waffle House–steamed and fried–when there are a bajillion ways to scatter, smother and cover those babies, but I’m just gonna break them all down into these four categories.

  1. Ghostwriting. You have an awesome idea for a story, possibly even written down, but whipping it into the shape of something resembling a novel is something you would prefer to hire someone to do.  Or maybe writing is just not your strength.  You’re the ‘idea guy.’
  2. Developmental/Substantive Editing. You are willing to put in the work to turn your idea into a bestseller, but your characters don’t feel like much more than names on a page, your dialogue reminds you a bit of a bad stage acting, and you had to drop a freaking angel into the script three chapters from the end because you wrote yourself into a corner and couldn’t write your way back out (been there, wrote that, did the re-write).
  3. Copy/line editing. You have downloaded every book on self-editing available to you on your Kindle Unlimited plan, hit up five pages of Google search for blogs that may have some advice the books missed, and read your copy of The First Five Pages so many times the pages are all stained with bathwater (I can’t be the only one that reads in the tub). While you have rewritten and revised until you despise nearly every word you’ve ever written (which means you are almost done), in addition to a grammar and punctuation check, you still need a second set of eyes to flag those sentences that don’t quite make sense or that don’t fit the tone of the story. Some fact checking wouldn’t hurt either. Did I spell that nickname Salli or Sally?
  4. Proofreading. It’s all over but the crying You just need someone to make sure your i’s are all dotted and your t’s are all crossed. You are just that good…or you have already had an army of friends, beta readers and editors swarming over your manuscript and are just looking to end on an even number.

Ok, having decided that BLOOD TOY needed a thorough copy/line editing, it was time to hire someone to do it.  I hit up writer friends for recommendations, searched Google, and clicked on every single editor link on the Preditors & Editors website that wasn’t flagged with negative feedback. I evaluated each potential editor on:

  1. Website. I looked to see if they gave (freely) good advice on self-editing on their blog, advice I had already followed to get me to this point and at least one thing I didn’t already know. I also looked for a well crafted bio that explained the editor’s areas of expertise, and then compared her experience with my genre to determine compatibility.
  2. Rates. You get what you pay for, but everyone has their threshold for pain.  Mine was somewhere between ‘College English Major Looking To Earn Extra Money’ and ‘If You Can Afford This Much For Editing, Why Don’t You Just Start Your Own Publishing House?’
  3. Portfolio. Testimonials weren’t enough. I downloaded sample chapters on Amazon from 3-6 books listed in each editor’s portfolio, keeping in mind that, with self-publishing, authors ultimately get to keep or reject each correction, so even if an editor catches a flaw in a manuscript, the author may decide not to correct it. It pays to look at a range of work to get a sense of the editor’s skill level.

Having evaluated my options, I sent queries to eight different editors according to their preferred formats for inquiry and with a link to my website, which, at the time, had exactly one blog entry and a back cover blurb. I got six replies back and quickly narrowed the field to three favorites.

Editor #1: Prior editor to a very well read author. At the top of my price range, I felt like he would be a great choice to get my novel to optimum readability, but…he was a bit gruff. His email reply to my query, while comprehensive, was almost certainly a ‘copy and paste’ response. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy working with him.

Editor #2: Very talented British bloke blew me away with his sample edit and was friendly and thorough in response to my follow up questions.

Editor #3:  Texas-based Michelle Josette, who also blew me away with her sample edit and was every bit as communicative as Editor #2. Michelle though actually took the time to visit my website before responding. Score 1 in her favor. Her sample edit caught 90% of the grammar and punctuation errors that my British front-runner nabbed in his, but included additional notes on cliché phrases and overused words, along with colorful commentary when a line was particularly strong or clever. Her sample edit (15 pages) made me feel she ‘got’ my characters…and, most importantly, me.

As I said in my last blog, the best thing about self-publishing is getting to choose my team and work with people I like.  So, all things being nearly equal, I chose my editor because I liked her best:)

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124395142@N01/1948649318″>Choosing</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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