Maxwell Perkins, the legendary editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons who worked with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway , and Thomas Wolfe, told authors, "Just get it down on paper, and then we will see what to do with it.”
The same advice applies to an indie self-publishing author as it did to the classics Perkins edited. Good editing is what takes a manuscript from draft to market ready. As Miral Sattar CEO of BiblioCrunch observed on MediaShift, “Not having an editor go through your book is like sending an untested drug out to market.”
So, how do you find the right editor to bring out the best in your book? Here are five questions that will help you as you conduct your search.
- What kind of editing do you need? Editing is not an all in one process. There are stages which a manuscript goes through on its way to publication. Let’s take a moment to review them.
- Developmental Editing - Scott Norton in his book Developmental Editing: a Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers, explains that developmental editing involves "significant structuring or restructuring of a manuscript's discourse". A developmental editor may advise you to add, remove or change your text to make it more effective.
- Content Editing –A content editor reviews your text to help you revise your manuscript to improve precision and clarity and to make it easier to read.
- Copy Editing - The editor corrects your draft. She finds and fixes errors in punctuation, syntax, and mechanics at the sentence and word level. Do this. It is the one type of editing that must be done, and yet cannot be done by the author.
- Proof Reading – Many people confuse proof reading with copy editing, but they are quite different. Proof reading occurs after the proof copy of a book is printed. Its goal is to locate any errors in text or images which may have occurred during the printing process.
- What’s the editor’s background? This is really a series of questions. What’s the editor’s educational background? How long has the person been a professional editor? Where? What books has she edited? To get a feel for what working with the editor might be like look at testimonials or better yet ask to talk with a previous client or two.
- Does the editor have experience in your genre? If you have written a mystery or a romance you want an editor who has edited a mystery or romance. If you are writing academic nonfiction you want someone with experience with leading style guides like the Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA, or the AP Stylebook and with editing academic texts. For indie self-publishing authors Publishers Weekly advises, “Ask if he has had experience with self-publishing—this is not essential, but sometimes an editor who knows his way around self-publishing, or who can at least refer you to others who do, can be a big help for first time indie publishers.”
- Is this editor a person you can connect with? Talk with a potential editor. Find out if she’s a person with whom you feel comfortable discussing you book. Ask for a sample edit to see if you are happy with the editors work.
- What are the business arrangements when you work with this editor? You should expect a specific quote for the price of the work to be performed along with an approximate timeline for completion. You should also agree upon what the editor is to deliver. Most editors work in Microsoft Word’s Track Changes so that you can see all of their recommended editorial changes.