Trying to figure out how to publish your book, but are wondering if you need an editor?
And if so, what types of editing services are there? And what is the hell does it cost? Oh, and finally, how do you find an editor in the first place- and who should you pick?
Relax. I am going to walk you through the basics- albeit somewhat briefly, because the main focus here is for me to let you know what to expect- or at least what I experienced writing my own book.
First- let’s get one thing off the table- and that is the question of whether or not you need an editor. Unless you are writing a shitty little throw away book on Sea Monkeys or trying to have thriving Kindle business putting out schlock, the answer is a resounding yes. The reasons are many but here are the main ones:
- You need an objective set of eyes on your work. Friends and family and beta readers are great ( I had them too ) but they know you. You need someone who does not.
- You need someone who is actually trained to be and has worked at being an editor.
- Typos, grammar errors and punctuation are just one aspect of the editing process. Style and structure are another. But what they have in common? If you publish poorly edited work, I can guarantee you that it will be reviewed poorly- especially on Amazon, probably by some bitter ex-writer! Seriously, it will be marked down and reviews have a big effect on your Amazon rankings. LINK.
So let’s start with what type of editing services there are. It seems really ironic that in an industry that is all about helping authors say what they mean, and helping them clarify things that there are different terms in the editing world that either overlap or mean the same thing!
I have found all of these when looking for an editor: copy editing, line editing, content editing, proof editing, evaluation, and coaching! What do they all mean? Ideally, you will ask the editor to clarify, or see if they clarify on their website, but they break down into 2 major areas, that I believe you need:
Evaluation, also called line editing among other things, is where the editor reads your work for content, style, plot structure, etc. In my case, I asked my editor if what I had was worth being published or was it a piece of shit? Even though anybody can publish these days, I didn’t want to put something out that I might be embarrassed about! In some cases, you might go through this process more than once.
Copy Editing is what you probably think when you think of editing: grammar correction, typos, punctuation. Did you know there are different types of dashes? I did not. But now I do!
There are more types of editing, like having your work proofed as it is transferred into digital format or print form, but personally, for the average person, I don’t think this is necessary.
Next: What does this all cost?
Like the different types of editing this part varies and isn’t definitively clear. Some editors charge by the page, by the word or by the hour and have different rates for the different types of editing being done.
You can find average rates from the Editorial Freelancers Association. But when you break it down they become fairly similar. It’ all about how much content you have. Pages are typically 250 words per. You know how many total words you have. And, most editors will tell you- depending on the type of book- how many pages per hour they can do. In my case, I spent about $500 for an evaluation, and $1700 for my book that came in at 52k words. The evaluation was $2.75 per page, and the copy editing was $.03 per word. I will let you know below how it went, what I got in return, and what you might hope to expect.
But first, Let me offer a bit of advice on how to find an editor and how to pick one that is right for you.
- If you have any favorite authors whose books you love, check the acknowledgements page in the back. Often they will cite their editors. However, they might be pretty busy, and expensive. But it’s worth a try! You can try to make contact through their website, or through a linkedin in mail.
- If you have friends who have published, ask them for their editors. Or try the old standby: the Google search. I would search for the type of editing/editor you are looking for, as well as your genre. This brings me to an important point on how to pick your editor:
- Do they have a specialty? In my case ( I discovered later) that my editor has a passion and specialty for memoirs, which was exactly what I needed.
- After looking for their specially, ask them for references. Many editors allow you to submit a portion of your work, and you can see how they would edit it.
Finally, I am a big believer in chemistry. I had a phone conversation with my editor and we got along swimmingly. She was a fellow Texan from a small town ( my book is about small town life ) and admittedly has a trashy mouth. It was kismet.
But, you’re “interview” should not be just limited to having a chat. Ask them questions. The famous writer, Stephen King hates adverbs. Is your prospective editor part of this fold? My own editor? A thing with semicolons.
Now, How was my experience?
To sum up: really good, but really f&*#ing hard!
Like I said, I initially got an evaluation. My editor prepared me that it would take about 4 days, and would be an overview- but chapter by chapter and page -essentially- by page with notes.
She was not wrong. It was literally four days later that I got may review. Thankfully – it started with an overall positiveness- that the project was worth continuing- before the red ink started! It was 17 pages of criticism and suggestions. Some of it dovetailed with suggestions from beta readers, but most of it was new. And a lot of it- why you need the editor- was very frank. “ You will lose most readers if you don’t change the first few chapters. Way too slow.” “Give me scenes, not chronology. This is like bad stand-up.” Ouch.
Take a Look Below:
But the worst, were the major suggestions: I needed to basically revise the first part of the book, and fix bunch of other things. According to my editor, this was natural- the reason the latter part of the book was better, was because people learned how to write books, by writing books.
4 months and a lot of days staring at a blank screen later, I turned in my draft for a copy edit. Again, I was told when she would get to it, and how long it would take. Again, spot on.
What I got back was, thankfully, glowing reviews and approximately 500 comments/changes to accept or decline. Most of these were incredibly minor- the difference in dashes-but some were changes I didn’t like, like overly explaining a term that I wanted someone to have to look up. The edit included looking things up in Google, typos and misspellings. Things I didn’t even notice:
At the end of the day, I was hugely pleased, despite being about $2k poorer. A book that took me a couple of years to write was going to print- and I was proud of the result.