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Posts Tagged ‘hiring an editor’

Did your editor actually deliver what they promised?

Having  begun my publishing career as a professional editor, I’ve written a number of posts about how important editing is to your success as an author. Whether it’s your first book or your twenty-first, you’ve got to pay for editing if you intend to make the best book you can. I realize that many authors are struggling to budget time and money to get their books published. Sure, 3 cents a word sounds like a LOT of money, especially when you’re talking about a 100,000-word novel. But you get what you pay for – and if you want a book that’s not only error free, but that makes sense, follows a logical story arc, and is eminently readable, you will spend the money.

money with red pen

Editing fees vary wildly, but the pros I know (myself included) run from about 2.5 cents/word to 8 cents/word. And depending on your work, you may need several rounds of editing: content editing (developing the story); line editing (making sure you’re using the right tenses, word choices, syntax); and proofreading (eliminating typos and misspellings). Most authors go with one editor for everything – and this can be a mistake. You need someone other than yourself – even if they’re not a professional – to read the final proof after it has been typeset.

Typesetting means moving the document out of Microsoft Word or Pages into a book design program like InDesign. When the text is pasted into the design program, all formatting is lost and must be re-created. Things like bold, italics, and all caps must be reformatted in the design program. Additionally, the cut-and-paste operation likely happens in pieces, leaving open the possibility for dropped words or phrases. If you’re going to publish a professional book, you will have a proofreader go over the book after it’s been laid out – not while it’s still a Word doc that has many iterations still to go.

So here’s the million dollar question: How do you know you’ve received your money’s worth from your editor/proofreader?

I recently read two books by local authors I know personally. One was a magnificent story told with lyrical writing that literally took my breath away at times. And I was unable to give it a 5-star review because it had enough typos in it that it wasn’t a perfect read. They were small things, like inconsistent use of the Oxford comma (either use it or don’t – just be consistent about it) and occasional use of the nonexistent word alright – things many a reader might have missed or overlooked. Still, it was enough to stop me at times. The other one may be a good story, but it has so many typos, misspellings, omitted words, and wrong words (e.g., sequenced when the word should have been sequined) that it is virtually unreadable. I am unable to get past the mistakes long enough to see the story or care what happens to the characters. I headed to Amazon to see what others thought about the book. There are only two reviews so far, and both are 5-start reviews – which makes me think those reviewers must be friends of the author.

Both authors paid for alleged professional editing. And, I presume, they thought they were getting an even exchange – quality work in exchange for whatever fees they paid. Not knowing how much each paid, I can’t say who took the bigger hit – but I have a guess. One used an editor “who came highly recommended through Bay Area Independent Publishers group.” The other used a local guy who is known for being fast and inexpensive. Surprise that the BAIP-recommended gal didn’t deliver – not so much with the guy who promises to beat anyone else’s prices.

I contacted each author and gave them my feedback – and explained my hesitancy to write reviews of their books as I had read them. I wouldn’t typically have said anything to the authors, but both of them personally asked me to review their books. That means they opened themselves up to my professional advice, so I provided it honestly. I made suggestions to the first author about simple ways to nudge my review of his book from 4 stars to 5. I told the second author I recommended he pay for another professional edit/proofing (with a different editor/proofreader) before sending his book out for any further reviews.

So back to our question: How do you know you’ve received your money’s worth from your editor/proofreader?

This is something of a troubling conundrum. One would expect professional writers to recognize mistakes like tense and subject/verb incongruities, but some don’t. And it’s reading out loudparticularly difficult to see errors in your own work – in large part because you’ve spent so much time with it and are so close to it that it’s easy to read over the mistakes, to add in the missing word and just keep going. So one thing I would advise is that an author read their work out loud, after the final proofreading has occurred. That’s when you notice everything, because you’re reading to speak, not skimming or assuming. So missing words jump off the page at you. Wrong tenses catch your ear. Of course, this won’t help if you don’t already know that the correct spelling is always all right.

Secondly, you’ve paid a professional to edit your work – but now you need to find a trusted friend, track down your high school English teacher, or locate someone in your circle who earned an English degree prior to the turn of the century and have them read your book. If they don’t have the time (or want to be paid for the task) to read the whole book, have them spot-check different chapters and sections. Make sure your editor didn’t go gangbusters at the start, and then rush to finish and do a shoddy job on the last three chapters.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, editing will probably be the most expensive aspect of your publishing process. Make sure you budget well – and then, double-check to be certain the editor/proofreader delivered as promised.

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit our website to download your free eBook, The First-Time Author’s Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU. If you’d like more information about our editing services, email us or call us today for your complimentary 15-minute consultation! 602.518.5376

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Who does a professional editor hire to edit her book?

For the next 18 days, we’ll be taking a little detour from the traditional marketing posts you’ve come to know and love on the Marcie Brock blog as I lead by example and follow my own writing prompts for the Author Blog Challenge. There’s still time to register. Join today and qualify for drawings for daily giveaways for every day that you post.

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Day 11 writing prompt:

Describe your editing process. Who edited your book? What was your relationship with your editor like? What could each of you have done to improve it? What might you do differently in the future?

This one is by far the easiest – and the most challenging – of all the questions to answer. As a professional editor, my ego almost got in the way when it came to having my own book edited. It wasn’t that I didn’t think it needed editing (actually, it needed less editing than proofreading); it was more a matter of who would be good enough to work on my book?

I didn’t know all that many people in the Phoenix area at the time, so I asked around and was referred to Vickie Mullins of Mullins Creative. Their business has morphed more into graphic design, branding, marketing, and book consulting these days – but at the time, editing and proofing were a core component of what they did. And they did a kickass job!

The funny thing is, even if you read the introduction my book with its full disclaimer to that some of the questions might make you squirm, it’s not until you actually read the some of the questions that you understand exactly why or how squirmy things might get. However, Vickie and I had a great conversation about the fact that the book could be a great title for Christian women’s groups, as it would give them an outlet to talk about all the stuff “proper ladies” never discuss. Would have been the furthest thing from my target audience, but I still think she might be right about that.

I read one comment from an Author Blog Challenge participant about fearing that an editor would mangle and twist her words so much so that her writing might become unrecognizable as her own. Here’s the thing I (a) always reassure my clients, (b) expect from any editor I hire to do contract work for me, and (c) expect from any editor I hire: an editor’s most essential job is to make the author’s words sound like them, only better. As editors, our goal – first and foremost – is to preserve the author’s voice. I know there are a LOT of editors out there who don’t do that. They bring their own spin, lens, and opinions into their editing – and it’s problematic, to be sure. I would say perhaps a third of my business comes from authors who’ve been disappointed by the first editor they hired.

My best suggestion is to get some references first. Then have a conversation to understand exactly what you can expect from your editor. Be clear about how much rewriting you are comfortable with. Do you want them to use the revision marks function in MS Word? While it might seem like a difficult conversation to have up front, it’s the best way to be sure you will get exactly what you want and expect from your editor.

Be aware that good editing is going to cost you some money, but it will be one of the best investments you can make in your book business.

I wrote an e-book about this that I send to prospective clients. You’re welcome to download your own copy of The First-Time Author’s Guide to Hiring the Right Editor for YOU to learn more about my perspective on what I believe is the second most important component to any published book – after completing the manuscript itself.

Happy editing!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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