Are you an author struggling with who you will hire to edit your book manuscript? You’re not alone! In this article I will explore this critical decision process and how best to come to that critical decision. There have been countless resources published on and offline regarding this difficult author decision process.
Perhaps this is your first time engaging a proofreading or editorial professional and there is that element of unknown. Is this person competent, experienced and efficient with their work? Do they have the right perspective and work approach for your publishing needs? Is he or she a good fit overall for you to work with and will the results be as you had expected, better or worse?
The proofreading and editing processes are, to a degree, a consultative process, especially in the early stages. Periodic questions arise that require the client’s clarification and as such the author needs to be prepared for some interaction to that end. That consultative approach helps the editorial professional to establish a clear understanding of their client’s intentions and expectations from the beginning and helps to stream line the process to a more efficient conclusion.
How does all this relate to a decision on who the author should hire for their manuscript services? Quite plain and simply put, the more inclined the editor is to taking the consultative approach, the better the results upon completion of the review and revision process and the happier the client (author) will obviously be. The book editing process is not just a drop and run process and “I’ll see you when you’re finished.”
I have had clients who have had terrible experiences with editors they have previously hired and for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there was insufficient fact finding and discovery up front. Perhaps either party was in too big a hurry to get the job started and completed before taking adequate time to get a sense of whether they were right for each other to begin with. In the case of those bad experiences, my clients have on occasion approached me initially out of sheer frustration and anxiety because valuable time had been wasted and their targeted publishing date was drawing near.
The Editor Search Criteria
Authors may be unsure what criteria to use when selecting a suitable editor for their book manuscript analysis and revision. Quite often the author has undertaken to self-edit his or her own manuscript content and is unsure whether they even need a proofreader or editor in the first place despite colleagues’ urging to get that objective second look.
As a starting point, the author should assess a personal budget level for the editing services before even picking up the phone to contact potential editing candidates. How much can you afford comfortably? The basis for budget considerations should always be twofold; the affordability of the services for you alone and the value you place on that service to begin with.
Consider what importance you place on having error-free manuscript content, grammatically sound with an objective eye assessing the quality of the content and whether its storyline is consistent throughout. Has the content been structured effectively and with fluid continuity from one paragraph to the next and one page to the next and so on?
Is the editing services cost your sole factor rounding out your final decision on who to hire? Have you researched to determine what competitor fees are and why the differences in fee structure in the editorial industry? Each editorial professional, as independent business persons, will set their own fee structure.
Another important factor to consider is testimonial reviews published on the editor’s website such as those testimonials found here on the home and testimonial page and any other relevant information that might be found through internet searches. Art the website testimonials strictly quoted statements or are those statements qualified by the client’s name and photograph, perhaps even contact information?
Information for discovery:
- Schedule a date and time to either meet in person over coffee, at the editor’s office or if they are more distant arrange for a telephone conversation/interview.
- Has former/current client information been shared such as whether clients are primarily one-time arrangements or are there ongoing, longer term associations?
- Seek referrals from other offers for suitable candidates to consider.
- Review websites and professional editing/author communities online to see the kind of interaction that occurs between the parties and how they respond to each others’ perspective. What kind of impression are you sensing about the individual?
- Refer to professional editors directories and association listings.
- Scrutinize the editor’s website for client testimonials, a client portfolio and samples of editing project documents. Reading the editor’s blog articles will provide a good indication of their level of authority/expertise in various aspects of editing and proofreading services.
- Does the editor’s services extend beyond proofreading or editing? Do they provide other publishing services i.e. manuscript formatting for print and digital media publishing? Do they provide manuscript interior and cover submission services to conclude the publication process?
- What assurances does the editor offer regarding the maintaining of the stylistic integrity of your work including your own distinctive voice and style? Most authors develop those distinct writing characteristics that clearly define their ‘signature’ and ‘brand’ that their readers identify with strongly and favor as preferred reading.
- As the author, be clear on the editor’s role and the scope and depth of services agreed upon in advance.
- Many editors request a representative sample of the manuscript i.e. several pages in advance for them to provide a trial review and revision which serves to give the editor a comfortable sense of what level of editing to expect for the remainder of the manuscript and on completion a sample suggested change markup copy for the author’s perusal to gain a sense of what they can expect from the editor moving forward.
- Query the editor on how they would address unexpected issues that might arise during the editing process. Might there be additional services in those instances and how the overall cost would be affected?
- Does the editor provide a written services agreement which clearly stipulates what services are included, cost itemization for each separate service and other relevant terms and addendums. Service agreements are an important part of the author/editor relationship because it clearly defines services mutually agreed to and protects both parties as a formalized and binding document.
The Hiring Decision
Be careful not to be hasty with your hiring decision. Take as many advance steps in the discovery phase as you feel you need to be sure in your own mind which editorial candidate feels right for you. Don’t prejudge an editor or proofreader solely on the basis of what others have stated in reviews whether good, bad or indifferent. There are many dynamics at play between both parties to the service. Decide objectively what is best for you based on your own project needs.
Don’t forget to get acquainted and get comfortable with each other. Consider the following:
- Have your questions been addressed fully and openly or were the responses superficial, vague or evasive?
- Is there a genuine friendliness or artificial over/undertones to the conversation?
- Does the editor appear engaged and interested in your project or seemingly in a hurry to disengage and end the conversation quickly?
- Compare several candidates and in doing so be consistent with your line of questioning, topics covered and not bringing everything down to the cost factor alone. Consider very carefully what your objectives are for your publishing project including the potential results once the publication is released and goes live at the retail level.
- Consider what merit and experience the editor will bring to the table as the project moves forward. Are you both receptive to the process as you understand it?
- Remember that strict budget constraints can impose limitations not only on how much the editor can do for you but also that ultimately those limitations can affect the final product quality and overall results/performance of your publication upon its release. There is potential for disappointment if results are not as anticipated and the possible desire/need for further editing services at additional cost and the process of publishing a second edition of the book.
In closing I’ll leave with you publishing authority Jane Friedman‘s guest article by Stacy Ennis titled ‘5 Ways to Find The Right Freelance Book Editor‘. You will also see the host’s link to her guide for author publishing titled ‘Publishing 101’. I have been following Jane Friedman for years now. Her comprehensive volume of reference and resource material and her own perspective on the publishing industry and authoring process is valuable insight for all authors to engage in and consider in pursuit of a better publishing experience.
© Don MacIver, Editor, Lasting Impressions Editing 2016