By Ashley R. Carlson
Well, you already found us.
Sorry, I had to. Now I will actually give you a detailed guideline in what you want your chosen editor to offer, whether it’s with Midnight Publishing or another outfit.
First off, if you’re already reading this blog you know the importance of hiring an editor to go over your manuscript. Most professional authors, literary agents and publishers all agree that one of the most important elements of the publishing process is to invest in a good editor. The second most important thing is a polished, efficient cover design. On average, professional authors’ editors say that there are more than 1,000 mistakes in a manuscript—and that is from professional writers!
Remember: The ultimate role of the editor is to help the author connect with the reader. A good editor enhances that connection, providing another eye and view for the author. Your editor should be an artist of language in order to make your manuscript go from good to excellent.
You want to know what kind of editing you are looking for. Because freelancers and companies have various methods of charging—some by word count, some by hours the project takes, some by service package—you don’t want to spend money on an unnecessary service, and vice versa.
I will use Midnight Publishing’s services as the example for various editing “types,” which are pretty all-encompassing for what kind you may need. Most freelancers offer these services as well, and you should research on the different price points out there to feel comfortable about choosing the most affordable service for yourself.
This is a basic edit for grammatical and formatting errors. Misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, and formatting—indentations, paragraph formation, etc.—are remedied with this type of editing. This is the most basic form of editing that Midnight Publishing (and others) offer, and should be used if you feel that you are a strong writer with a clear talent for writing engrossing prose.
2) Copy Editing:
This is also known as line editing, and the task gets its name for just that reason. This type of editing addresses not only grammatical, punctuation, spelling and formatting errors, but also rephrases sentences for better flow, addresses tense changes, syntax and consistency, and more. Some editors may lend their thoughts to the author with this level regarding whether a concept is “working” or not, and what factors to make note of to improve the manuscript as a whole. This level of editing is usually appropriate for those authors who have a decently strong voice, but not necessarily a wide-ranging vocabulary or strong grasp on sentence structure. Copyediting can be very useful for a wide range of aspiring writers, and is a popular option when choosing an editing service.
3) Content Editing:
This is a slightly higher caliber of editing than just copy. It includes all that copy editing has to offer, as well as addressing sentence structure, the visibility of “show vs. tell,” noting permissions needed to publish copyrighted material, noting inconsistencies, and more. Consultations are also sometimes included in this type of editing, as well as chapter-by-chapter evaluations. Note: Midnight Publishing offers a hybrid editing package that combines copy editing and content editing.
4) Developmental or Comprehensive Editing:
This is the most in-depth editing that you can find for your manuscript (short of ghostwriting). This level of editing addresses some fundamental questions about your manuscript, such as:
-Plot holes or gaps, where the story does not make sense.
-Overall issues with the manuscript, including but not limited to: areas that lag or lose the reader’s interest, characters that do not seem multi-dimensional/exciting, dialogue that is not believable, and scenes in the book that are unnecessary or need more explanation.
-Rearrangement of scenes, chapters, and whole sections of the manuscript, to enable a better flow and cohesion of the story.
Essentially, a content editor is not going to be your friend. They are going to tell you all of the things that are wrong with your manuscript. This is good, even though it doesn’t feel like it when you get that email of your document full of comments, questions, and red slashes. However, they will also tell you where your strong points are, letting you understand how to become a better writer, and in turn, a better editor in the future.
The thing with content editing is that although you may receive a significant amount of “negative” feedback on your manuscript, the editor is a professional, and a professional reader. They know better than anyone whether a story has the certain elements that will make it a must-read for people who are considering whether to purchase. Without those thoughts and criticisms, you would never know whether your character’s name reads weirdly, that the villain falls flat, or if the climax is really not very climactic at all. And the great thing is, if you work it out in the contract agreement that you and the editor will communicate and collaborate numerous times, and then you can make those changes and hear their thoughts and continued advice.
Some other tips to remember when looking for an editor:
-With any company, but especially if you are using a freelancer, be sure to ask for their portfolio and any testimonials they may have. Do not worry about offending them by requiring this: a professional should have a significant number of examples to show you regarding their previous work, so that you can gauge their talents and whether they are worth the money.
-Ask for a sample edit. Many times, you can ask a company or freelancer to edit the first chapter of your manuscript before you make a final decision. This is a great way to see whether they are going to provide the kind of feedback you are looking for, especially if you want content editing. Midnight Publishing offers this, and if anyone you approach in the future balks at the request, you probably wouldn’t want to hire them anyway.
-Figure out the contract agreement. What is the payment going to include? Does it encompass the entire service ($500 for proofreading a 50,000 word manuscript), is it by word count ($1 per 100 words), and does it include multiple edits and communication back and forth? It is common to pay half of the agreed-upon amount up front, with the last half once the service has been completed.
-Assess how the communication will take place. Will it be via email? Phone? Skype? An in-person meeting? Make sure that you discuss up front what is expected and provided for the service so that no one is upset at the end. It’s key to understand each other’s expectations.
-Discuss the style of editing. There are two main styles of editing used for manuscript editing; AP Style and Chicago Manual. The former was previously used mainly for newspapers and magazines, but has begun its use more prevalently in books as well.
That rounds out my tips for how to make sure an editor is the right one for you! For more information on this topic, check out the Writer’s Digest 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing.
Until then, keep writing and keep dreaming!
See below at “About the Author” for more information on Ashley R. Carlson, and find her dilly-dallying at herWebsite Twitter: @AshleyRCarlson1
Midnight Publishing offers skilled and affordable media architects for manuscript editing, self-publishing consultation and guidance, and author marketing. The ultimate role of the editor is to help the author connect with the reader. A good editor enhances that connection, providing another eye and view for the author. Our editors are artists of language, grammar, and the mechanics that help a manuscript take the journey from ordinary to great. Midnight Publishing also offers self-publishing consultation, query letter editing, graphic and web site design, business copy writing and editing, and more.
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Midnight Publishing’s founder, Lauren Wise, on Twitter: @MidnightWriting