Choosing an Editor can be a tricky. First-time authors are often in the dark about how the publishing industry works and what is needed to get a book up to par.
As a self-publisher, it is up to you to get through every part of the publishing process. There’s a lot to do and it can be quite overwhelming. For some, it’s the reason they prefer to go the traditional publishing route, but self-publishing has its own advantages and rewards. For more on this read the post Traditional Vs Self-Publishing: Which is Right for you?
In this post, we’re concerned about how to choose an Editor. I’m a leave the ego at the door kind of person, so I’m gonna say this with love and compassion and hope you are ready to hear it. You have written a book, and that is amazing, but there will be errors in it. It’s the nature of the creative process, the nature of being so close to your own narrative. There is no shame in recognising that your manuscript is likely to have flaws and to ask for help to catch and rectify them.
That’s what editors and proofreaders are for. It’s literally their job. And, if you let them, they can be your biggest allies in getting your book ready for publishing.
Editing is just one phase of many in publishing. You can read more about that in the post: Self-Publishers Guide to Publishing Processes.
If you’re not sure whether you need a proofreader, editor, structural editor, or beta reader, read the post What Kind of Editor do I Need? just to be sure.
What does an Editor do?
According to Reedsy: ‘Editors plan, coordinate, and revise pieces of writing so that they are ready for publication as books, newspapers, blogs, magazines or even advertising material.’
I would go a little further and say that they take a piece of writing, make suggestions to the author on style, polish the prose, correct grammar and improve clarity.
An editor may catch inconsistencies that you might have missed and help you with the odd awkward sentence you fumbled over with advice on how to fix it.
Common mistakes that authors make in their first manuscript
Inconsistent punctuation use
A few years ago, people were throwing around the term ‘Grammar nazi’ at anyone who corrected grammar, particularly if they got uptight about usage, but there are many grammar rules that are actually stylistic choice. In these cases, it doesn’t matter which rule you follow as long as you are consistent throughout your work.
For example, I often see a mix of en dashes, brackets, and colons used. It’s not that you can’t use the various punctuations to add information, just that doing so consecutively and interchangeably can make the prose sticky for the reader.
Another example is sometimes using single quotes and at others double quotes.
Inconsistencies in the narrative
This is when a character is wearing trousers one minute and then further in the same scene is wearing a dress. Or perhaps the protagonists order a Chinese earlier in the scene but tuck in to Pizza later.
I’ve even seen a character start out with blue eyes and then later in the book they’re described as having green eyes.
Writing a 90,000 word novel is no mean feat. That’s a lot of words, in a lot of sentences, and you’re just human. There is always at least one phrase or two that the reader stumbles over because of syntax. Do you ever tire of reworking sentences, or worst, over-edit and find you’ve lost that something that made the scene spark?
Sometimes having a third person look at your prose to offer dynamic ideas on phraseology can refresh and clarify sentences that bogged you down.
Overuse of specific words
We all have vocabulary, phrases, and cliches that we regularly fall back to out of habit. Some people call them darlings, a phrase that you may have heard in the past. My personal darlings include, so, really, grey eyes, raptor gaze, to name a few, but in other people’s manuscripts I’ve seen all manner of favoured words depending on their personal writing experiences, life experiences and particular fondness for vocabulary.
Lastly, of course, there is the expectation of that grammatical errors will be caught and corrected. Things like when the wrong word is used, but because it is spelled correctly, the author did not pick it up. For example, there/their/they’re is incredibly easy to accidentally confuse. Also grammar rules which are not widely understood, such as because of and due to.
What to expect when hiring an editor
Freelancers are often juggling many projects at once. It’s common courtesy to respond to initial queries within 24-48 hours depending on time zones and they will usually request more information from you so they can work out what your needs are, assess a sample of the text to provide you an estimate of how many hours it will take, and therefore how much it will cost.
A good editor will want to build a relationship with you and will help you understand the editing process. They will be transparent about what you will get for your money, and agree a delivery date for the edited manuscript.
‘But how do I know if an editor is worth hiring?’ I hear you cry. Well, read on to the next section that lists five things to look for when choosing an Editor:
5 Things to look for when choosing an Editor
- What is your editor’s niche? All editors have a preferred niche, even if they don’t advertise it. It’s always worth asking if you’re not sure.
- They ask for a sample of your work before giving you a quote.
- They will manage expectations by giving you a breakdown of what they will do and what they won’t. This is particularly important if you want indexing or typesetting advice, as those are not standard.
- Excellent reviews and testimonials on their website and professional social media profiles.
- Membership to an accredited body such as the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).
How much do Editors cost?
Editors charge between £20 and £27 per hour, but comparing the hourly rate can be misleading because different editors work at different speeds. The best way to compare charges is to enquire and get a personal quote based on a sample of your manuscript.
It’s advisable to choose your editor based on their competency rather than their rate. Your book is your product and you want it to be at its best when you publish, or else why go to the trouble?
So there you have it, the self-publisher’s guide to choosing an editor. If you’re ready to look, you’re welcome to drop me a line through my contact form, or email.
There are also thousands of freelance editors to be found and here are some links to start you on your search: