In my previous post on the business of Indie Publishing, I emphasized how important it was not go the cheap route on covers and try to make them yourself if you have the artistic ability of a turnip. The same goes for editing. No author, even NY bestsellers who've been publishing for 20 years, should edit their own work. The simple fact is after you’ve worked on the manuscript for months (or years), your brain tells you what you ‘think’ is there on the page and you won’t see the mistakes even though they’re dancing the conga right in front of you. “But I have critique partners who’ve read the manuscript,” you say. Sorry, critique partners are great for big picture items like pacing and plot holes, but they aren’t editors. The English major at the local community college is not an editor either. Neither is your husband, mother, sister, or great Aunt Bertha who loves to read romance. Unfortunately, in the misguided attempt to save some money or in the rush to get their book uploaded for sale faster, some authors think they can skip this step.
Repeat after me: DON’T DO IT.
So how do you go about finding an editor? With the boom in self-publishing has come a boom in the freelance editing business. Unfortunately, anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves an editor. There is no special editor training school or accreditation or licensing. So you have to tread carefully and do your research.
Ask other indie authors who they’ve used. Most are more than willing to toot their editor’s horn if they did a good job for them.
Check Their References
Before you even approach a potential editor, check out their web site if they have one. Often you’ll find testimonials from authors, but better yet look at past projects in their online portfolio (hopefully they have one). I like to look at what books they’ve edited. Have they done any work for big name authors you’ve read? Do they do a lot of work in genre fiction or is their focus mostly on non-fiction?
Get a Sample Edit Done First
Most editors will do a sample edit for you for free. This is usually about the first chapter or so. Look over it closely. Do you agree with most of their changes and suggestions? Or does the editor seem heavy-handed? Does the editor get your voice or is she trying to change it? Some authors get sample edits from several different editors to see which one fits best.
Make Sure the Editor is Right for You
There are lots of good editors out there, but not all of them will be a good match for every author. I write paranormal romance, so I want an editor who is familiar with the genre and who has edited several romance authors before they get their hands on my book. I don’t want an editor who specializes in high-brow literary fiction or celebrity autobiographies. They may be good at what they do, but they would not be the right editor for me.
All the good editors are booked well in advance. When I first started on this indie publishing journey, I hired my editor in August. Her earliest opening was in December. Once your editor gets to your book, it will take a while to do the edits. Depending on how long your book is and how extensive the edits are, a first round of edits can take 1 to 2 weeks. Then you have to go through the manuscript and incorporate those changes. This depends on how extensive the revisions are and how fast you can get them done. Then you will send the revised manuscript back and the editor goes over what you’ve done. There may be another round of edits if your book needed a lot of revision. The editing service I’m using also includes a separate proofreader who will go over the manuscript again. This stage will take another 1 to 2 weeks. That’s 4 to 6 weeks MINIMUM you need to allow for the entire editing process (and that’s provided things go smoothly). So if you plan to release your book in October, you should start shopping for an editor in April, if not sooner.
Be Prepared - It’s Gonna Cost Ya
I cringe when I hear an author say they paid someone $50 to edit their 100,000 word manuscript. There's no way that 'editor' did a good job. If they did, it’s a fluke and they are undervaluing their work. Most editors worth their salt charge between $1 and $4 a page. If you're going to self-publish, plan on spending the money to get it done by a professional editor. In fact, there are several NY editors who’ve left the publishing houses and opened up their own freelance editing businesses. These editors are usually top dollar ($4 per page and up), but they know the business and are often worth their weight in gold. If this sounds like a big expense up front, remember that this is a career investment and, just like the cover expenses, it can be deducted on your taxes. Consider it money well spent.
So there you have it. Cover artwork and editing are two places you don't want to go bargain basement shopping on. Indie authors often get slammed for sloppy editing. Don’t let that be you. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression on the reader and you need to make it count.