You Wanna Work with an Editor?
Please welcome Ally Bishop from Upgrade Your Story to the blog today! Ally graciously agreed to write about finding and working with an editor. Thank you Ally!
You Wanna Work with an Editor?
by Ally Bishop, Upgrade Your Story
You’ve slaved over your manuscript. Rewritten scenes, adjusted dialogue, changed entire character arcs, and determined alternate endings.
It is finished.
First, give yourself a huge congratulatory slap on the back. Your completed novel deserves recognition for the time you’ve spent on it. But before you run off to ink your query letter or format it for Kindle, let’s take a breath, shall we? Remember the last time you read through your opus…did you find errors? Not just grammar errors or shifting verb tenses, but issues with your storyline? Perhaps you forgot to wrap up a plot thread, or a section waxed on a bit too long?
I have (sad) news for you—there’s even more to be addressed. And you will never see it because you are the writer. This is your child, and just like we think our children are the best and most brilliant, we overlook the flaws in our own work. Ergo, you need an editor.
There are lots of editors in the writing world—your job is to find the editor that will work best for and with you. So here’s some tips for finding the right person for your editing needs.
1. Accept that you need someone for the long haul.
Every book needs a concept edit, regardless of the publishing outlet. If you are querying agents in hopes of getting a publishing contract, you should get, at the minimum, a line edit as well. If your plans include self-publishing, you’ll need all three steps: concept editing, line editing (also referred to as “copyediting”), and proofreading. If you skip one of those steps, you risk finding out about it in the worst possible place: your book reviews. Believe me when I tell you, your editor is the best insurance policy you can have against bad book reviews. It doesn’t mean they’ll never happen, but they are a lot less likely when you have an editing plan in your back pocket.
2. Interview your editor.
Don’t just apply on his/her site and accept the pricing quote. Ask questions. Find out what he/she prefers to read. Send ten or twenty pages of your manuscript and ask for a sample of his/her work. And most importantly, talk to your prospective editor in person. I’m amazed how many people have never actually spoken with their editor. This expert in storytelling will be nearly as invested as you are by the time you are ready to publish your book. Make sure you feel confident in his/her work and passion.
3. Expect to pay, and don’t go for the cheapest rate.
Look, I love a bargain as well as the next couponing champ, but we aren’t comparing store brand to name brand. You are paying for an expertise. Editing is a skillset, and you either have it, or you don’t. There are a lot of people masquerading as editors because they love to read and got good grades in their high school English classes. While I applaud anyone who reads, that’s not what makes someone a good editor. Editing involves understanding narrative, storytelling, character development, and reader mindset.
Your editor should understand the current book market, know the intricacies of genre tropes, and be aware of what reviewers will attack. Editing is a strange dance between loving a story while still being objective enough to see its faults. Rather than looking for the cheapest rate, find the editor that loves your story, meshes with your writing style and personality, and charges a fair price. If it’s more than you can afford, ask for a payment plan. Most of us are happy to accommodate. (If you struggle with why you should pay for editing, I talk more about that here.)
Once you’ve established that editing relationship, you will be astonished that you ever wrote without it. Expect a 4-6 week turnaround on edits (based on the editor’s schedule), and at least 2-3 rounds of editing, assuming you are getting the minimum concept and line editing. If you are also getting proofreading (and you really should), add on another couple of weeks. When you’ve worked with an editor on a couple of projects, you’ll be able to reserve time on their schedule, and the process will most likely speed up.
Once your book is in print, it’s hard to correct your errors. And harsh reviewers will tell you if you didn’t have it properly edited, so why risk it? If you aren’t sure where to find an editor, check out some of your favorite books. The editor is often mentioned in the acknowledgements. Self-published and independently published books will be particularly helpful, as many of the editors for these books are freelancers.
Got questions? I’m happy to answer them! Feel free to leave them in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter at @upgradestory.
That’s what I tell people all the time. And it’s true.
I get story. I always have. I started writing when I was 8, on a Smith Corona (the electronic kind—I’m not THAT old). I wrote stories in every spiral notebook I had. Eventually, I graduated to a Mac (yes, I’m one of THOSE people). I imagined new worlds, emotional conflicts, and HEAs while I waited at stoplights or wandered the grocery store. But here’s the thing: I didn’t just dream it up and write it down–I critiqued what I read. I knew when ideas were good, and when they stunk. I ran writing groups, judged creative contests, and eventually, got two graduate degrees in writing. That’s right: I love it that much.
What makes me a good editor is, ironically, what makes me good as a publicist, too. Because when I read a good story, one that others will love and want to read, I know it. And then I can’t shut up about it. I want to scream it from the rooftops, because it’s amazing, and everyone—EVERYONE—needs some awesome in their life. So when I commit to your work, it’s because I know it will rock readers’ worlds, and that awesome deserves an audience.