Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Publishing 101.1 part 2 - Hiring an Editor

Hi sweet readers! I thought I'd do a series of posts detailing my experiences taking Publishing 101 via publication of my debut novel.

My goal is to publish a book that is indistinguishable to my readers from any novel from a Big Five publisher.  It can be done - in fact, finding such a novel is the one thing that finally got me off my butt and pushed me to self-publish ONE.

Just as a traditionally published book has a huge team of professionals behind it, ONE does as well. My plan is to blog about every step of the process from agent-approved manuscript to published book. 

Today, please welcome Clare Davidson, author of the YA fantasy TRINITY. She hired a freelance developmental editor for her work, and since I didn't choose to do that, I begged her to write a post all about it just so you all could see why this step is important for those who don't have a pro team of readers like I did. 

Please feel free to ask anything - you can comment below or chat with Clare on Twitter - and thanks for reading! Take it away, Clare!

If you're planning on publishing independently, you want to release the best, most polished product possible–right?

  Editing is a step that NO ONE can skip and I really mean NO ONE, can skip.

I know we're here to talk about self publishing, but let's just look at the traditional publishing route for a minute. Those who are lucky enough to land an agent, will work with that agent to polish their book before it gets peddled around publishers. Those who are even luckier and snag themselves a publishing deal, will work with an editor to polish their book again and AGAIN until it's the best it can be. A publisher isn't going to spend money on a print run, or marketing for a book they don't think is polished enough to sell.

You've decided to go the indie route. You've almost certainly got less capital to play with than a publishing house and you might not even want a print run. However, that doesn't mean that you can skimp on editing. The same principle applies–why would you want to release something that isn't polished enough to sell?

Now, some people are lucky enough to have awesome crit partners who give them an honest appraisal of their work, point out what needs improvement and offer suggestions on HOW it could be improved. Personally, I'm not one of the lucky ones. I don't have time to reciprocate critiques, so it's unfair of me to ask others to critique my work. If you're in my boat, you need to hire an editor. Really, you do. Trust me, you'll thank me when your book is available to buy and you're getting awesome reviews (at the time of writing, my debut novel, Trinity, has SEVENTEEN five star reviews on Amazon UK).

So, how do you go about finding an editor? Search on Google and you'll find a wealth of websites–that's one way. However, I recommend you ask other writers for leads, or check out the person who edited an independent book you loved reading. That way, you're likely to find someone who already has a proven track record. Short list a few and contact them–if they're not willing to edit a sample of your work (usually the first chapter) free of charge, then run for the hills. A good editor WILL NOT charge you for a sample. You need to know their style is right for you and VICE VERSA. The writer-editor relationship is a two way one. You're hiring them to help make your work shine, so you have to be able to take their advice. 

A good editor will suggest changes that are in keeping with your style. If you think that the changes they're suggesting will kill your "voice", they aren't the editor for you. Also, check how many passes the editor is going to give your work. Look for an editor that will go through your manuscript at least twice.

A quick tip–the more popular an editor is, the more of a waiting list they'll have. DON'T wait until you've typed 'The End' on your novel to find an editor, or you might have a long wait on your hands. Choose an editor much earlier than that and agree a date when you'll turn your manuscript over to them. Working to a deadline can make you surprisingly productive, trust me!

Another tip–try to plan in time to make your own revisions before you turn it over to your editor. You'd polish your novel before giving it to crit partners and beta readers, wouldn't you? Your editor shouldn't be an exception to this.

Right, it's time to talk money. How much will all this cost? Well, that's really an open ended question, like "how long is a piece of string?" The longer an editor has been in the business (and the more success stories they have), the more they can charge. Someone just striking out in the field is going to cost you a lot less. Most editors charge by the word, but use your sample to gauge how much time the editing process is going to take and give you a quote based on the quality of that. Remember I told you to revise your manuscript first? Yeah, that's why. It could save you money. Depending on the size of your manuscript, at the top end you could be looking at up to $2000 to hire an editor (more if you're writing the next War and Peace). However, at the lower end of the spectrum you could probably hire an editor for less than $200, if you go with someone just starting out. For many of us, that's a much more realistic amount to be looking at. However much you decide you can afford to spend, remember it's a long term investment. Unless you're incredibly lucky you're not going to sell thousands, or even hundreds, of copies straight away. Building up a fan base takes time. The beauty of publishing independently is that your book stays on the market for as long as you want it to, giving you as much time as you need to recoup your costs and start making profit.

Publishing independently is a leap of faith, but it's a lot less of a leap if you know that you're putting the best product possible out there for public consumption.

A huge thank you to Leigh Ann for asking me to write this guest post :) I've said it before and I'll probably say it a hundred times more–good luck with publishing One!

Thank you so much for being here, Clare! Really, this was an AWESOME post. You are the greatest. 


  1. I made the mistake of not hiring an editor and now I have a few bad reviews because of the errors. I thought I could do it all myself but now I know I REALLY can't! I won't be making that mistake again and I'm trying to rectify the problem.

    A really good and useful post!

  2. $200? That sounds awesome; I could only find full MS edits in the thousands range! (But I haven't been searching too thoroughly, so....)

    1. That's approximately how much I paid to have Trinity edited (and then extra for the proofreading). I went with someone just starting out as a freelance editor. The costs get crazy high, very quickly!

  3. Really great post, Clare! Editing is SO so important. Books might have an amazing cover, but unless the insides are as good as the outsides, it doesn't matter. People don't have time to wade through an error-filled book. And they have no problem letting you know it in reviews!

    1. Yes, and I think bad editing is what some people thing gives selfing a "bad name," too. Best to avoid that. *wink*

  4. Brilliant. I know that for me, as a reader, I hate seeing typos and inconsistencies in a manuscript. It totally jars me out of the experience no matter how much I love the story. Great post!

    1. Yes, and also, a poorly written book. I think the biggest thing an editor does is force us to slow down and step back. You'll see in upcoming posts, but there are actually THREE more "editors" that go through with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it's as shiny as possible. Insane.

  5. also I'd like to point out age doesn't matter--there's tons of freelance editors who are pretty young but have great publishing experience. LOOK FOR THEM! because they are awesome.

    1. Right, and sometimes younger is BETTER! Like if it's YOU, Jess. <3

    2. <33333333333333333333 I was talking about OTHER people but sometimes I'm awesome, too.

  6. Thank you both for sharing your experiences with us. I am looking for an editor but its a daunting process since you never know if they'll really be helpful or not.

    1. That's why the sample edit is so important. I hope you find an editor that suits you :)

  7. Good post. I'm liking this series- it's great to hear about your journey and experiences. Thanks for sharing! So important.

  8. As an editor, I find your post extremely comprehensive and useful! I'll offer my two cents on a few of your points:

    1.) I've never seen an editor as cheap as $200, especially not for a full-length novel. My prices, as I state on my site, are some of the lowest I've run into, and unfortunately, they're higher than $200 (at least for novels).

    2.) While I appreciate the reasoning behind finding an editor before completing one's novel, by not having the novel completed, the author runs the risk of not being done by the time the editor is ready and that can really disrupt an editor's schedule. If an author is diligent enough to finish on time, though, and have something they're truly happy with, then yes, your way sounds like the most time-efficient for sure (I never thought of that).

    3.) I write too, and I also don't have time to find beta readers and reciprocate critiques, so I understand why some authors skimp on that part before hiring an editor. Still, I always recommend authors have at least a few beta readers before editing if they can. The more eyes the better. That said, while beta readers will surely point out useful things (they're awesome), an editor is likely to have insight that a beta, because they haven't dedicated themselves to the principles of story, may not be able to articulate or define.

    Anyway, despite my additions, your post is truly awesome.

    Knowing the importance of an editor is likely one of the reasons your book's doing so well! I'm checking it out right now.

    1. Thanks, Lauren :)

      I was going on my own experiences in terms of costs. The editor I hired for Trinity was just starting out, hence the low price.

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