‘I can edit for you,’ my friend would say, ‘just buy me a carton of beer.’
‘Oh that sounds great, what degree do you have?’ I asked to which my friend skulled their beer.
Lesson 2.5 – Editors. Ugh!
I shouldn’t be too mean here, in the end, I found an amazing editor. Amazing.
The problem with that statement is it implies I didn’t have a good time at the beginning. Which is exactly what happened. But before I get into that, let’s run through a quick list of things you should look for in an editor:
1. A recommendation – don’t even think about asking an editor who hasn’t been recommended to you. I know this falls into that ‘but they need the experience to be experienced’ category that all Uni Grads go through. But the bottom line is, if they aren’t editing full time then they probably aren’t going to take you seriously. Or they have less experience than you. Which is concerning, cos you’re a writer, not an editor, right? RIGHT?
2. Never pay the full amount up front – this probably sounds like a no-brainer, but when you’re inexperienced and terrified of the editing process it’s easy to get caught up. The offer normally goes, pay half now and half on completion, which is great. Considering the cost goes up with every word in your book this can really help.
3. Passion and interest – you already have this, so why shouldn’t the editor? Send them an elevator pitch or blurb and see if it’s something they would be interested in. This is going to lead to some great conversation and more amazing feedback. The final editor I found was an incredibly kind person. We spent a lot of time talking about the world, spin-off works and of course the story itself. Without that connection, I never would have been confident enough to go to the final stage.
4. A good communicator – this is super important. If they receive your work but don’t follow up with you about progress or questions then it’s going to mess with your nerves. It’s bad enough they’re tearing your work inside out finding errors. Not communicating with you is just going to drive you crazy.
Now that those things are taken into consideration lets go over the things YOU will need to do before/in the middle of contacting the editor.
1. Throw away your budget – that’s right! No budgets here. If you want your work edited to perfection, then prepare to pay the price. You’ll get what you pay for and when it’s your precious world being scrutinised then you’ll pay them with the blood of your firstborn if that’s what they want.
2. Make sure everything is together – depending on what you’re writing, some editors may need a reference page. This might contain the alphabet to the language you created or tips on how to pronounce names of characters and places. It might also advise that you want the editing to be done in US – English instead of UK – English. Remember that you wrote the damn thing, so you know it inside and out. Your editor has to deal with your wacky names and made up titles, so make sure they’re prepared. Side note, not every editor will need this but just make one anyway.
3. Before you agree the work is done, CHECK EVERYTHING – this might sound like it defeats the purpose of an editor, but it’s a great way to make sure you’re not being duked. I put in a couple of duplicate words in some hard to read places (walls of descriptive text) just to see if they would be picked up. It’s important to note that this is me having editor trust issues. Nothing more.
4. Take the first return slow – when you get the first return from your editor take a day. Let it sit in your inbox and chill. The first run has been done, well done, grab a six-pack, maybe two and chill. If you can’t then that’s fine too, but don’t rush through the comments and feedback. Every word is important, they will deconstruct your hidden meanings. Break your poorly constructed dialogue and offer far greater ideas on how to describe something. Each of these is going to hurt a tiny bit. Push through, try and understand why they have written that and either agree or disagree. Just make sure if you do disagree, you let them know why.
5. It will never be perfect – this is one of those things you just have to plain accept. If you can’t, you will never publish. You’ll spend eternity trying to ‘fix’ your work. In the end, it’ll probably just cause more damage.
Ok, now on to my brief story. DISCLAIMER – I AM NOT AN EDITOR.
My first editor was on the internet, she had a fairly average website that indicated how great she was. I found her website through an Australian Writing Website which listed a dozen qualified editors, most of which had either retired or didn’t edit Science Fiction. This editor did and provided me with a quite reasonable price. I sent her the work. I paid the fee. I heard nothing for three weeks. Then I received an email saying it was all done. It was not all done. Two things stood out, the first was that there was no feedback or criticism. Just plain grammatical edits. Secondly, when I had a friend who is studying some kind of English degree read it they were appalled.
‘I hope you didn’t pay for the editing.’
Trust me when I say, that is the last thing you want to hear.
At the time this was my only experience with an editor. I sent a few emails to her asking for a second run when the response was not pleasant. So I thought ok, let’s move on. I think I made my best move here. I got in contact with the Self-Publishing company I wanted to use and asked if they had editing in their package. I probably should have done this first. In any case, they advised their editor was way too busy and RECOMMENDED the editor I ended up using. She was absolutely amazing. Communicated all the time. Gave me heaps of feedback and was heavily involved in shaping the ending of Catalyst.
Anyway, that’s a lot of stuff. Digest it, let me know what you think, and if you think I’ve missed something let me know. Next week I’ll touch base on the cover.
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