Many thanks to the terrific editors who agreed to share their valuable advice and experience for this piece on the importance of editing in writing, particularly with regard to self-publishing. Please find detailed information on the editors and their editorial services at the end of this article.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT FOR SELF-PUBLISHED AUTHORS TO HIRE AN EDITOR?
Once something with your name on it is published and available to the public, your reputation is on the line. While you may be an exceptional writer, your perspective of the material will always be somewhat jaded. You will always read what you meant to say and you can’t see the material through fresh eyes to be certain just how a reader will receive the material. The moment your writing becomes a product up for sale, you are in business. Readers are your customers and they expect their purchases to meet certain professional standards. You should never disappoint your customers or risk your reputation. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Editor
With the plethora of competition that’s out there, it’s important to present the best product you can. Even though we might think we can catch all our mistakes and typos on our own, we can’t because our brains like to play tricks on us. For more extensive editing, sometimes we get so close to a story that we can’t see the plot holes and flaws. It all makes sense to us because we wrote it. A good editor can help fill in these holes, fix the typos and grammatical errors, and help you create a product that will pull your reader in and never trip them up. – Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
The need for an editor as an author and writer is multi-fueled. During the process of putting thought to paper, an author’s goal is not to create the perfect sentence structure but to capture his/her readership in the moment at hand. Thus, unavoidable grammatical errors will occur. Rectifying the problem is relatively simple – just reread the work and amend accordingly. However, as the author, your interpretation of your work is biased; your understanding of the story clearer than that of a fresh pair of eyes. Editors don’t just pick up grammatical and spelling errors, they check for flow of content, character contradiction (whereby a character is said to have been or done something that is contradicted later in the tale), story coordination, and so forth. All these points may be addressed more easily with the ‘fresh pair eyes’. – Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
No author-self-published or otherwise-wants the world to see anything less than their very best writing. No matter how good you are, you will make mistakes. An editor can help minimize those. – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
Objectivity is the first thing that comes to mind. I am not emotionally invested in your work (although if you touch my heart in some way, I may become so, but that is just a happy benefit!). Someone else needs to see your work before you publish. No one ever saw mine before I posted on kindle, and I spent a lot of nervous time saying, “should I keep it on or pull it off, keep it on or pull it off”-and I actually did pull it off for a while and re-posted finally with a pen name. Distance is the second. I have no problem nitpicking someone’s work if that is what I am hired to do-I can be the writer’s “second pair of eyes” very easily. And time-I am honor-bound to get your work back to you by a certain time that we set together. Your mom and girlfriend are not. – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting Services
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF WRITERS CHOOSE NOT TO HIRE AN EDITOR?
As many authors found they could publish on their own and not be stopped by rejection letters from traditional houses, they leaped with joy to have their words read and potentially be paid for their hard work. They also leaped right over the important step of polishing that must happen between writing and publishing. This is sometimes due to cost, sometimes inexperience, and sometimes a belief that they didn’t need it. Unfortunately, readers were immediately being disappointed and started the chatter that quickly became a hot topic. Very public discussions, including among influential professionals and reader forums, occur every day about why self-publishing indie authors should not be taken seriously.
Think about that. Not all self or indie authors publish without editing, but the perception exists already and has created a bad image for the whole group. I am often contacted by authors that debuted an unedited novel and realized their mistake after bad reviews and poor sales results. The damage is done to that author’s reputation and they have contributed to the overall perception that all self-publishing authors are the same – below standard when compared to a traditionally published author. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Editor
The published book won’t be as good as it could be. It might be passable–it might even be really good. But there’s a good chance it won’t reach its full potential. – Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
If you embark on editing your own work, then the chances are you will leave yourself open to the most common errors: spellcheck mishaps, poor sentence structure, character contradiction, and misaligned story coordination. This will affect your readership. You will be viewed as unprofessional, amateurish, and your sales will suffer. Harsh but true. – Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
I know authors who have chosen to self-publish without editing. The results aren’t good. They get terrible reviews and often have to pull their work and revamp it. It’s not good for their reputation as a serious writer. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
It depends on the writer’s expertise, confidence level, and the writer’s understanding of the basic rules of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and sequencing, as well as plot and character development. Some writers-very few, though-can get away with minimal beta-intervention. I recommend that at least a second party checks your work if you are serious as a writer. – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting Services
What’s the best way for a writer to find an editor who is a good fit for her?
Look at testimonials from their clients, require they complete a free sample on a section of your manuscript, and have discussions so you can interview and get to know them. Not only should they be well versed in the appropriate style guides and have the educational background and work experience, but your personalities should match up. If the editor doesn’t understand your goals or ‘get’ your writing style, she is not the right editor for you. If you base your decision solely on pricing, you can end up working with the wrong editor. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Editor
I’d say have a conversation with the editor. Ask if it’s possible to pay for a short sample–say a chapter or the first three chapters–before committing to having the editor do the entire manuscript. If you like the sample, then go for the full monty. See if you can find other writers who’ve worked with the editor and see what they say about him or her. Referrals are always a good thing. – Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
The simplest way of finding an editor who is a good fit to an author is by personal recommendation. Failing that, there are many editors offering their services via social media. Check the genres that are being edited by a handful of chosen ones that you like the look of, ensure that you chose one of your own genre, and then go online and assess the quality of the work that they have submitted. (free samples of ebooks etc). Compare prices versus quality before settling on a final editor. -Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
It’s important to do your research and be careful not to select someone just because they’re the least expensive. I’ve had numerous writers come to me after they’ve already paid someone to do what they thought was a complete edit. Then they’re back to square one with their editing budget spent. Do your homework! Check an editor’s website, twitter posts, facebook page, etc. A reputable editor should have these connections and reviews from clients should be posted. Look for membership in professional organizations like the editorial freelancers association. Communicate with the editor. She should be willing to discuss all aspects of the edit with you, whether via email, phone, or chat/messaging. – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
I say to look for an editor that is college-degreed and has a track record of editing in your genre. See if there are examples of some of the works the editor has edited on the editor’s site. Some specialty areas, such as regency, science fiction, and of course, nonfiction, require knowledge of the eras, technology, and area of expertise. I also think that the editor for a self-published author should be one that has experience in assisting in self-publishing. – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting Service
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES YOU SEE WRITERS MAKE?
Actually the most common error is spacing between sentences. This is one every writer tends to make at least once. Everyone is subject to the standard misuses of words like your, you’re, they’re, their, there, then, than, etc. Mostly what i see are the telltale signs of how our brains work faster than our fingertips. Words misspelled, missing, transposed. Grammatical errors that are indicative of regional influences or just writing too fast. Jumping point of view without clarity and moving back and forth between present and past tense are both scenarios that are very common and often a writer won’t catch these easily as they tend to read what they meant and not realize how it reads with fresh eyes, so to speak. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Editor
Rushing a book out before it’s quite ready. Often self-published books from newer authors could use not only some heavy-duty proofreading, but also work adding layers to the story, to the characters, and to descriptions to really take advantage of all the ways to pull a reader in. I think a lot of writers rush to publish with a second or third draft when the book could really benefit from a fourth and fifth pass. I see this in books submitted to me at publishing houses as well as in books that have been self-published. – Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
The most common mistakes self-published authors make that I often see are the cringeworthy points whereby spell check has kicked in and you have ‘weather’ when you should have ‘whether’ and other such nonsense. These errors are easily spotted by the readership and easily glossed over by the author who knew what they meant at the time. Content may become loose and baggy and lack content flow. An editor can either show you where it needs tightening up or amend it on your behalf to assist in keeping your reader gripped. – Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
I think the biggest problem is a tendency to be way too wordy. Writers are often repetitive, saying the same thing over and over, as if having to remind the reader of what should already be known. I also see problems with writing dialogue. There are so many little things involved in writing a quality story. Each author is different and faces her own unique set of hurdles. A good editor adjusts to meet the needs of the individual client.
I also see writers who submit work for editing without ever having done a true self-edit or having used beta readers for assistance and feedback. I suggest going through all these steps, more than once if necessary, before spending your money on editing. It will save you money in the long run. – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
Wow, there are quite a few, and I hope that they profit from them as I did as a new writer. One major one is thinking that I am the only stop as an editor and all the mistakes are going to go away. Most of the traditionally published writers have an entire team behind them, so in order to have the best product possible, I recommend, yes, certainly make me your first stop if you are not so certain about your product. I will make it look a whole lot better (most 300-page manuscripts that I receive have many thousands of errors) with basic editing, but then have someone else read through and find the ones I may have missed. Or, use my 3-step process and have me do a more thorough edit for you. I am good, but I will never say I am perfect. After all, editing is a subjective process. And it is an inexact science as well. – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules editing and consulting service
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WRITERS ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHING?
Self-publishing is sometimes associated with a package service bought from a self-publishing house. That happens because these houses use those keywords to rank high on search engine results for the most common search term authors use when seeking to publish outside of traditional methods. They offer a well-presented plan for authors to sit back and write while they do all the hard and mysterious work of publishing, leveraging our need for convenience and our inexperience with a presentation of one and done services. In this scenario, an author pays a company to publish for them and is not in control of each aspect of the publishing process, gets fewer royalties, and is subjected to a poorer quality of each of the individual services. These self- publishing houses are known as vanity presses. They are big businesses that are designed to sell quantities of packages to as many authors as they can. Their focus is on their profit margin and not the author’s goals – they rely on the package pricing, not the royalties to generate their profit. Also, consider that you need a service provider that specializes in each service (formatting, cover design, editing, etc.) And you should have a relationship with them, be able to discuss your visions and goals for the work they will do for you, and be able to hold them accountable. A freelancer depends on their reputation in their specific field to be successful. A self-publishing press only depends on that ad on the search engine that they keep on the first page and well above the pages of complaints and by spending money on seo and advertising. Instead of going that route, be completely independent so that you are in complete control of each aspect of the publishing process. Either do it all yourself, or hire freelancers to do portions of the work for you, but maintain complete control and be your own publisher. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Editor
Do everything you can to produce the best possible product. There’s no point putting out a book that doesn’t reflect the time, pain, sweat, blood, tears, and passion you put into it. – Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
Get half a dozen friends to read your work for you. Ask them to note any errors that they can spot. Ask them to look out for character flaws, storyline misdirection and ask for their opinion on flow of content. Alternatively, join a writing circle. Writing circles most commonly edit each other’s work and will be more instinctively aware of what to look out for in order to improve presentation and structure. -Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
Getting your book self-published is the easy part. Anyone can be a published author today. But it takes time and hard work to get noticed out there and turn a profit. If you really want to become a bestselling author, you have to promote your work, do book signings, blog tours, etc.
I’m a huge fan of social media marketing. Writers need to use it if they want to get noticed. Agents and publishers are watching amazon and other sites to see what people are reading. There are millions of self-published authors out there. What will you do to set yourself apart from the rest? When I edit quality work, I like to promote the finished product via twitter, facebook, and my website. If a book I’ve edited attracts attention, that’s a win-win for both me and the author! – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
Keep an open mind to criticism and do not feel that you have to follow everyone’s advice unless they have data and results that can be applied to your situation. I also see a lot of jealous people trashing others, or well-meaning people who pump up others. Do not put too much stock in reviews of your work; it’s what you think that is important. The authors i work with don’t listen to me on this one and they stress over every negative comment without looking at the big picture. – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting Services
DO YOU EVER TURN DOWN EDITING JOBS? IF SO, WHY?
Yes, unfortunately. The two main reasons have been material that is just not ready for editing and authors that only want to discuss pricing. By ‘not ready for editing’ I mean, material that was written and not edited and proofread by the author first. The potential for a great book has to be there since it will be a reflection on me, as much as the author, after it’s published. That includes writing skills and the author’s professionalism. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Book Editor
If a client requests a surface edit and I really feel they could benefit from substantive editing, and they’re not willing or ready to take that step, I think I would have to decline. I also would have to decline if someone low-balled me on my rates. I have a kid in college, after all… I’ve had authors leave me, as well, after some time together. It’s nothing personal. It’s just a mismatch of styles or personality. If I were working with an author and the relationship just felt really off or difficult or there was a great deal of conflict, I’d have to seriously consider passing that author along to someone she might click better with. You’re not going to produce your best possible product under those circumstances. -Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
Yes I do turn down editing jobs. My work is a representation of myself and my company. If an author has written a badly constructed, poorly structured, grammatically inadequate tale that they present to me for editing, I would rather gouge my eyeballs out with a melon scoop first! Setting a precedent whereby you accept poor skill in storytelling will only open the floodgates to yet more. Life is too short for that. -Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
Yes, I have opted not to edit some of the manuscripts sent to me. This occurs primarily when the work is just not ready for editing. If I’m basically going to have to rewrite the book to make it ready for publication, then I don’t accept it for editing. It’s hard to do, but it wouldn’t be fair to take someone’s hard-earned money when there’s just too much writing left to do. In such a case, I offer lots of constructive suggestions for ways to improve the writing. Sometimes I suggest that the writer take a class to learn new ways to overcome whatever writing problems keep popping up in the work. I try to deliver the hard news gently, but not all writers are ready for that type of constructive criticism. – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
No, never. I didn’t know i could. It is in my nature and work ethic to accept all work. – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting Services
ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
Editors are trained professionals and many are also authors like I am. Having the benefit of wearing both hats, I understand my limitations in both areas. As an editor, I can guide and assist you. I am a guest in your manuscript, a trusted resource to help you polish your manuscript and build your professional reputation as a published author. As an author, I cannot edit my own work and I always work with an editor. A book starts as an idea, a stream of creativity in the mind, and the process of capturing that creativity in writing so that you effectively share your thoughts with readers requires teamwork. Case in point, you may find an error or two in my written responses to this interview. We are all imperfect humans. – Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Editor
I think the people who are taking self-publishing seriously are more likely to produce books of a quality that will attract readers. A shoddy cover or half-assed editing isn’t going to get you any sales–or certainly not as many as you’d get otherwise. Don’t rush your manuscripts for any reason, whether it’s heading off for consideration by a publisher or an agent or into the self-publishing world. – Katriena Knights, Notes on Vellum
Authors and editors have one thing in common. They love unleashing the written. The authors whose immense creativity pours from them onto the page, to the editor who resembles an obsessive/compulsive with their overwhelming need to tidy up and clean around all the sturdy structures of your story. It is a symbiotic relationship. They both want the best for your work and they want your work to be seen by as many as humanly possible. That is the ethos of a good editor. – Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
I want to thank you for the opportunity to participate here. I admire those of you who have the guts to put your words on paper. I get to read so many great stories and have the chance to polish them to perfection. – Susan Hughes, My Independent Editor
Certainly. Please get a good cover. That is really important. Enjoy yourself and keep writing. Remember that after you write, you need to promote… – Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules Editing and Consulting Services
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Debra L. Hartmann, The Pro Book Editor
I personally cover many genres, fiction only, for editing, proofreading, and provide consultation services. I also partner with other freelancers to bring a team of service providers together that all share common goals. We provide professional and expert services in ebook formatting, ebook cover designs, fiction and non-fiction editing and proofreading, and consultation services for a variety of needs, including how to build your author platform, how to make the most of social media marketing, and how to indie publish and avoid the high costs/poor results of self-publishing houses.
For editing and proofreading specifically, many factors have to be considered. Word count, the level of editing required, the amount of time the author will need to complete their approvals/rejections and rewrites during the process, how the author responds in terms of time to discuss and make revisions, etc. For formatting and cover design services, they are a bit simpler and inquiries can be priced a bit more quickly. An inquiry starts with an email, letting me know what service or services they are interested in. I follow up by asking the necessary questions and making a time bound commitment to complete a free sample. Once completed, another email includes the free sample, a detailed assessment of the need (for editing services), and a bid for the work.
Website: http://www.theprobookeditor.com is my business site, where you can see information about the team members, services offered, and find contact information to reach me directly.
Additional website: http://authorshelpingauthors.wordpress.com Staying well informed and drawing on the experience of more seasoned authors is the best way to make important decisions. Knowledge is power! This site is our personal contribution to empowering authors of all skill and experience levels. We are always accepting submissions for new articles that allow you to showcase your writing skills, talk passionately about topics, and help others. We reach over 8,200 people every time we publish a new piece. All articles have a credit line for the writer and they can include up to 3 links to their own sites. This format helps their search engine ranking and sends them traffic directly. Come have an AHA moment with us and enjoy the free library of articles written by authors, for authors.
I host the Talk Radio with NO Radio show on my blog site at http://dlhbookreviews.wordpress.com where I get to interview authors and write fun skits around our interviews that reveal real personal insight about who they are, and often introduce some of their book’s characters.
Katriena Knights from Notes on Vellum
Editing services focus on editing at various levels as well as book packaging (cover art and formatting for publication). I’ve been editing for almost ten years for several small-press publishers on a freelance basis as well as working with individual clients.
Line editing and proofreading, substantive editing, developmental editing. Everything from typos to plot structure to making sure your manuscript meets genre expectations.
I use per-word rates on a sliding scale depending upon the complexity/depth of the editing being requested.
Writing Website: katrienaknights.com
Author Blog: katrienaknights.blogspot.com
Editing Services Site: notesonvellum.com
Nicky Fitzmaurice, Satin Paperbacks
Satinpaperbacks services are provided with the utmost integrity. The work is read through carefully and then intensely edited. Careful consideration is given to ensure that the tone and vitality of the author is maintained whilst amending any structural errors. The work is then resubmitted to the author for approval. At request we can format and digitally upload to a recommended digital publishing house of your choice.
You will see all different types of pricing structure that may be confusing. Some Editors like to charge 0.01 pence per word, others by the day, the hour or total project. Pricing can be broken down into: Editing, intensive editing, formatting and uploading.
I like to think I have embraced the best of all worlds by basing my pricing system on the quality of editing: always intensive. Time taken = £3.97 ex VAT per 100 words and format & upload to reputable site £15.00 ex VAT.
Online Book Club Lending Library & Digital Publisher: www.satinpaperbacks.com
Susan Hughes, myindependenteditor
I offer a wide variety of services, depending on the writer’s needs. It ranges from a simple proofread or copy edit to check for grammatical errors and punctuation problems to a full developmental edit. At that end of the editing spectrum, I provide suggestions about character development, storyline issues, and address anything else the writer indicates as a trouble spot in his/her writing.
I charge an hourly rate. Before offering a contract for services, I ask the author to submit a 750-1000 word sample of the work. There is a link on my website for doing so. I edit this sample free of charge. This gives me a chance to gauge the client’s writing level and determine how long it will take to do a full edit. It also gives the writer a chance to see how I edit and what their manuscript will look like when I’m done with it.
If I feel we would make a good team, I offer the writer a contract for the services requested and we go from there.
Susan can be reached quickly via email or on Twitter. Please visit my website for all the details regarding my rates, requirements, and background.
Dr. Beth Lynne, BZ Hercules of www.bzhercules.com Hercules Editing and Consulting Services.
As an editor, I look for errors in grammar, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and content, and I also will format for e-book and print, as well as upload to the outlets. I have a critiquing service that is quite popular, for authors that want an honest appraisal of their work. I provide promotional tools for authors as well. I transcribe from old print books and voice recordings to create e-books and print books. I am also an academic editor, specializing in dissertation. And, I have a consultation side to my business too, in the field of education.
I believe in developing a partnership with my clients, and it is a give and take, not a “do as I say.”
My clients, who are mainly self-publishers and independent authors, are the ones who have influenced how I set my prices. I keep the prices very low because I know in many cases that they will not make back what they put in so quickly. I charge by the page rather than the word or hour, and run specials constantly to attract new clients and also to honor my regulars (Their success is my success, of course!). I also have a referral program. Oh, and I barter a bit. I edit for Laura, for example, and she provides covers for me. Now, if anyone wants to take me out for lobster dinner or put up my kids for a week in their time-share, we can talk…
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bethlynne1 @bethlynne1 and https://twitter.com/bzhercules @bzhercules
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