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Ode to The Editors


The problem about freelance and indie anything now a days is that it’s too free. In the world of literature, it is basically anarchy, there is no set governing body (that I know of) which controls the flow of words going from a private author to the published world and sometimes that’s alright, but usually it’s not.

With any freelance work, the proof is in the pudding and you go into it a bit weary and mostly blind. The lessons you’ll eventually learn will take you far, but you’ll get more than enough scrapes and bumps along your path.

Here are the cautionary points:


*Everyone’s a professional editor*

Actually, they’re not, actually they are, actually, you don’t know. Not until you’ve tried that editor out, and then after that, it’s just a matter of waiting to see how it goes. But everyone and their mother seems to think they can edit.

*You get what you pay for*

If you have the time and patience to put up with a poor situation from an inexpensive editor, then by all means, endure. There’s no shame in that. Any form of editing is better than nothing at all. But for the most part, when it comes to editors, maybe this once you should dig into your pockets.

*Time is money*

Rarely do editors give a flat rate (not that I have encountered anyhow), they charge based on time either per hour or per word. They will ask for a down payment before starting. Upon which time, they will give you a deadline. Personally, if my payment was on time I expect my end product to be on time as well. Of course, in life, things happen, and more so with a freelance editor because life can get in the way, but even if an editor cannot follow through on the promised date, they can at least give you proper notification ahead of time. Since the editor ultimately sets the return date, it doesn’t seem plausible that they can’t meet it…. or change it. Consider an editor’s schedule, find out how many projects he/she might be working on. A cheaper freelance editor might be swamped. You don’t want someone who might be careless with your manuscript. Be cautious though, because expensive editors does not necessarily mean a good editor either.

*Watch your emails*

You can learn a lot about a potential editor from the emails alone. If the emails are slow to get back to you, the editor could have a heavy work load. If an editor cannot answer your email in full sentences (everything you’ve asked), then do you really want that person editing your story? If you feel like you’re being disregarded before the project starts, it’s rarely going to get better later on. If you are treated sub-par even before they get your money, how will you be treated after? If you get an editor who is so busy from hurrying to meet deadlines, consider just how much time is set aside for your manuscript when the time comes. A few days before the deadline of your manuscript return, send an email and touch base.

*Reference, schmereference*

Unless the referral is from someone you know, then it really has no meaning. Any referral can be written by a friend. A sample edit might be the best way to go. I have seen my own errors, or been told about them, but left them in the sample edit to see if editors would catch them all. Editors are people too, but if they didn’t catch it, it would concern me. If you ask any group of people to refer you to a good editor, within seconds you will be bombarded with friends and families of random people. You can find editors that way, but select wisely and make sure the editor you choose can give you a 5 page free sample.

*The more the Merrier*

Editing is a long drawn-out process which has several stages. You might want to consider more than one editor for different stages.

Development edit which concentrates on the structure of the story. Checking the story’s viability. This is more comprehensive but it varies from editor to editor, just what they will do. Usually, a manuscript assessment accompanies the edit. Some thing of a Development edit as content edit but Development edit’s purpose is to help you develop that story. A Content edit is more for caution and fact checking. Usually you will get your manuscript back with inline comments as well as a detail rundown of the strengths and weaknesses.
Content edit which concentrates on the contents and plot, consistency, clarity. Some editors fact check for you at this stage to make sure the contents are sound and make sense. They will also try to make sure that events come in the right order.
line edit this is about the grammar and style, syntax, etc. This should be the final stage before proof reading and it should NOT come before the content or development edit. You will be making a lot of changes and rewrites in the other edits, to do a Line edit before that time is a waste of money as you’ll no doubt chop out whole scenes or add others.
proofread (copy edit) the final step before publication. When you see the words “Copy Edit” find out JUST what that editor considers a Copy Edit. Sometimes it’s just a proof read to them and nothing more.

*What to look for*

  • Shop around. Email more than one editors, ask a sample edit from each, all of the same few pages. Most editors will give you about 2 pages or more of a sample edit.
  • Then compare the results. Maybe you choose one over the other, but as the process is a long one, you can keep one or two more editors in mind for either the line edit or the proof read.
  • Look for an editor who is not afraid to tell you like it is. (especially in the sample edit)
  • Expect to get back a good amount of markups.
  • Look for an editor who doesn’t boast about being a nazi. Yes, we want someone strict, but not irresponsible.
  • Don’t chose an editor who acts like they’re doing you a favor. You’re paying for a service, and you should get just that.
  • Don’t ask the editor for any favors. he/she is doing this for work, and you should respect that.

*What to avoid*

  • Don’t look for an editor who flatters your work. I’m not saying that your work isn’t good, but that’s not what you need, you need honest feedback and a solid critique.
  • Don’t put up with editors who have no tact, or don’t know how to word a critique so that it is constructive. Though you do go to an editor to essentially let that person rip you apart, they don’t have to do it so crassly. Your money didn’t come lined with sh*t, your finished product shouldn’t either.
  • Surely, an editor above all others, would be a expert enough wordsmith to deliver honest feedback in a fair way. If not, you need a new editor.
  • Don’t be impatient, it takes time. Keep the lines of communication open when necessary, other times, just let it be.
  • Learn from the experience, whether good or bad. You can always learn something.