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How to Work with an Editor: A Guide

You’ve finished your manuscript and you’re ready to work with an editor for the first time. You’re not sure what to expect; in fact, you’re a little apprehensive. What if the editor thinks your writing is bad and shouldn’t be published? What if the editor reviews your story and you don’t like the feedback?

Working with an editor can be a stress-free process if you know what to expect. Here are some tips for working with an editor, including finding the right editor for your manuscript, pricing and editor’s rates, and dealing with feedback if you’re looking to self publish.

Finding an Editor

The first step to working with an editor is to decide what type of editing you need.

If you haven’t had your manuscript reviewed before, it’s best to get a developmental edit (also called structural edit). The editor will review your book and give you feedback about the flow, pacing, and content.

If your manuscript has already been reviewed for structure, then you’ll be looking for a copyeditor. This editor will be reviewing your manuscript for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. You may also get feedback about the wording of your sentences or notes about your use of diction if, for example, you’re using American terminology while writing for a European audience.

Once you’ve decided what type of editor you need, search for editors online.

Search for professional editors associations to post a job on their website. You can also search on freelancer websites such as Upwork and Fiverr. Yet another option is to search for editing services and comb through the websites for freelancer websites that offer editing services.

Check the editor’s background.

Look for information about the editor’s training and experience. Read their bios. Does the editor have experience working with your type of manuscript? How long have they been editing for your genre or niche? Look for testimonials and reviews from past clients. What was their experience working with the editor?

When you’ve found an editor you would like to work with, send a message or email.

Initial Contact and Communication

Get in touch with the editor and send some basic information about yourself and your project.

Depending on whether you’re on the editor’s website, a job website, or community page, go to the contact page, send an email, or fill out a form.

Details that the editor will want to know are your name, book genre, and word count. If you have more background information, provide that as well. For example, is this the second book in a series? Was the book previously published and you are updating it?

Have you worked with an editor before? For example, you worked with an editor for the structural edit and now you’re looking for a copyedit. This tells the editor what stage you’re at in the publishing process, as well as if you’re familiar with editing. Sometimes, a new writer will ask for a proofread when they really need a copyedit – there’s a difference in price and a difference in how much editing you’ll need.

Clarify details about the editing you want done and your budget.

Ask the editor for their rates and have a budget in mind. Even if the editor has rates posted, they may adjust their rates if your budget is close and they will take on your project for a discount. You can ask for a free sample edit if you want to get a feel for their editing style.

Find out if the quote they provide is for one round of edits, or if they will provide a second round of edits after you make changes. Most editors will work with your document in Word. They will use track changes so you can accept or reject their edits.

Confirm timelines and method of payment.

Finally, let the editor know about your timelines. The editor will tell you when they can have your manuscript edited depending on how busy their schedule is. If you’re in a rush, they will charge more if it’s a rush job.

When you both agree to the details of the editing project, then the final step is payment. The editor may ask for fifty percent upfront and then fifty percent on completion of the project. If the amount is a lot, you can ask if the editor will agree to smaller installments. Finally, discuss how the payments will be made: PayPal, etransfer, or any of a number of options.

When you’ve sorted out the details about the editing work, then you’re ready to begin.

Photo Credit: Suzy Hazel

The Editing Process

Provide the editor with a manuscript they can mark with edits and comments.

In most cases, you’ll be providing the editor with a Word document. The edits will be made using the track changes feature. Another, less common approach that could be used is providing the electronic file to the editor so the edits could be made using HTML.

When the editing is complete, you will receive an email from the editor with some overall feedback. The email will start with the strengths of your manuscript and what the editor liked about it. After the big picture feedback, the editor will get into the details about any issues and suggest ways to improve on these issues.

The editor may also have some questions (queries). The questions are useful because, as an author, you’ll be very attached to your manuscript. It’s your creation! However, the editor is reading your book with another set of eyes. Their questions may be the same as the questions your reader may ask. The editor may point out inconsistencies that you weren’t aware of.

For example, the editor may suggest reordering a few chapters in your nonfiction book, so the flow of ideas makes more sense to the reader. Or the editor may recommend adding more details to further develop your character’s personality in your novel.

There are recommendations that an editor may suggest, from taking information and putting it into a table, to recurring edits for your use of the comma.

When the editing is complete, you will receive an email and a marked-up version of your manuscript.

Handling Feedback and Edits

Reviewing the edits is a step-by-step process and can involve a discussion about the suggested changes.

If it’s your first time working with an editor, remember not to take the feedback and edits personally! This may be hard to do because creating the book was like creating a child. The edits are about your work and don’t reflect on you as a person. With any manuscript, there is always room for improvement. So you’ll need to detach yourself a little emotionally from your work.

After reading the email for the big picture review, open your document to review the detailed edits. You’ll have the option of accepting or rejecting each edit the editor made. The editor may also add comments and queries about the manuscript.

If you’re unsure why an editor made a specific change to your manuscript, then write an email to the editor to find out why the edit was suggested. When you understand the editor’s reasoning, you may decide to accept the edit.

Or you may discover from the discussion that the editor had the wrong impression about what you were trying to do when you wrote the sentence. In that case, you might rewrite the sentence or passage to clarify the misunderstanding.

When you’re satisfied with the editing, it’s time for your final communication with the editor.

Concluding the Editing Process

Let the editor know that you don’t have further questions, and make the final payment.

If you don’t have any further questions after reviewing the editor’s general feedback, comments, and manuscript edits, then let the editor know. The final step will be paying the invoice for completing the work.

Even after the editor has completed the task, it’s a good idea to put your manuscript aside for a period of time. Later, return to the manuscript and review it again with fresh eyes. This applies whether a developmental edit or a copyedit was made.

If you liked the editor’s work, provide a testimonial. Your editor will appreciate it, and you’ll be letting other authors know about someone who will do a great of job polishing up your manuscript for readers.

Key Takeaways

For first-time authors who want to self-publish their first book, finding and working with an editor for the first time can be a daunting process. Here is a brief summary of the steps.

  1. Decide what type of editing you need.

  2. Look for an editor that is a good fit and provide the editor with background information.

  3. Send a copy of your manuscript that the editor can mark up.

  4. Review edits from the editor.

Is it worth it to hire an editor? Absolutely. Your book will be much more polished and at a higher quality of writing when you have that professional review.

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