Nanette O’Neal and Abigail Young
9 min read
You’ve achieved a milestone in your life. You wrote your first book!
That story inside of you—the one that’s been screaming to be heard—has finally been given the voice it deserves.
This is your book.
It’s part of who you are.
It represents the best of you.
It’s like your baby, so congratulations on bringing this new life into the world.
But, like a baby, your book is fragile. You can’t send it off into the world yet. You and your book are in a vulnerable state right now. Questions and doubts run through your mind.
What will other people think? Will they read it? Will they laugh at it? Is it even worth putting out there?
Before you launch your book into the world, there are steps you can take to ensure your book will stand on its own. The process involves top-rated editing and proofreading, and we’re here to explain how to find the best editor for your book.
An editor is a second set of objective eyes. They will catch mistakes you have overlooked. And let’s get serious here—you’ve been so close to this project for so long that you will have missed a few glaring mistakes.
There is not one published author out there who can catch all the unintended flaws before distribution. But a good quality editor will look at your book with objectivity to assess it on many levels according to your needs.
First of all, let’s define what kind of editing options are out there. When you know what is available, you can better assess your needs.
Sometimes we have a great idea, but we need help with getting our ideas organized in a coherent manner. A developmental editor will give you general advice on the structure of your story before you even get started. They almost act as a coach to help with ideas and keep you on track.
Every new writer could benefit from a line or content edit. It’s important to get a different set of eyes to evaluate sentence structure, clarity of thought, continuity of ideas, and overall believability.
If you are a fiction writer, your novel must follow the basic rules of story structure, and you’ll need help finding plot holes in your story, sticking with the proper point of view, showing vs. telling, as well as other key elements specific to fiction.
A content editor will not fix all of your mistakes. Rather, their job is to point out where flaws occur and advise you to apply the kind of revisions that will make your manuscript clear and compelling.
After a good line editor has cleaned up structural mistakes, your book must then pass through a copy edit.
A copy editor is not reading your book for content value. They will concentrate solely on punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes—stray commas, inverted quotation marks, improper use of numbers, and a whole myriad of other issues that if left unfixed will be jarring to the reader and ultimately diminish the value of your work.
A proofreader is usually called in after the book has been through many other editors—beta readers, content editing, and copy editing.
When the book has passed these stages successfully and has been submitted for publication, a print copy is sent to you to proof. It’s crucial to have a new set of eyes to read the proof so as to catch that final stray comma and to evaluate the interior formatting.
Sometimes a book can come from the factory with formatting issues that never pop up on the screen, and the only way to catch them is with a print proof.
But don’t do the proofing yourself. Get a trusted friend to do it for you—you might even get a new fan out of it as well.
If you are in the developmental stage, it will be clear to you since you don’t have a full manuscript yet. However, deciding whether or not to have a line edit before the final copy edit can be a tricky decision.
New authors should always opt for a line edit because the art of writing has many rules and nuances that must be adhered to. Even if you are an avid reader, you’re so close to your project that you will miss mistakes that could potentially kill your story.
Check out the editor’s website. You can see the genre they primarily work with– that will go a long way in deciding if they are right for you.
Also, read some endorsements from past editing gigs. Finally, if you ask them what style guide they adhere to and they don’t know what you’re talking about, run. Run fast, and run hard.
A good editor will need:
With all these items in hand, a good editor can make a valid assessment of your needs and do their best to meet them.
Keep in mind, especially you first-time authors, the condition of your work might require more than you expected to contract out for.
This is normal.
Remember, your idea is golden—but the manuscript will need polishing in order to let the world see how golden an idea it was to begin with.
Most editor’s will offer a free, no-obligation assessment of a short sample of your book that will come back to you with corrections, comments, and suggestions for improvement. It will have explanations for each of the suggested changes so as to help you understand the process.
You should also receive a quote for services, a time frame for completion of the work, and a contract which you both would sign to make this a legal and binding agreement.
An editor’s aim should be not only to improve your work but also to help you become a better writer in the long run. You should feel like an equal partner in the process.
When you get your sample edit back, you’re in the driver’s seat. You get to evaluate their work, so do it with a critical eye. Look for red flags:
All of these points are crucial in deciding if your editor is right for you. Remember, this is a mutual agreement between two professionals—the author and the editor. If you don’t feel you are being treated as an equal, you have no obligation to work with them.
Most good editors will charge by word count, ranging between 1 cent per word for proofreading/copy editing and up to 4 cents per word for line/content/developmental editing. But don’t be afraid to negotiate within your price range and possibly work out a payment plan.
This is a working agreement between two professionals. You absolutely are in the right to expect a contract. Oftentimes, an editor will ask for 50% up front and 50% upon completion. Make sure you have a signed contract in hand before you make your first payment.
It seems like a tough process, and you might dread the idea of your hard work being critiqued, but remember this: A good editor will respect your book, and through the editing process, they will raise it to be fully grown and mature, to stand on its own with integrity, and to make its mark on the world of literature.
If you’re ready to find an editor for your book, we at Author Academy Elite can help in a couple ways.
You can request a FREE editing sample for your book from us at here or click the button below to watch a free training for more information on how to find an editor for your book.
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.