As we mentioned in the seventh installment of our Editing Tips series, there are many different types of editors. Many writers wonder if they really need every type of editor, and our answer is that while every manuscript needs each stage of editing, it’s not strictly necessary for each book to be edited by every type of editor.
But how can you know when you’ve found the right editor?
First, you need to determine what type of editing your manuscript needs at its current stage; we recommend determining this after performing your own edits on it. Is your manuscript completely written, self-edited, but in need of further developmental editing, either for story structure or character development? Have you been through a few rounds of alpha or beta readers, and now you’re ready for copy and/or line editing? Does your manuscript only need a little bit of developmental help and a bit more grammatical assistance, such as from a hybrid editor? Or has your manuscript been through all of those stages and is now ready for a professional proofread? Knowing your manuscript’s needs, and being able to clearly communicate those, will help tremendously.
While an editorial relationship is a professional relationship, it’s important that you get along with your editor. Whether your manuscript is fiction or nonfiction, having a solid rapport with the editor as a person and feeling comfortable being creatively vulnerable with them is essential to the relationship. And if your manuscript is a memoir, your editor is also a confidante of sorts; they may be among the first in a long line of people who will read things about your life that you may not have even said aloud. However, no matter your genre, you’re asking an editor to hone your manuscript—something you conceptualized and have spent a tremendous amount of time developing—and that requires trust.
When you’re evaluating potential editors for your manuscript, it’s crucial to find someone who respects what you’ve created, the time you’ve put into it, your vision for it, and is able to help guide you through the next stage of the editing process. Additionally, you need to find someone whose editorial style matches the tone of your manuscript. We recommend asking for a sample edit from any editor you’re considering.
A sample edit is typically performed for free (or at a low cost) on a portion of the manuscript, such as the first chapter, first 5,000 words, or first ten pages—these parameters will vary from editor to editor. In the sample, an editor will conduct editing services with the same caliber you can expect them to provide the rest of your manuscript; this is a great way to evaluate if they’re the right match for your manuscript (and for an editor to assess if yours is a project they feel equipped for).
In some ways, finding the right editor for your manuscript is similar to finding the right medical provider for your health; while the provider might know more about medicine than you do, most likely, you know more about your body than they do. Likewise, while an editor may know more about story presentation, grammar, or developmental aspects than a writer, it’s the writer who knows their story the best. This is where mutual respect is vital. While an editor should be professionally trained in editing and presenting stories, which is worthy of a writer’s respect, an editor should also respect that the writer will always know more about the story and the intended vision of it than the editor will; after all, the author created it. An editor and author may need to discuss what is and isn’t working in the story, though, in order to convey the author’s intended message in the best way possible because sometimes what winds up on the pages isn’t always in line with what the author meant to do.
With that in mind, it’s important to maintain some humility when receiving feedback from an editor (even on a sample edit), which may include criticism. While we all are eager to receive praise for our work, constructive criticism is also an inevitable—and vital—part of the editing process. However, if you’re receiving outright negative criticism without potential suggestions on ways you could improve something, that’s a sign that editor may not be the right fit for you (this is something that may be discovered in a sample edit, too). When working with the right editor, you should feel inspired to keep working to improve your manuscript, not discouraged or like you shouldn’t be a writer. That’s not to say that self-doubt won’t occasionally creep into your mind, but that the right editor will also find things you do well and work to build you up, rather than tear your down.
Of course, every paid editorial service should come with a contract with clear deadlines, both for editing services and payment. And when it comes to editors who work for publishers, the author should never be expected to pay for any part of the publisher’s editorial, design, or publishing process once they’ve signed a contract with the publisher.
And remember—any editor you work with is only going to be able to edit what you provide; be sure to provide a manuscript you’ve polished as much as you can so the feedback you receive will help you to elevate not just that manuscript, but your craft as well. While their feedback is always, of course, simply suggestions, they should always help you grow and improve, rather than hinder your progress. Ultimately, we believe you’ll know you’ve found the right editor for your book when it’s clear the editor understands your vision for the book and has provided feedback that points out what you’re doing well, as well as what you can do to improve towards that, all delivered in a professional, respectful manner. Most importantly, you’ll know you’ve found the right editor when you feel excited about the potential for improvement, rather than dismayed at the work you still have to do. How you improve your book, though? Well, that’s up to you; remember to trust your instincts.
Editor’s Note: This post is written with the intention of helping writers navigate how to find the right editor for their manuscript during the self-editing process; what contracted authors experience with a publisher will likely have different nuances to the relationship.
Josha Publishing, LLC is a woman-founded, woman-owned, and woman-run company that is passionate about books, stories, and the power of words to change lives. Learn more about us here and remember to sign up for our newsletter to find out about new content, new books, and submissions update.
Editing Tips Part 9:Tweet
Finding the Right Editor
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