Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Should You Hire an Editor or Copy Editor?

Note: Although this blog is written with indie authors in mind, it applies to all unpublished authors as well. Your chances of selling a well-presented book far outweigh your chances of selling a book chock full of errors, no matter how minor. Every one of them requires time (and money) to fix, and publishers will go for the well-presented book every time.

Since many of you know I offer an editing service, my thoughts on hiring an editor/copy editor may surprise you. I firmly believe most authors can “do it themselves.”  Here are some questions you might ask yourself:

1.    Do I want to spend the time and effort, or would I rather pay someone to do it?

2.    Can I afford an editor?” Or better yet, “Can I afford not to hire an editor?

3.    Did I love English class in school? Did I get As or Bs? Or was I out to lunch, always thinking of content rather than presentation?   

4.    Does presentation matter?  I hope we answered that one in EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK, Part 1. YES, it matters!

5.    How can editing affect the sale of my book? To indie authors: maybe not much, but I’m willing to bet bad editing will affect the sale of your SECOND book! To newbies: as stated earlier, yes, presentation is vital.

6.    How do I find an editor?

For some suggested answers to these questions, see below.
                                                                       ~ * ~

1.    Self-editing requires a lot of patience, but if you’ve edited your book at the end of every chapter and again at the end of every fifth chapter (or a similar system of your own devising), you’ve already got a good start on additions, deletions, awkward sentences, run-on sentences, dangling participles, etc.  I strongly advise “editing as you go” so you won’t end up with a whole book that hasn’t had a single revision and is, therefore, a truly intimidating chore.

    When you’ve edited that last section (for example, chapters 15-20), then it’s time to go back to the beginning and do the whole thing from start to finish, checking everything from convoluted sentences to “leap-frog” transitions, continuity, extra words, missing words, lack of clarity, etc.  And if you made a LOT of changes, you just might have to go back and do it all again. By that time, it’s painful. Maybe even boring. But you have to do it!  If your reaction is: “No, no, no, I can’t stand it. I have no idea what I’m doing. Help!” then you really do need to consider hiring an editor.

2.    Good editing is not cheap. And, believe me, most editors earn their money. (Some manuscripts require so much work I’ve ended up earning about $2-3/hour. Now that’s just pitiful.)  A professional editing service with major web site and multiple employees will most likely cost as much as twice the services of a small, private editing service (with minimal overhead). But they are easier to find.

    Please remember the differences between editing and copy editing I pointed out in Part 1 of EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK. Editing is WAY more demanding and costs considerably more. The turnaround time will also be longer. And does the editor offer an overall “critique” as well as suggested changes to the body of the manuscript? This is always a plus.  

    Above all, remember that unless you are able to put in the time and expertise to do it yourself, you CANNOT afford NOT to hire an editor. The presentation quality of your manuscript directly affects your readers and, more importantly, your return readers. It also affects your reputation. Do you really want people wincing when they read your book? Or bored because the story bogs down in a sea of unnecessary words? I doubt that’s the reaction you envisioned when you wrote it.

    Cost of Editing/Copy Editing:

    The difference between Editing and Copy Editing makes a great deal of difference in what you should expect to pay for these services. On average, “editing” will be at least twice the price of “copy editing.” It may also be possible to find someone who will simply read your manuscript and offer feedback, which should be a detailed critique of characters, plot, dialogue, narration, setting, voice, etc. Warning: the critique without specific edits may leave you with a lot to figure out for yourself. The cost, however, should be somewhere in between full edits and simple copy editing.

3.    CAN you edit your book yourself? I am convinced most authors can, if they’ll only take the time to do it right. Finish your book, do your best self-editing as you go along, then put it aside for a few weeks. [Yes, I know you’re itching to get it out there - I know the feeling well - but trust me, you need to distance yourself a bit before starting that final polish before uploading (or submission to an agent or editor).]

    But if your imagination has always outstripped your English skills (you got consistently mediocre grades in English), then you need an editor. Save your pennies and do yourself the favor of hiring someone who can present your precious prose with the clarity it deserves. [A good editor will tell you where you went wrong and suggest how to fix it. He/she will not make any arbitrary changes (except possibly to the nuts & bolts of grammar, punctuation, and spelling). The actual revisions will be all yours.]

4.    Whether your errors are obvious mistakes in English or more serious errors of lack of identification, lack of clarity, vague setting, shallow characters, elusive plot, too many words, lack of color, “talking heads,” etc., etc., a good editor should be able to find most of the problems and suggest solutions. (Sometimes it’s “Delete” and sometimes it’s “Add” or “Elaborate.”) There are, alas—as all editors have discovered—books which can’t be fixed without a complete rewrite. Those I try to send back to the authors after maybe five or ten chapters, and suggest he/she try again. Why waste money editing something that has to be completely rewritten? Which is also a good reason to send only a portion of your book for a first edit.

5.    For the skeptics among you—but those probably aren’t reading this blog at all—yes, your friends, relatives, and unsuspecting customers will download that first book. But the more knowledgeable among them won’t get past the first ten pages, and it’s guaranteed they won’t recommend your book to friends. Nor will they buy any other book you write. And although the remaining readers may not recognize the more serious editing issues, they will likely wrinkle their brows and become bored. They might not be able to pinpoint why the story is going nowhere—stuck in meaningless dialogue or long narrative passages, saying nothing. They may not realize that the characters are shallow, the setting nebulous, the plot believable only by a five-year-old. They’ll simply stop reading or maybe read the whole thing, give you a pat on the back, but somehow never bother to download anything else you write. (“Oh wow, hey, that was great, man!”—but they never read another word by you.)

6.     How to find an editor.

    Some freelance editors advertise in the Classified section of  Romance Writers Report, RWA’s monthly magazine. Also, a great many e-mail lists have sprung up dedicated to Indie Publishing, and most are associated with a database where editors & copy editors are allowed to advertise their availability.  The social & business network site, LinkedIn, has several professional groups which also allow editors to reveal themselves. And, of course, you can always ask for recommendations from author groups you belong to or on author e-lists you belong to. Warning: Be careful you get an editor who understands the romance genre. For example, the editor of a technical journal might be a meticulous copy editor, but he/she would very likely have no idea what is expected in romance fiction.

~ * ~

Coming in the next couple of months:

        1.  Manuscript formatting for the 21st century - a LOT of changes out there!

        2.  A list of “Don’ts” - mistakes you really want to avoid

        3.  Editing basic:  Don’t snow your readers under a blizzard of words or, conversely give them stick figures and a plot full of holes when they want MEAT!

Thanks for stopping by Grace’s Mosaic Moments!


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