This month, I finished the final edits to my first novel Kristen, and it’s taken me a long time to get here. Like so many authors, I wanted to write a well-written and compelling story, so I decided to hire a line editor and copyeditor to improve the quality of my work, and to get ahead of things, I would work with beta readers beforehand. Like many new writers, I had a lot of questions.
1. What’s a Beta Reader?
The role of a beta reader is to read a writer’s manuscript and provide feedback in the form of a beta read report. This feedback is helpful to the authors as it can follow a structured checklist of areas to focus on. In 2019, I joined a young professional beta reader’s group and got help with my writing. Many of them were helpful. I got back an overview of my chapters with feedback on characterization, concept, dialogue flow, plot, and so on. I did this for six months and by the time I finished, I was ready for an editor.
Note: There are plenty of online communities that you can join to help with your writing for free but if you can’t find one, choose a beta reader that is an avid reader, understands prose, or a college English professor.
2. What Kind of Editing Service do you need?
Many authors don’t fully grasp the difference between a line edit and a copy edit. A line edit addresses the creative content, writing style, and language used at the sentence level. But the purpose of the line edit is to comb your manuscript for errors. A good editor will read through your manuscript and hand you back a report detailing: structure, exposition, themes, opening, narrative goal, tenses, dialogue, character, plot, and textual notes.
I asked my editor to do a light copy edit which isn’t the case for most editors. Both editors pay attention to your use of language which involves a mark-up of your manuscript. But make no mistake, these are two completely different processes, handled by professionals with different skill sets.
By contrast, the goal of the copy editor is to address flaws on every technical level to make sure the writing that appears on the page is in accordance with industry standards. This is a top-notch proofread.
In addition, a copy edit corrects spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, spelling, fonts, capitalization, factually incorrect statements, and internal consistency. Copy editing is your last opportunity to fix your mistakes and save your reputation as a writer. This final edit is recommended when completing your manuscript with NO further revisions planned.
3. How to find a quality Editor?
Editors are pricey but thank of it as a huge investment on your part. If you want a book that’s going to sell or even build a career from it you’re going to need a professional editor. When choosing an editor you have the choice of going with a professional editing service or a freelance writer.
A professional editing service provides the writer with some advantages, such as fixed deadlines and fixed prices. On the downside, you don’t get to choose your editor and depending on the agency you might not get an editor that has worked with one of the big 5 publishing houses. If this is a deal breaker, you will need to find an editor that knows more about industry standards.
Another downside is that many of these services don’t allow you to speak to the editor directly. If there’s a question you have to send a general email to an associate who will then respond on behalf of the editor. Also, many of these professional services hike up the prices. For example, I checked out one professional service that asked me for $3100 for a line edit that only came with one round of edits. And if I wanted to have seasoned writers work on my manuscript and get two rounds of editing it would cost me $7,000. Using my head, I figured that most of these editors freelance on the side. I was able to obtain the name of the editor and after a short google search, I found them on Reedsy. Note, their price was a fraction lower than that of the agency.
When working with an individual freelance editor the prices are often subject to negotiation, so the amount you pay would be determined by your negotiating skills. The freelancer doesn’t provide many safeguards. If you choose the wrong person you might not get high-level work. However, if you decide to work for a freelancer, be sure to work with them through a known site like Reedsy for a money back guarantee should something go wrong. Once you’ve build a relationship on a third-party site, you can then take out the middleman and contact them directly.
Sidenote: The firm Reedsy takes a 20% cut from each contract between author and freelancer (10% from the author and 10% from the editor).
After reviewing most of the popular professional editing service like, NY editors, Kevin Anderson and Associates, Book Butchers etc., I would recommend FirstEditing. They have great reviews on google, vetted editors, and great customer service. Although you won’t get a zoom meeting or phone call from your editor he/she will contact you if you email the agency with questions. Another perk is that their prices are affortable, they run great promotions and offer 20% discounts on a regular. I had a sample edit done and the editor did a wonderful job.
If you do choose to go this route but the price looks a bit too good to be true, you can purchase a grammar checker such as Autocrit or Prowritingaid to review the editors work, that way if there are any mistakes you can send it back to the editor and have it fixed. I can’t stress enough, that you should do this before uploading your book to Amazon. These grammar checkers are a great tool to use along with an editor, but they’re not going to take the place of a human editor, so keep that in mind.
4. How expensive is editing?
Hiring an editor can be quite expensive. It can cost you anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000. How much an editor charges will vary depending on their experience and workload, and several other factors. The more rounds of editing you’ll need, the country they live in, will determine how much they charge you. For example, I chose my first editor from the UK based on his extensive resume and the bestselling authors he had worked with, it wasn’t until I agreed to hire him that I realized that I could have found someone with similar credentials in the United States for a more affordable price.
A question to consider asking your editor is how many rounds of editing are you getting for the price? If it’s only one then ask if they add discounts for additional rounds of editing. This can get quite expensive so make sure to sort this out at the beginning of your negotiations.
I could go on about this, but here’s what it all boils down to, just because a person charges an arm and a leg does not mean they are worth it. I recommend working with someone in your price range and doing it based off of that. So make sure to budget.
5. Hiring an Editor
Check for the types of books they have edited. Editors that edit crime, might not be the best choice for a romance novel. Some editors are versatile, others are not. So check their history to see what genre(s) they work in the most. You will also want to know how seasoned they are. The more bestselling authors they have worked with the better. I would recommend hiring a seasoned editor if you’re thinking about making a career out of writing. They know the market well and most of them have worked for big publishing companies. However, the biggest factor should be communication preference. How well they communicate with you and do you feel that he/she understands what it is your looking for? All of these factors should play a part in your decision.
6. Sample Edits
This is where you send them a chapter or a certain number of pages from your book, and they edit free of charge and send it back to you. Always get a sample edit before committing to an editor. If the editor doesn’t do sample edits, run.
Yes, it seems like common sense, but some people fail to do this. I did sample edits for several months before deciding on an editor. This will give you a feel for how they work and whether or not you will work well together.
7. Reference Check
Some of my friends say that I’m overly cautious when it comes to spending my money. But in my defense, I want to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth. Always research the editor outside of their website. Research where else they’ve worked and what other authors have to say about them. Another way to vet an editor is to go on Absolute Write Water Cooler Forum. I use it to vet agents, editors, and publishers. The forums are active and get a lot of use: if an author has a good or bad experience with an editor, they’ll share it. Another step is to make sure they’re not on Writer Beware Thumbs Down Agencies List. It’s a terrific section to find dishonest editors.
Remember, the publishing world has its fair share of scammers and disreputable companies waiting to take advantage of a newbie, but you don’t have to be one. Many people despite being well informed and educated, will make mistakes. It’s a learning curve. However, do as much research on your end to ensure that your product is done by an editor who has your best interest before you launch your book out into the world.