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Learn more about my books at ShoshannaEvers.com

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When Do I Need an Editor?

I just got an email asking a great question about editors.
Here it is, in part (personal info redacted for privacy):

"I am writing a book, which I have never done before, we were discussing help with the writing/editing/formatting and [redacted] suggested reaching out to you.

I am wondering if you could provide me with some direction and if you might possibly know the estimated cost of hiring someone for some help. I appreciate any insight, advice, suggestions etc."

This is my response, and if you are an aspiring writer, you may find it helpful as well!

There are several things to do before you even think about getting a profession editor.

First, finish the book!

Then, set the book aside for two weeks and don't look at it.

Then pull it out and revise it on your own (having some space from the book will help you see the problems in it).

When you feel like it's perfect, find a critique partner to swap books with. You'll read hers and give detailed suggestions, and she'll read yours and do the same. I recommend using the Track Changes feature in MS Word to do this.

This is an example of one of my own books during the editing process, using Track Changes with my editor (click the pic to make it bigger!):

You can find a critique partner (CP) by joining a local writing group, or even joining one online. Here's a post about how to do that.

Then, after you've revised according to what your CP suggests, send the book to beta-readers. Those are regular readers (not your mom, and not your friends) who will read your book.

Ask beta-readers questions like:

  • "At what point did you get a little bored and put the book down?" (shows where pacing lags or where the book lacks conflict)
  • "What didn't you believe could really happen?" (shows where you need to build motivation)
  • "What did you like best about (specific character)? What did you like least?"
  • "Did the ending of the book satisfy you? If not, what sort of ending would you prefer?"
  • "Is there anything else about this book that you think I should fix or change?"

Send it to at least three beta-readers. Ask them to be "brutally honest."

If everyone says the same thing, you know you need to change it. If one reader says it but the others don't, you don't need to change it. If it's a tie, tie-breaker is the author (you).

Then, after all of that is done, that is when you could consider hiring a professional editor. It's expensive, so don't skip the steps above!

Developmental plus line edits are usually about 2cents a word (which equals $5 per double-spaced page when using Times New Roman 12 point font). That means for an 80K word (320 pages) book, you'd pay $1,600.

If you plan on submitting your book to literary agents, then you don't need to pay for a professional editor (or a formatter, which is a different thing - they format the book into files ready to upload to the retailers. Check out Smashword's Mark's List for some good formatters)

If you plan on self-publishing the book, then you do need an editor. If you want to self-publish, download a FREE pdf of my ebook Successful Self-Publishing: How We Do It (And How You Can Too) at SelfPubBookCovers.com (that's my book cover company). If you want it in print, here it is.

There are some great freelance editors out there. Look for ones who used to work for big publishers, like Mallory Braus, who used to edit for Harlequin/Carina Press, or Megan Records, who edited for Kensington.

There are plenty of others, of course, but remember that cheaper isn't always better when it comes to edits! Also remember that any fool can hang up a shingle and call themselves an editor. Look for editors with experience and references.

Good luck with your book! Don't put the cart before the horse. Finish the book first and go from there. 

Sadly, most people who start writing a book never actually finish. If you can write "The End" then you are way ahead of most aspiring writers!!

All my best,

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