Welcome back! So far in this series on saving money on editing, I’ve covered patience, self-editing, using readers, and using editing tools. This week, I wrap up the series with some final tips and tricks for you to eke out the full value of the editing services that you need for your book.
Basically, the whole point of this series is that you can save money on editing by providing your editor with a cleaner, more developed manuscript. In this post, I include more tips to help you get that cleaner manuscript and give you some tips that fall outside this realm.
You can save money on editing by providing your editor with a cleaner, more developed manuscript.
Improve Your Own Skills
How are your own writing skills? If there is one thing that I have learned as a published author and as an editor of almost twenty years, it’s that there is always something new to learn and some way to get better at my craft. With the following steps, you can work on improving your own writing and self-editing skills so that each work you produce is better than the last:
- Learn more about the writing craft. Read books, listen to podcasts, and watch videos. Learn all you can about story structure, theme, plot, characterization, and so on. I have a growing list of resources on my Resources for Fiction Writers page.
- Learn more about grammar. Pick up a book such as the Blue Book of Grammar or C. S. Lakin’s Say What?: The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage and polish your skills. In the process, you will be learning why editors make many of the changes that we do. Keep these books handy: you will refer to them over and over again. Your knowledge from your high school or college English class will not be enough. There is much more to learn.
- Think about consistency during the self-editing stage. One of the biggest things that editors look for is consistency. So if you realize that you keep changing the spelling of a character’s name or the capitalization of a phrase, use the handy search and replace tool in your word processor to check for these errors.
- Use a style manual. Why? Readers like consistency. Inconsistencies pull them out of the story and disrupt their ability to enjoy it. Style manuals give you rules that help you to maintain consistency throughout your manuscript and to apply grammar rules when they are in question. Most fiction editors use the Chicago Manual of Style. The 16th edition is available online and in print. Not only can you use this manual to make your own style decisions, you will also have it nearby when your editor inevitably quotes a section of the manual when explaining certain editorial changes.
Practice Smart Shopping
If you are interested in saving money on editing, when you shop for an editor, there are a few more things that you can do while still getting a professional edit:
- Comparison shop.* Find a directory of editors that you trust. I recommend the Editorial Freelancers Association in the United States and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders in the United Kingdom. Find a few editors that work on your type of book and request sample edits and estimates. Use this information to pick the best editor you can at the best price.
- Look for deals. If your editor doesn’t list these on her website, feel free to ask.
- Does your editor offer package deals? If you are self-publishing, you may need several services, such as developmental editing, copyediting, and formatting. Many editors offer packages, sometimes with other service providers, to save money and provide convenience by allowing authors to get many or all of their needs handled in one place.
- Does your editor offer trimmed-down versions of services? For example, you might get a manuscript evaluation or a three-chapter critique instead of a full developmental edit. You might find that you can extrapolate the feedback the editor gives you to your entire book.
- Barter. If you have marketable skills, it never hurts to ask your editor if there is something that you can offer in trade for editing. Perhaps you could trade web design skills, marketing services, or social media help for editing. If you know an editor in person, you could even offer more tangible skills. For example, I provide publishing consulting services to a local musician and author in exchange for my daughter’s piano lessons. It all works out very well.
You’ll notice that I do not recommend that you find the cheapest editor possible. There are websites and forums where people offer up editing services at extremely low prices.
I am against this primarily because it lowers the value of editing in general, and editors need to make a living. If an editor spends 60–80 hours of their lives editing your manuscript, is it fair that they only be paid $100? That is less than a $1.50 an hour! Sure, they may agree to it, especially if they are trying to build their portfolio, but they are pricing other editors—editors with decades of experience who invest in their careers through continued training and education—right out of the market. Also, when authors hire these cheap editors, they often get shoddy work back, and stories of these experiences spread like wildfire over the Internet. Pretty soon, everyone thinks that all freelance editors are scam artists.
So, do your research.
When hiring any editor, you must vet the editor carefully through questions about their background, their experience, the books they have edited, their relevant education, and their professional certifications and memberships. Get a sample edit to make sure that your styles mesh and that their skills are on par. See if it would be possible for you to correspond with a past client or two so that you can find out what their experiences were. Again, do your research, and you are less likely to get burned.
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