I am giving away ten paperback copies of my book Saving Money on Editing & Choosing the Best Editor on Goodreads.
The self-publishing industry is booming, and if you’re a self-published author, so is the competition. Having your book professionally edited is an essential step in getting your story to stand out from the crowd. But who knew that editing services were such a pricey proposition?
Janell E. Robisch, a professional editor with over two decades of experience, will show you how to save money on professional editing by
This book was inspired by and adapted from several earlier posts on this blog and is now available in paperback and on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Scribd, and other formats.* It is not simply a compilation of the blog posts. It has been completely edited and integrated. I’ve added updated information.
It’s a handy little resource to have around during the revision phase of writing your book, and it’s a great guide to help you get your manuscript in the best shape possible before you send it to your editor.
It will also help you find the right editor for you and your book.
Saving Money on Editing Availability
I had hoped to offer it on Kindle Unlimited. However, a different version of it, called An Author’s Guide to Saving Money on Editing, is being copublished by the Editorial Freelancers Association later this year. Amazon’s KDP Select program demands exclusivity, so Kindle Unlimited won’t be possible for this book.
The good news is that this means I can publish it more widely later. I can use services such as Ingram Spark, Kobo Writing Life, and Smashwords to distribute my little book to a wider audience at a later date. *The book has now been distributed through Draft2Digital and is also available in paperback.
A paperback version of Saving Money on Editing will also be available soon. I just need to check the proof, which is on its way to me as we speak.
This Is Just the Beginning
Saving Money on Editing is the first in a series of Indie Author Guides aimed at helping indie authors improve their craft and learn the business of self-publishing. I am learning everyday, and as I learn, I want to share that knowledge with you, to make the process of writing and preparing your book for publication as smooth and achievable as possible.
I may very well use this blog in the process of creation. I’d love to hear what you want to learn about. How can I, as an editor, help you solve your writing problems? What questions do you have about writing and self-publishing?
What issues or challenges do you deal with every day that interrupt writing or make the process more difficult? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Let’s start a discussion on how we can help each other as authors. Also, how can editors such as myself help authors achieve their goals?
Do you need an editor? As an editor myself, I’m going to take a risk today and talk about some reasons that an indie author just might not need an editor after all.
Hiring an editor can certainly have several benefits for self-published authors:
The right developmental editor will make your story better by helping you find the weaknesses in your story, plot, theme, and characterization. She will also give you ideas for strengthening them.
The right copyeditor will polish your work. He will make sure missing commas, misused words, and misspellings won’t ruin your reader’s enjoyment of the story.
A good editor will help you improve your own writing skills through queries and conversation. She’ll tell you why she made certain changes so that you can learn not to make the same mistakes again. Developmental editing is especially good for this. While it may not be for everyone, I favor the editorial letter for developmental editing over the editorial rewrite. This letter points out the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript. It gives the author lots of thinking points and lets her use this knowledge to revise or rewrite her book. Using—not just hearing—this new or reinforced knowledge is a great way for a writer to improve not just her current book but also her overall skill.
An experienced editor has likely seen many more books, worked with many more authors, and gained more insight into the craft of writing and the ins and outs of the publishing industry than your typical beta readers and critique partners. If your editor is also a writer, he has probably exchanged his own work with beta readers and critique partners. So, he has the practical knowledge of a writer plus his own professional experience to work from.
Why You Might Not Need an Editor
Okay, so you can tell that I think (good) editors are great [see my post on vetting editors for tips on finding a good one]. However, I honestly believe that there are times when you shouldn’t hire one. Here are some reasons to stop and think before you pay for professional editing:
1. You are writing a legacy work.
A legacy work is for friends and family. While you might have buried dreams about making money from it, its primary purpose is to leave your loved ones and descendants a little piece of you when you’re gone. They will tend to be more forgiving of grammatical errors and structural issues than your average reader.
2. You have no commercial goals.
You may be writing simply for the love of it. Maybe you’ve just had this one book inside you that just has to get out, but you never plan to write another. One of the purposes of hiring an editor is to turn out the best book possible so that your readers will keep coming back for more. Your well-edited titles will give you a strong basis for commercial success. However, if this is not what you’re looking for, the benefits of hiring an editor might not outweigh the financial cost. If your pride demands a clean manuscript, you might still need an editor, but otherwise, share away. Keep in mind that services such as Amazon KDP have quality guidelines to which you must adhere to keep your book available on their sites. This doesn’t stop you from using print on demand or sharing your book on your blog or website.
4. You know an editor who is willing to barter or edit for free.
Okay, in this case, you still need an editor, but you don’t actually have to hire one. Please do be sensitive and flexible with your editor family member or friend. She likely needs to be doing mostly paid work to survive, but if she is willing to help, great! However, if said editor is a friend or family member, be sure that she is willing to treat you like any other client (a.k.a. not hold back) and that the relationship can survive the constructive criticism you are going to get when she does.
5. You simply can’t afford it, or you don’t feel that the boost in sales will be worth the cost of editing.
6. You believe that writing as an art form is best when it is pure and unedited.
This is a valid opinion. Some writers believe that any form of editing tarnishes a writer’s voice. After all, painters don’t have editors. If this is you, don’t let your friends talk you into having your book edited anyway. Hiring an editor while you have this mindset will likely just lead to an adversarial relationship. It won’t help either one of you. If you want to test out your theory that your writing is better without feedback, use a willing beta reader or critique partner before you consider shelling out your cash and putting your writing under the knife of a pro.
Success without an Editor
Finally, if your story is appealing enough and the errors aren’t so bad that readers can’t get past them, you might still find commercial success without an editor. You may need an editor later to increase that success. When you self-publish an ebook, you have the option to revise and re-upload your book down the line. You can fix errors yourself or even hire an editor after the book has been up a while to increase its appeal even more. Having your book edited postpublication won’t erase any bad reviews that are already there, but it will show readers that you are willing to respond to their concerns.
Spend some time getting to know yourself and figuring out your goals for your writing career (if any). This can help you figure out which path to take.
So, do you think every writer needs an editor? Why or why not?
In this post, I discuss the process of vetting editors. At the end of my previous series on saving money on editing, I mentioned cheap editing and why I am against it. One of the reasons is that self-published authors often get scammed by people who claim that they are editors, even though they have no training or education in editing.
As Cheryl of Ink Slinger Editorial Services puts it, “The hardest thing about finding an editor is that anyone can hang a shingle. Especially someone that says they made As in high school English and loves to read. Editing is a skill. Accept that it’s a skill, and you’ll find a proper editor. And remember that being a writer does not qualify you to be an editor, either.”
So, as a follow-up to my previous series, I want to give you some information on how you can vet your freelance/independent editor and make sure that you get what you pay for and that you get an editor who is a good match for you. If you produce more than one book, this could be a relationship that lasts for years.
Keep in mind that when you are vetting editors, not every editor will hit every point on this list. However, if you examine them all, you will get a good feel for just how professional and experienced your editor is. In many cases, she will already have most of this information available for you on her website or resume.
Alternately, an editor who is lacking in many of these areas might not be your best choice.
Before You Start Vetting
Is the editor available when you need her to be? Many freelance editors are booked months (sometimes years) in advance. As editor Averill Buchanan says, there is not much point in spending valuable time vetting someone who won’t be available on your schedule. For a good editor, however, you might find yourself willing to accept a spot on their editorial calendar that is months away.
Is this person the right kind of editor? There are seemingly a million jobs out there with the title editor, all with different job descriptions. Check the editor’s website or ask her straight out what kind of editor she is and what kind of work she does.
Simply put, if your story needs structural work, you need a developmental editor. If it needs the grammar checked, you need a copyeditor or line editor. If you need someone to check your final, formatted pages for errors, you need a proofreader.
Some editors do provide all of these services plus others, such as consulting or cover design. Diversification can be a savvy business practice in today’s market.
Degree or Certificate: Does the editor have a relevant degree or certificate in publishing or editing? This shows you that the person has spent some time learning the craft. However, many editors do not have an editing degree or a certificate because they got their start in publishing houses, where they received on-the-job training.
Relevant experience not only complements education but is probably even more important.
As Susan Wenger of Cover to Cover says, “Ask your prospective editor about relevant experience. If the only thing they tell you is that they have an English degree, or they teach English/literature, run. These things can be helpful, but they’re not sufficient.”
General Editing Experience: How long has the editor been working professionally? Has she worked in house for a legitimate publisher? How much time per week does she spend editing?
Specific Editing Experience: Does the editor have experience working in your field? This can be as broad as fiction versus nonfiction but can reach all the way down to a specific genre, such as paranormal romance. Ask for a list of books in your area that she has worked on.
You might also ask about the editor’s favorite books in your genre. A love of a certain type of book obviously doesn’t stand in for editing skill. However, when an editor brings years of editing experience to the table plus a deep knowledge of your genre, she will be able help you create a more marketable manuscript.
If the editor does not have a lot of experience in your genre or niche but has a lot of general experience and you feel good about your communication so far, look to her continuing education, author testimonials, and sample edit to determine her competence.
Find out how the editor works and how she likes to communicate. Finding someone compatible can save you lots of frustration down the line.
Does she edit in a program that is compatible with your own (usually Word)?
Does she use Track Changes or an equivalent tool that makes it easy for you to see edits?
How many passes does each round of editing entail?
Does your prospective editor prefer Skype, phone, or email to communicate?
Does she include in her fee a reasonable amount of time for you to respond or ask questions about the editing after it is complete?
Through your initial communication and research, find out if the editor behaves in a professional manner.
Does she respond to you in a timely manner?
Does she respond professionally to a reasonable number of questions?
Is she respectful? She should treat you like a professional as well.
Does she offer a written contract for her services? If she doesn’t, move on. A contract protects you both.
Is she a member of a relevant professional organization such as the Editorial Freelancers Association, Society for Editors and Proofreaders, or Association of Independent Publishing Professionals?
Internet/Social Media Presence
In the process of vetting editors, it is a good idea to check out each editor’s web presence. If an editor is a professional, it is likely that she has established herself on the Internet to increase her discoverability, just as authors should. Check out her various footprints to get an idea about who she is and what services she offers. If you find an editor in a Goodreads forum but nowhere else on the web, there’s a good chance that she hasn’t been editing for long or at all.
Does she have a website? Is it professional in appearance, and does it give you answers to many of the questions listed in this post?
Is she on social media in a professional capacity (e.g., is her business on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn)? You can get some idea of an editor’s professional interactions through how she presents herself on social media.
When you’re vetting editors for your book, perhaps the most important step is to find out what their previous clients have to say.
Look for testimonials: Like all people, editors like to share when they have received praise for a job well done and will often have testimonials printed on their websites. See if it is possible for you to speak to past clients so you can get an idea of how each editor works and how satisfied her clients have been.
Ask your author friends for recommendations: You may find that your fellow authors can tell you about the good, the bad, and the ugly with respect to editors that they have worked with. Take it all with a grain of salt, but don’t dismiss it. If an author has glowing praise for her editor, take a closer look.
Sample the Service
Most editors will offer a free sample edit of some length. Mine is 1250 words, and other editors offer more or less. The sample edit allows both you and the editor to learn a bit about each other’s styles and see if you are a good fit. The editor can also use the sample edit to determine how much work is needed on the manuscript so that she can come up with a proper estimate.
Take advantage of this. When you find a few editors that are serious contenders, get sample edits and estimates from each one. It will be extremely helpful not only for vetting the editors but also for choosing the one that you want to work with most.
A Note About Upfront Payments When Vetting Editors
In this age of constant scams, authors aren’t the only ones who are wary. Editors must also be careful about putting in weeks’ worth of work on a manuscript only to be left high and dry when the work is done. Thus, many editors ask for a deposit up front and the rest of the payment on their services before you get your edited manuscript back.
So, do your research and vet your editors appropriately. Talk to their past clients and make sure that they are legitimate. Keep in mind that no one with experience and an established Internet presence can scam her clients for long without getting numerous public responses. Let the editor’s reputation speak for itself. If it doesn’t, you have to decide if it’s a risk you are willing to take. (Again, this is a great topic to speak with past clients about.)
Note: I have used the pronouns she and her to refer to single authors or editors throughout this post. However, this is just for simplicity. There are many fine authors and editors out there who are not female.
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.
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.
*A Note on Cheap Editing
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.
I hope you have enjoyed this series, and I would love to hear your tips for saving money on editing. Leave me a comment for me below or on Facebook or Twitter.