Home » Editing » 5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Working With Independent Editors

5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Working With Independent Editors

23 February 2013

From Bryan Thomas Schmidt:

At some point or another, all writers have to consider whether or not their manuscript could use an editor. For most pros, that’s not even a question. I’ve used editors on all novels since the beginning and all of them have brought great benefit and growth to me as a writer in improving my work. As I grew, I started editing myself and have been editing freelance since 2009.

. . . .

1) Independent Editors are your friends. Our job and living come from helping writers make their work better, the best it can be. It’s the passion that brought us to freelance work and the risks inherent in that, and it’s what keeps us coming back for more.  We are not acquisitions editors looking for a reason to say no. We are not motivated by favoritism and we are not out to crush your dreams. We want your work to sparkle, and we’re thankful you’ve given us the opportunity to help.

. . . .

4) Independent Editing Takes Focus and Time. Editing is detail oriented. You want someone to read carefully and consider the big picture of the manuscript, not just each page individually, but as a whole. You want the editor’s notes to reflect that. Because it’s difficult to do line and copy edits and developmental edits simultaneously, that means we may need to read your work more than once. That takes time. Because it takes focus, we often can’t edit multiple projects simultaneously. We need to keep our head in the game of your manuscript. So when  you’re our current project, all of our focus is on yours. That means, until we’re done editing your work, we aren’t free to work for anyone else. You pay us to make time and do it right. Editing is not where you want to be cheap, folks. Professional editors at publishers get paid very well per hour. Most freelancers make much less. Keep this in mind next time you complain about how expensive independent editing is.

Link to the rest at Brian Thomas Schmidt


24 Comments to “5 Things Every Writer Should Know About Working With Independent Editors”

  1. I totally sympathize with writers who quail at paying freelance editors’ rates; saving up your pennies to get editing done means you have to wait to publish your book. I get that, but I don’t buy 90% or more of the books I sample because it’s fairly clear no professional editor ever got a sniff of them.

    When I’m setting a price for my editing, I’m always reluctant to tell the writer what it’s going to cost; this is the point where you lose them most often. When I’m in the middle of editing their novel, I’m pretty sure that whatever my client is paying, it could not be enough for the sheer amount of hard mental labor involved.

  2. Good post.

    I only recently started working with a freelance editor and so far I’m very pleased with the results. I wish I started earlier!

  3. I searched and searched for the editor of my book, and I was very thankful when I found the right one. It was the first time I had ever worked with an editor, and he added so much more to the book than I could on my own. Plus, he was professional and respectful of my voice. A few other people were potential possibilities, but I decided to go instead with an editor who has a lot of experience vs. some others who had an attitude of “Ya, I will edit the book for that price.” They seemed to not get it.

  4. Not all.

  5. I wish articles like these would differentiate between CONTENT editors (big picture story stuff) and COPY editors (grammar, typos, etc.)

    Not only is there a huge difference in price (content editors cost a lot more), not every writer needs a content editor (imo). But I agree that *everyone* needs some kind of fresh copy-editing type eyes on their work. (Paid or not.)

  6. “Professional editors at publishers get paid very well per hour.”

    That sound you hear is me laughing.

    • Here is what I figured out. Most “editors” at the publishers are really outsourced employees. They are contractors, not full time employees. I walked through the exact same door as the big six, and got a big six editor, and paid the same rate as the big six for a “content editor” who could work with the story, scenes, plot and themes. I really don’t believe there are a lot of full time “editors” at the big six. I think there are employees who over-see the projects, and send out the book to “editors”, i.e. a contractor, but I don’t really think editing happens inside the four walls of the big six publishers. It could, but I don’t think it is a business practice at all of them. I could be wrong, but my editor had a long list of titles from the big six.

      • The received wisdom in every business nowadays is that it is always cheaper to outsource every business function. So it wouldn’t surprise me that all editing at corporate publishing houses — content, line, copy — is outsourced.

        The days of the legendary editors who ran publishing houses & could improve any story are long gone. (Since there were one or two of them in the past, I won’t say they never existed.)

    • Laugh if you want, Mary, but I compare our rates to theirs and that’s the truth from my experience.

      Thanks to PVB for the signal boost!

  7. Hey, this is good timing. I’m looking for a good editor – content edition. Not for me, actually, for my brother. Does anyone have any recommendations? I’d appreciate it! You can e-mail me at mirascorner@gmail.com.

    Thanks so much!

  8. Working as a freelance editor, I do find that a lot of what is submitted for copyediting is really more in need of a content editor, or at the very least, a skilled critique group and beta readers.

    Also, your possible editor should be more than happy to do a sample edit (10-12 pages) of your work, so that you can gauge their style and skill, and how well it will mesh with your own.

  9. Since many people have written here that authors need a content editor, let me quote Kris Rusch (http://kriswrites.com/2013/01/30/the-business-rusch-hiring-editors/):

    “Most self-published writers don’t think they need copyeditors and do believe they need content editors. But not all editors who work(ed) in traditional publishing are any good at content editing. In fact, many are not.

    So, should a self-published fiction writer have a content editor on their novel? Not necessarily. Here’s the biggest secret in all of traditional publishing: Most fiction books have never had a true content edit.”

    This is one of the sacred cows of publishing – that you have to hire a content editor, who will turn your book from steaming dog poo to Pulitzer award winner, and both Dean and Kris have written many times about it (though they haven’t called it a sacred cow).

    There is the automatic assumption that new writers will write crap, and will need the paternal hand of an editor to fix. This holier-than-thou attitude really irritates me.

    And I hope someone would write the opposite post- how editors should learn to work with indie authors, who are after all, paying their salary. And the first point would be- Show the author some respect.

    • There is the automatic assumption that new writers will write crap, and will need the paternal hand of an editor to fix. This holier-than-thou attitude really irritates me.

      Where is this assumption, exactly? By which I mean who is it who’s telling you they assume this? Because if you’ve worked with editors or even known any, you’ll know they’re not all of the same opinion about anything, any more than non-editors. I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard that particular assumption at all from any editor, possibly because it’s so incredibly generalized.

      Most of the editors I’ve worked with or otherwise known professionally or socially are women, so you might want to rethink “paternal.” It’s okay if you just don’t want an editor for your work; many writers do not. That doesn’t make an editor’s belief that she (or he) can help you make what you’ve written just that much readier for publication a “holier-than-thou” attitude.

      Dean and Kris have got this right: if your book is a pile of poo, you shouldn’t be counting on an editor to fix it. That’s not the editor’s job. On the other hand, most of the work I’ve seen that the author was pretty sure needed only a light copy edit was actually not at all ready for that level of editing, in my opinion.

      • I’ve mostly seen this attitude about new writers in writing and trade focused communities. It’s gotten to the point that in some places, people that self-publish in particular have taken to outlining a brief genealogy of their book’s editing history on posts when they discuss how their book came to be published

        I don’t think anyone was saying that it’s editors specifically who are making these assumptions. It’s the writing/publishing community at large. I’ve watched it happen quite often. It kind of goes hand in hand with the assumption that to write a good book, you need X number of revisions and rewrites. Personally, so long as the book reaches a certain level of quality–that level will often be subjective in many ways–I really don’t think most readers care how many revisions or editors a book went through. What many care about is a great story told well enough that the words and grammar aren’t getting in the way of it.

        • You are right, Danyelle, it is largely a attitude of the community. But editors don’t help by jumping in these forums and saying things like “A copyedit is never enough. You need to have a full content edit as well.”

          • Agreed, Shantnu. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to writing. It *is* possible for an author to write a very clean first draft that does need a copyedit to make it shine, but not a content edit.

            The danger, in my opinion, of hiring an editor to do a content edit is that you’re going to want to make very sure that the editor is fluent in the language of your genre. Otherwise, the edit will not be as useful, and in some cases, could end up weakening the story.

            • Danyelle,

              You are so right. A content editor could also make the work worse off than what you had to start with. I got worried with a few of my prospective editors becasue of what I felt was a rather “flip” attitude, almost like “oh, sure, I will take your money and edit your self-published worthless no agent will even look at it novel,” so I did not go with them. I did not sense that they were going to take the work seriously. I had to really look and search for someone who had a long list of books behind them, had experience with the genre of my story, and gave me a sense of taking the work seriously.

              It is a relationship. It was not just here is the book, and I got a file back with recommendations. In the end, my content editor really helped move the work up several notches, but had I choose a different editor, it could have been a nightmare.

          • People talk about content editing, line editing, copy editing, and other names for other degrees of work on a book. There are infinite degrees of editing that depend on the evolving relationship between the editor and author. And this relationship needs to include a respect for the work itself, the author, the editor, and the genre. Not every editor out there is a good match for every author, and some aren’t a good match for anyone. In that category I include editors with a snotty attitude toward self-publishers.

            The editor works for the author, and the author is free to reject any suggested changes–it’s his or her money. But something golden happens when two people manage to make a book better between them.

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