Editors not only specialize in different kinds of editing–developmental on one extreme and proof-reading on the other–but they also differ in the way they work with authors. In my limited experience (fourth book), I’ve had two editors for proof-reading (line editing) and they were like night and day.
Kinds of Editing
Because others have dealt with this at length, let me simply say the two extremes are developmental and proof-reading.
Developmental editing is about developing the content. This editor will first read through and comment on what the piece needs more of, less of, and clarity about. He might post comments in the right-hand margin of your document. He’ll also check for continuity and flow–making sure the content is understandable and reads smoothly, says what the writer intended, and that the content adheres to requirements of the genre.
The people I know who signed up with this kind of editor expected to go the distance with the same person–development, revisions, proof-reading, revisions, and final editing. And they and paid thousands of dollars for the ride.
I have never used this kind of editor because I imagined, as a former writing teacher, that I could handle that part.
Proof-reading or Line Editing
No one can edit their own writing, especially if it’s a full-length book. No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t catch all the little boo-boos by our self because our mind fills in what it should be every time we read our pages! These errors are especially likely when we’ve rewritten a sentence and didn’t delete entirely the one we’re replacing. That’s where proof-reading or line editing comes in, and everyone needs this kind of editor.
While limited, my experience with editors shows the extremes, when asking for simple editing (proof-reading). Here’s the night and day of that experience.
Editor A edited my first three books. He was recommended by a fellow indie who writes sci-fi novels. He also works with professors, editing their academic papers. He gave me an estimate for my particular project, including both turn-around time and cost. When he completed the project, several weeks later, he sent it with Track Changes that I could accept or not. In my experience, any changes he made in the expression of my content were done with the intention of keeping my voice, maintaining my particular way of expressing. We did not interact while he worked.
Editor B is an editor I found on a freelancer web site. I posted a job, and he was one of the six freelancers who responded. Only two of them sent sample edits. One used Track Changes, but Editor B furnished the edited pages like an original; he had made the changes himself so there were no marks on the page, only the revised text. I selected him because I wanted to try something different. But I also chose him for his profile which begins with “Words are my life…” and displays his impressive resume from journalism. We email frequently.
Posting a Job for Freelancers
Getting clear on what kind of editing you want is especially a good idea before posting your job on any web site for freelancers. Communication is key. You need to think about the end product you’re expecting. Do you want to see your document with the changes so you can accept or reject them? Ask for Track Changes. Ask for a sample edit so you can see what you’ll get when they’re finished. Do you know what skills are involved in the kind of editing you’re asking for? How much each level of editing costs?
This was my first time to post a job for freelancers. Here’s what I posted.
My book is a personal story about an extreme experience labeled by professionals as burnout, nervous breakdown, or dark night of the soul. I’m looking for an editor who has proficiency in American English grammar and spelling, including writer’s use of fragment for personal style, someone who can correct errors–without Word grammar/spell-check or Grammarly. The MS is 152 pages, double-spaced, typed in WORD. My best estimate is that it will take a pro ten hours or less. It has been revised and edited several times by the author.
Attached: the first 25 pages of the MS.
- How do you approach an editing project?
- Do you read the entire manuscript first? or do you edit as you go?
- Do you rely on software like WORD or Grammarly?
- How long would it take you to edit a 150-page, double-spaced MS?
- How do you give feedback?
I asked for a native English Speaker because my writing includes colloquialisms that might be difficult for an editor for whom English was a second language. I asked for “expert status” which meant I was willing to pay for it. Finally, the form included a place to list other skills; I listed copy editing, and proof-reading.
1. Give freelancers time to respond.
2. Read all proposals
I only read a few of the proposals. My haste limited my options.
3. Expect to dialogue with freelancers
Because I had an arbitrary timeline, I missed the opportunity to dialogue with each person who responded. I could have read their replies and concerns and clarified the work expected for the cost. I will include several days to find an editor next time.
4. Review the market
Because the one posting the job also specifies what they’ll pay, I could have made a better offer by being very specific about the job and the pay. I could have stated exactly what I expected (line-editing only, by Track Changes). I could have reviewed the current market to see what a reasonable cost would be for editing my project–genre, page length, word count. I could have asked fellow authors how many hours their editors needed for a particular page length.
Got an editor you love?
If so, please leave a comment about your favorite editor–what do you love about your editor, why, and how to contact him/her.
Contact Editor A (John) by email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Editor B (Robert) by email: email@example.com
Till next time, be kind to everyone you meet, for we all have our hidden sorrows.~Pam