Finishing a manuscript is a monumental task; congratulations. Now you need to make some choices, the first of which is who is going to edit your manuscript?
If you are unfamiliar with the types of editing you should do some research. There is copy editing, line editing, and content editing to name a few. Also, as you consider editors, keep in mind whether they have edited in your genre before.
Editor Selection. In my debut novel, The Legend of Jerrod, I rushed into editing. I gave the manuscript to a recent college graduate at a bargain price and rushed to publishing. After The Legend of Jerrod was released in January 2013, I immediately hired an established editing service to complete a second edit and my debut novel was re-released in January 2014.
I wasn’t completely happy with the second editing company, but my debut novel earned two awards (noted on the home page) and a rather remarkable critique. Still, I did not have a good rapport with the second service. They did not communicate with me between submission and their returned product. They provided very little feedback other than to say they wanted to completely rewrite the already published novel (I may still do this someday); they suggested cutting out several sections that were included in the debut novel to set up book two in the Kingdom of Torrence series; and they continually bragged on staff credentials. While they were nice enough people, I did not consider them in my selection for the Amanda’s Quest manuscript.
For Amanda’s Quest, I considered several options. I received an editor recommendation from an established author whom I meet on-line in social media (yes, it works). I got to know her personality and reputation to the point I trusted her opinion. I also contacted several other editors, including a book publishing company and another author who offered in-depth editing services. Other potential sources for editing service included my writers group, High Sierra Writers.
In order to select an editor, I first determined which services were within my budget, highlighting those that offered a payment plan. I was comfortable with the input from my beta readers that the manuscript was logical and consistent, so I was focusing on line and copy editing services. I provided the first chapter of the manuscript to my top three candidates and interviewed each to determine their philosophy and how well we might communicate. Part of my selection process included a reference request, but even the references for the selected editor did not respond to my inquiries. Thus, I was left with reviewing the books listed on the editors’ web pages.
For me the two largest factors were the sample editing each candidate provided and how well we communicated. An editor needs to be able to tell you where your manuscript needs improvement, but there is a positive way of stating a concern and a destructive way. Most importantly, I didn’t want an editor who would remove lines that were setting up a subplot or major point in my pending, third book, The Light of Ak’ron. As a fantasy writer I provide description of the scenes and “head hop” to give the reader more information about the world and the characters; I needed an editor that could work with the fantasy approach and guide me towards improving my writing.
For the Amanda’s Quest manuscript, I ultimately selected Toni Rakestraw as the editor. We agreed to a service contract that included pricing, details of the editing service, recourse in the event of a breach of contract, etc. Toni has done a remarkable job and the manuscript will be published this fall (2015).
Summary. There are professional editor services, such as The National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (I am not a member), available that will help find an editor and attest to the editor’s credentials. Vanity and self-publishing publishers/presses also have editors on staff, but don’t accept them at face value even if it means not using their editor may preclude your manuscript from being picked up as “one of their books”.
It has been my experience that the more organized a group of services is the more it costs, but the risk may be far less. I spent nearly as much on the two editors of The Legend of Jerrod as I did on Amanda’s Quest, but got less than half the quality and service that Toni Rakestraw provided. I am reminded of a line in Indiana Jones, “You chose wisely.”
I had contracts with both the college graduate that I initially worked on The Legend of Jerrod and with Toni Rakestraw, who edited Amanda’s Quest. Although the second contract was better written and provided more protection, I am uncertain how much would have been gained if I had to try and enforce the contract. However, we did refer to the contract at one point during the Amanda’s Quest editing, just to refresh our memories on an issue (re: intended direction, not a controversy). Remember, you need a friendly relationship with your editor, but hiring an editor is a business function: a provided service for monetary compensation.
The bottom line is the level of professionalism Toni Rakestraw provided, which improved the manuscript; I was only able to find such outstanding service through research and due diligence. Selecting an editor is not just a mouse click-and-go process.
Part II will be on selecting a publisher on The Road to Publishing. Watch for it at www.KingdomOfTorrence.com/wordpress