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Hire an editor?

Switch Blayde

I almost put this in the Editing part of the forum, but that seems to be geared for volunteer editors and such. The following is geared towards authors willing to pay for editors.

Michael J. Sullivan is a published author who gets 6-figure advances and I believe earns in the 7-figure number from his writing. So I listen to what he says. He participates on wattpad and offers advice.

Someone asked about hiring editors. This was his reply (which I thought was great or else I wouldn't have copied it here).

In general there are three kinds of edits:

* Structural - which focuses on "the big picture" - plot, character development, pacing and the like. It's a very subjective type of editing and can do as much harm as good. Generally speaking, I suggest people don't buy this type of editing - it's (a) very expensive (b) the people who do it well are working for publishers and can't freelance (c) hard to find a good person who has a lot of experience. - I recommend for this type of feedback the writer use beta groups and critique partners.

* Line editing - concentrates on the clarity of the prose. Are you repeating words? Are there two many pronouns? Is it reading too "choppy"? Is there a better word choice? Are the sentences passive? - You can certainly purchase this type of editing - and sometimes a copy editor provides this service.

* copy editing - concentrates on making sure the work follows standard conventions. It usually uses a style guide (like AP or Chicagon Manual of Style) to set the rules on things such as capitalization and hyphenation. Then it makes sure those rules are consistently applied. It also corrects any grammar issues such as tense, punctuation, and typo corrections.

My current editors don't ask for any money up front. But that is because we have a long established relationship. For new commissions usually 50% up front and 50% upon completion is standard.


Keep in mind, when he talks about beta readers, he uses several hundred.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Are you repeating words? Are there two [sic] many pronouns?


Crumbly, I thought of your editor when I read this part.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

How much would it cost?

Where can one go to hire an independent pro editor?

Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

How much would it cost?

Where can one go to hire an independent pro editor?


I don't know. I never have.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Dominions Son


How much would it cost?


Searching "How much does a professional fiction editor in San Francisco cost" returned an editor's blog (and 600K other results), from which I took this excerpt:

"4. How much can you expect to pay?

"That varies. Like Anne mentioned, the go-to resource for editing rates is The Editorial Freelancers Association. My rate is $75/hr, and some editors I know charge significantly more than that. Overall, you can expect to pay a minimum of $1000 for a full-length manuscript edit-I typically charge $1500-$2000. I know editors who charge $6000-$7000. More expensive isn't always better. And less expensive isn't always a better deal. If you spend $500 on a cheap editor and need to have your manuscript edited all over again, that's $500 you've thrown down the drain. Ask around. And ask potential editors for references."

http://meghanward.com/blog/2012/03/20/6-tips-for-hiring-the-right-freelance-editor/

bb

Replies:   TeNderLoin
TeNderLoin
Updated:

@Bondi Beach

AYUP! Good advice.

I fall mainly into the "line edit" category.

>

That first category, seems to me, to want to change a story to fit what the publisher wants.

The last category seems to want to squeeze an author into a 'one size fits all' style mold.

>

I don't do either.

My aim is to preserve the style of the author, while improving the ease of reading for the reader.

>

AND, I'm free!

LOLOL!!!
:)

Switch Blayde

@TeNderLoin

That first category, seems to me, to want to change a story to fit what the publisher wants.


Some would say this is the most important edit. It's what makes a story a great novel. It finds plot holes, unbelievable characters, pace issues, etc. An author who also does structural editing once told me she could do it from a synopsis before any time is wasted writing the novel.

What I thought insightful about his comment was 1) it's very subjective and the editor can actually screw up your novel and 2) the really qualified ones work for the publishing companies.

The last category seems to want to squeeze an author into a 'one size fits all' style mold.


It's all about quality, which is not only grammar and typos, but also includes consistency. You should always follow a style guide, whether you're an author or the technical writer for a company. Or make up your own style guide, as long as you are consistent. However, if you make up your own be prepared for reviewers to point out errors. That's why I follow the same style guide as the publishers.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

That first category, seems to me, to want to change a story to fit what the publisher wants.

Some would say this is the most important edit.


If the author intends to sell to a specific publisher, an editor who knows what the publisher looks for is exactly the one to massage the story as necessary. So changing the story to fit what the publisher wants may be a good thing, if that is the author's target.

bb

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Editors are paid for the time they spend on a project, not a flat fee. Since it's difficult quoting a per/hour rate, they'll typically charge per word (per thousand words).

There are established editing groups which provide lists of editors you can use. However, a better practice is to ask other published authors who they use and who they like best. You then check their references, to ensure they're in good professional standing. If they're legit, you send them a sample (they all have different limits on the size of their samples). Ideally, you'll try several editors, and you select the recommended editors based on which edits you think fit your writing the best (i.e. they don't make mistakes, they communicate issues or they list more errors than the others (i.e. they're more comprehensive)).

Crumbly Writer

@TeNderLoin

That first category, seems to me, to want to change a story to fit what the publisher wants.

Wrong. A structural editor examines the story and identifies potential plot holes. Ideally, you'd hire a structural editor twice. Once before you invest your time on the story (to identify potential issues), and again once you're done. However, while structural editors do other types of edits, they typically don't do both at the same time. They're different skill sets, and after focusing on structural issues, it's difficult refocusing on line-editing (or other editing). If they do, they're more likely to make mistakes, which will cost you more to correct than hiring separate editors to begin with.

In my case, professional editing was prohibitive because I wrote such long stories. Part of my learning curve was learning to trim my stories before submitting them to the editors. However, I learned that it's difficult to trim/self-edit a long story into a shorter story. It's better/easier/more-efficient to simply write shorter stories. I've since revised my writing style, focusing on keeping my stories shorter.

... the really qualified ones work for the publishing companies.

That used to be the case. Now, major publishing houses only hire a couple editors which they assign to their highest rated projects. Everyone else is on their own, both editors and authors. It's now considered the author's responsibility to hire their own editors. However, you get what you pay for, which is why the quality of books published by the big firms is falling. As the big firms earn less money, they pay less to develop projects, which means a higher percentage of crappy books churned out with little oversight, which sours readers on the publisher's books.

Replies:   Grant  Switch Blayde
Grant

@Crumbly Writer

As the big firms earn less money, they pay less to develop projects, which means a higher percentage of crappy books churned out with little oversight, which sours readers on the publisher's books.

Earning them less money... wash, rinse, repeat.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

... the really qualified ones work for the publishing companies.

That used to be the case. Now, major publishing houses only hire a couple editors which they assign to their highest rated projects.


That's what I've heard too, but Michael is a current author. His advice is current. So when he says the ones you want to use aren't available, I take him at his word.

I also thought his most significant comment was not to use structural editors. He said they're subjective and can actually do more harm than good. He depends on beta readers for that, taking hundreds of opinions. So if one person says something it may not be true, but if many say the same thing it's something to address.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dicrostonyx

Bondi Beach

More expensive isn't always better. And less expensive isn't always a better deal.


For anyone looking to save a bit of money, I've got an off-the-cuff idea that may help. I wouldn't recommend it for a final draft before publishing, especially if you're publishing for sale, but it may help at earlier stages.

Every university has people offering to proofread or edit academic papers for fellow students. Most of these offers are being made by graduate students, and they're quite a bit cheaper than professionals.

Now, fiction is obviously different than academic writing, which is why this would be first pass only, but these people are often at the top of their game in terms of knowing the actual rules of grammar and style, because they're working with them every day.

To find someone, just go up to your local college or university and wander the halls of the Student Union Building (or whatever it's called locally), the English department, and the library while checking all the post boards. The student newspaper may also have ads, you should find this in front of the library.

The biggest issue you're likely to have is that they won't be able to take on large projects close to the end of term.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Dicrostonyx

Every university has people offering to proofread or edit academic papers for fellow students. Most of these offers are being made by graduate students, and they're quite a bit cheaper than professionals.


One item to be very much aware of is academic writing is extremely different to fiction writing. They are poles apart, so watch out about that. Doesn't mean you can't find one who can help, but it will be hard.

Replies:   richardshagrin
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I also thought his most significant comment was not to use structural editors. He said they're subjective and can actually do more harm than good. He depends on beta readers for that, taking hundreds of opinions. So if one person says something it may not be true, but if many say the same thing it's something to address.

I've got to agree with that, in general. I suspect it's better to consult a structural editor before writing your story, so they can steer you around any potential plot holes. My editor removed some unnecessary sexual discussions, which I agree with (since it echoes suggestions my other editors also made but didn't insist on). However, she also tried to rip out a minor theme in the story ("No one will discuss something so private with complete strangers"). The topic was the main character's main girlfriend, appealing to her family to convince her to pick a girlfriend, rather than playing the field. Eliminating that eliminates a significant theme in the story and the basis of much of the rest of the story. Sometimes personal opinion gets the better of editors. Beta-readers warn you about issues, so you can address them. Editor sometimes take a holier-than-thou attitude of telling you what all their other authors do.

@Dicrostonyx

Now, fiction is obviously different than academic writing, which is why this would be first pass only, but these people are often at the top of their game in terms of knowing the actual rules of grammar and style, because they're working with them every day.

That's a decent suggestion, but there's a big difference between fiction and non-fiction, especially concerning dialogue, as the discussion here reflect. The rules concerning em-dashes and ellipses are completely different, as is the use of accents or use of common expressions.

Rules are made to be broken, and this is proven in fiction writing all the time. Students are taught the 'proper' way to write, rather than what's allowable or considering what works in a different context.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

However, she also tried to rip out a minor theme in the story ("No one will discuss something so private with complete strangers"). ... Eliminating that eliminates a significant theme in the story and the basis of much of the rest of the story.


I was working with an author on my novel. She also does structural editing, but was doing it for free. She didn't believe a woman married to a minister (my heroine) would act like my character. That's where subjectiveness comes into play. That was her opinion.

My whole story was based on the fact the woman would and did behave that way. When I disagreed, she threw in my face that she usually gets paid a lot of money for what she was doing for free. I guess she thought that meant she had to be right.

She also said a cop murdering people for revenge was despicable and couldn't be a hero. I asked her if she ever saw "Death Wish" and a slew of other movies. She didn't respond to that.

So I agree with Michael that a structural editor is subjective and maybe not right. A good professional one, though, the ones he says work for the publishers, know what makes a good novel, or at least what their customers expect.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

So I agree with Michael that a structural editor is subjective and maybe not right. A good professional one, though, the ones he says work for the publishers, know what makes a good novel, or at least what their customers expect.

Then again, there are editors that can't differentiate 3rd person omni stories from 3rd person limited, and then they toss out any descriptions of what anyone other than the main character is thinking, or what their motives are.

That's why communication is a key. If an editor doesn't understand the story, they should ask what's going on, rather than passing judgment on what's allowable and what isn't.

richardshagrin

@Ernest Bywater

"Poles apart" I don't see that expression very often. Are the poles like the north pole and south pole? Actually from a climate and weather standpoint they are very similar. Cold and Icy, or at least snowy.

Or if they are capital P Poles, they are residents of Poland. I guess ethnic Poles could be residents of Germany or Lithuania and so be Poles apart.

Telephone poles are always apart, the whole point is to support wires from falling to the ground, if they were together it would be inefficient. Incidentally, Alexander Graham Bellinski was the first telephone Pole.

Sometimes political polls have different outcomes. Depending on how they select the samples used in the poll. In 1932 one poll predicted the Republican candidate would win because they asked questions by telephone and only rich people had telephones, and they tended to be Republican. That time there were polls apart. When people went to the polls they voted for the Democratic Candidate.

How many homonyms can dance on the point of a Pole? Or would that be a pin?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin


How many homonyms can dance on the point of a Pole? Or would that be a pin?


I suppose one could consider a pin to be a very short/narrow pole, unless it's a PIN.

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