Many authors look for editors as soon as they finish writing the last sentence of their book. Whether you’re going down the indie route or merely want to ensure a polished manuscript before submitting your book to a publisher, take to heart the following recommendations before hiring an editor.
1. Make sure you get objective feedback.
Have a critique group or experienced beta reader read your work, and try to make the most out of their opinions. Did they find the plot and content engaging? Were the characters likable? Did they find any plot holes? What did they think of the overall tone of your writing? Remember that you are not looking for feedback related to punctuation and grammar at this point.
2. Make sure you self-edit your book.
Ensure that you edit and revise your writing yourself before submitting it to an editor. The more polished your original manuscript is, the more the editor you hire can help you refine it and make it shine. You want the editor to deal with the hard stuff instead of having energy devoted to scouring the manuscript for simple errors you could have easily fixed yourself.
*Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories, with chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques.
3. Make sure your book is well structured.
If you want to captivate your readers, then you need to structure your book effectively from beginning to end. Structure is prevalently known to control the key elements of a story, which include setting, theme, plot and characters. You will have to reflect upon whether major events have been timed perfectly, and ensure that you have mapped out the beginning, middle, and end parts (also known as the three-act structure) proficiently. It is worthy to note however, that while the three-act structure is a common structural model used, some fictional authors prefer other structural approaches.
4. Read aloud to listen for awkward sentences and phrasing.
Reading out loud helps you look out for sentence issues you might not notice whilst reading silently. You are focusing not only sight but also your sense of hearing in the process, in which one sense may pick up on things the other is not. A reader’s eyes tend to automatically correct an incorrect word or phrase when they stumble upon them during silent reading, so reading out loud would also help spot such sentences.
5. Ensure that the editor is capable of editing your book.
Never judge an editor’s skills by the size of their portfolio. There might be an editor just starting out today that may be more capable of editing your book than those with numerous years of experience under their belts. You might find a rare gem fitting your genre. With that said, no matter how small their portfolio is, take the time to research the books that they have previously edited, and watch out for the reviews. If you see reviews that criticize the book’s grammar and punctuation, you will most probably have to look elsewhere for an editor. If you see reviews criticizing the way the author killed off a favorite character, then that is beside the point. Remember that while editors may offer suggestions, they will not alter the essence of a plot without the author’s consent. If the author wanted to kill off a character, nobody is able to argue with that. Your writing, your ideas.
You could also read testimonials written by the authors regarding the editor. Not all editors make their portfolio visible, so you may not be able to conduct your research through their previously edited books. Keep in mind that you are not forced to submit your whole book at once. Get a feel for an editor you may be interested in working with by submitting a chapter or two, and then you be the judge of their work. If you like their editing, you can proceed with submitting your whole book. In this way, you are looking out for your book’s best interests.
What other recommendations would you have for an author before they hire an editor? I would love to hear your thoughts!