When you’re looking to hire an editor for your book, there are a few questions you’re bound to want answered before you commit. Equally, there is information you need to tell an editor before hiring them, so the two of you can decide if you’re a match. Some of it can wait until you’ve both introduced yourselves and are talking specifics, but other pieces of information should be part of your discussion right from the beginning.
By far the most common type of enquiry I receive is a brief note saying something like:
Hello, I wrote a book, and I’d like to get it published. Can you edit it? Please tell me the price and how long it will take.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Cheers, A.N. Author
If you look at my front page, you’ll see I’m an editor of fiction and non-fiction, in all categories for adults. I also list the categories of book I prefer working with, such as memoirs or mysteries. I offer different types of editing, from manuscript assessment to proofreading. I charge a rate per 1000 words and I list the starting price for each type of editing.
So, there are different categories of books I could work with, of different lengths, and I could perform different levels of editing depending on several factors. But, the note above gives me virtually nothing to go on, so my answer is likely to direct the author to various areas of my website and blog where I talk about the different stages of editing and explain my services. Until the author gives me something to work with, we don’t have much to talk about. It’s rather a waste of both our time.
Here are a few vital pieces of information to tell an editor when you get in touch so that, in turn, you can get the information you need to decide if this is the editor you will hire.
You don’t have to be completely precise. It’s fine if you’re not quite sure whether it’s really a memoir since you invented some conversations and rolled two people into one character, or if you don’t know whether to call it romance or mystery since it has elements of both. Certainly, nobody would expect you to know at this stage which string of Amazon sub-categories it would best fit under – but at least give me an idea of the broad category you’re writing in.
The benefit to you is that if it’s a category I work with often and know well, I’ll be more confident that I could be a good match for the material, and I can mention a couple of similar books I’ve worked on and what type of editing I performed.
If it’s a category I know less well, such as YA, it might be ok for me to do copy editing for you, but I wouldn’t be much use to you as a structural editor because I don’t read and work with that category of books often enough.
And, if you’re writing in a category I don’t work with at all, such as children’s or poetry, I can save us both time by telling you I will not be the right editor for you.
I offer different starting prices per 1000 words for different types of editing, so I need to know the word count to give you an idea of how much your job will cost. Unfortunately, it’s not very useful to know how many pages you’ve written, as depending on the size of the page and type, there could be anything from 250 to 400 words on a page.
There are also ideal lengths for different categories of books. If you tell me you want line editing for your first book and it’s over 150,000 words (and it isn’t an epic fantasy), my first thought may be that that’s rather long and it probably wants significant cutting before you even get into line editing. So, it’s good to know the length of the book right from the start, before I start calculating a price.
If you’ve already worked with a structural editor and you’re coming to me for copy editing, that makes perfect sense and we should be able to proceed on that basis.
If you’ve worked with a writing group and gone through several drafts with them, you might have finished with the content editing and be ready for line editing, but you might not.
On the other hand, if you’ve just completed your first draft and you’re asking for proofreading, I will think that the text is unlikely to be ready for such a late stage of editing, and you might be better off working on the content first.
Tell me what work you’ve already done, so I can better understand what work still needs to be done.
I have asked this question and received a very sniffy ‘Well, how should I know? I would think an editor would tell me that.’
But, as the writer, you must have some idea of where you are, and where you’d like to be: is it a first draft of your first book? Do you already know the plot or structure works well and it’s the language that could use some work? Or perhaps you’ve been through many drafts and done as much as you’re able to on your own, and so it’s time for some professional input?
If you’re experienced enough to know the aspects of writing you struggle with, I can more precisely offer you the service that will help you most. But if you don’t know, just tell me the aspects of the book with which you aren’t quite happy, as that will still give me information with which to help you.
Authors are likely to need something different from their editor, depending on their experience of writing and publishing.
A first-time author may need more explanation of the edits than a veteran of ten books. A non-fiction author who is switching to fiction may be surprised to be struggling with big items like the plot, even though their writing is very smooth at the paragraph and sentence level. A traditionally published author might never have chosen and hired their own editor before and find self-publishing unfamiliar and daunting.
If I know a bit about your experience with writing and publishing, I can pitch my services at the right level for you.
Do you want to be traditionally published? If so, it might be more important to work on the structure and content than to get a copy edit, because if your book gets accepted, a traditional publisher will arrange the latter type of editing as part of the publication process.
Have you already had interest from a literary agent or a publisher and want help to revise and resubmit in response to their specific recommendations?
Do you want to publish to coincide with a particular date, anniversary, or event?
If I’m busy at the time you enquire, is there flexibility in your deadline?
All of this is relevant, useful information that could be very important to tell me right at the beginning.
This is useful context, but it’s more for me than you: when I know where my clients are coming from I can better direct my marketing efforts and be more help to the authors I work with.
If someone recommended me to you, tell me who so I can thank them. If you were researching a question and found a blog post of mine helpful, that’s great feedback and I’ll write more on that topic or with that type of advice. If you found me in the Byte the Book directory or I was mentioned by a literary agent or publisher I’ve worked with, that’s something I really want to know.
Send me a message and a sample of your work as a Word document, and we’ll go from there.
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