Over the last few months, I’ve been contacted by people offering editing services. As someone who has been screwed over a lot in the past, I’m wary. But I realised today that there are so many new authors out there, and any of them could fall for the bullshit lines these people are trying to sell me.
You know that old saying, those who can’t do, teach? What does an author do when their books aren’t selling? I swear a lot of them these days are waking up and saying “I think I’ll be an editor today.”
Now, I’d love to be paid to read other people’s books and help them out. But there’s one thing I recognise that most of these other authors don’t. And that is I’M NOT QUALIFIED TO BE AN EDITOR.
My copy editor/proofreader (*waves* Hi Kelly Hartigan, you’re the awesome to my sauce … or something like that) has said to me that my drafts I hand over are some of the cleanest drafts she’s ever seen. And you know what? She still has hundreds of corrections to make. Aside from being too close to the project, I also don’t know every grammar rule in the book. MOST AUTHORS DON’T. I have serious issues with commas. In particular, omitting them when they are needed before a conjunction separating two different clauses (look at me! I have the lingo down … but please don’t quiz me on using the rule), and then adding them when they’re not actually needed. *sigh* I give up. I’m sorry I’m not learning, Kelly. But hey, I barely leave participles and modifiers dangling anymore 😉
I’ve asked some of these authors who are trying to now break into the editing business what makes them qualified. I’ve heard all different types of answers:
- I have great attention to detail.
- I recently hired my own editor who has taught me SO much.
- I have a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style.
- Because I’m really, really good.
- I started my own publishing house, so I know stuff.
*facepalm* It literally makes me think “Well, I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy today. Want me to remove a kidney for you?”
I’ve fallen victim to THREE of these “editors” in the past. One was very early in my career. I saw proofreading being advertised for only $100! Struggling indie author me: “Hundred bucks? Awesome. Done.” *gets manuscript back* …… she missed typos even I’m now finding! I’m lucky I was only out $100. This was the editor’s discounted price. Full price, she was asking for $400, which is about average for what I pay for Kelly to proof my work now. (She charges per page, so each MS is different in pricing.) But, this was a lesson in learning you get what you pay for. And I’m happy to say, this editor is no longer in business.
I wish I could sit here and name all the people I’ve had bad experiences with. But the reason I’m not naming names here and screaming from the rooftop for people to stay away from certain people is because drama can affect public image, which can affect sales, which affects income/visibility etc etc etc. You don’t want to be famous for being the author who makes enemies.
So what I’m going to do instead is run over a list of things for authors to be wary of when looking for an editor, and questions to ask.
- Who have you worked with before, and what books have you edited?
I would purchase said books and look at the editing quality. Are there mistakes? Are their grammar issues? Was an extra/another editor listed in the front/back matter?
- Are you willing to give a free sample of what you would do to my work.
Most editors will be willing to do this up to about 2,000 words. The only problem with this is any changes/catches will seem good to an author, right? So, they catch some errors, but how do you know they got them all when you yourself couldn’t see any during your own revisions?
- How far ahead are you booked?
Does it suck that I usually have to wait a month to get into my editor? Sometimes. But there’s a reason she has constant work. SHE’S GOOD. Anyone who says “I’m available whenever you want, and I’m never overbooked” is a red flag. If they truly are as good as they say, they will be booked for a while in advance, because they will have regular clients. I know of an editor who charges through the nose, is booked out for MONTHS (sometimes up to six months) in advance, and she recently announced she was no longer taking on new clients because she just doesn’t have the time. But she’s obviously sought out for her talent.
- Can I see a contract?
One of my editors didn’t even have a contract. She told me she’d be done in ten days, took my money, and by day nine, I was worrying. Especially when she emailed me and said she was 3/4 the way through. She gave me my manuscript back on time, but that means she rushed through the last 25% in twenty-four hours. How accurate could her edits really be?
- What kind of editing do you do, and what does it involve?
I was recently approached by someone who’s looking for editing clients. Yet, after five minutes of talking to him via private message, I already could tell he had NO idea what he was talking about.
He didn’t know the difference between content editing, copy editing, and proofreading. It will do you well to learn the differences yourself. Here’s a blog I found which explains it.
Don’t get sucked in by people who claim to be the best without them being able to back it up with PROOF.
The cheap price tag of some of these editors is enticing. I know that. But a lot of the time, you may as well not hire one at all when they don’t know what they’re doing.
If you’re looking for my recommendation (I kinda don’t want to post the link because I feel possessive over her. SHE’S MINE, DAMMIT) you can’t go past Kelly Hartigan at Xterra Web. You can find her services here. http://editing.xterraweb.com/.
*She only does copy editing/proofreading.
If you have a great editor, spread the word!
Let’s not give work to those who are out to make a quick buck and have no idea what they’re doing. It’s a waste of your money, and it really leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you’re out hundreds of dollars (sometimes thousands for some people!) and have nothing to show for it but maybe some typo corrections here and there.