Monday, February 18, 2019

How to Write and Publish--5b--More Editing

[We're still talking about types of editors.]

4. The freelance editor.

Your writing group and your husband have read your story, but you need someone to take a look at every verb and comma before you send it off to a magazine. Where do you turn? 

Who can make sure your book comes together coherently before you self-publish, or before you submit it to Harvest House?

Freelance editors to the rescue!

Blog posts and newsletters don’t usually need an editor beyond your husband or critique group, but any longer work that you self-publish should have an independent editor work on it.

The higher the stakes with submitting to a publisher, the more you need an editor.

How do you find one? Word of mouth is the best. I ask around at author events, and without fail, every author has their go-to editor that they’re happy to recommend to you. Twice, I’ve been blessed enough to sit beside people at the authors’ table at the county fair who were both authors and editors. Kelly Straub edited Tea and Trouble Brewing with great finesse; Toni Rakestraw twirled her magic wand and formatted my books for print and Kindle.

I ought to include them both in our will.

My friend Esta’s marketing-expert brother John recommends UpWork, an online resource. I'm sure there are others equally legitimate.

We made an exception to the no-family-as-editor rule after Emily got her degree in communications. She set her fees and did an excellent job with Fragrant Whiffs of Joy. For the most part, we were not mother and daughter but calm and indifferent acquaintances, to quote Jane Austen.

Except for that one time. But never mind that. We learned how to not do things with the next project.

I’m hoping Emily has time to edit these posts to make a short book that I can hand out to all the inquiring people who tug on my sleeve and ask for help. I would love to coach them all, and can't of course, but maybe a booklet and prayer will at least get them started.

Often, writers make good editors.

Emily says:

One important note is that editing other people's work is one of the best ways to improve your own writing. I know this is true because most of my writing classes in college followed the writer's group format, where we all critiqued each other's work, and my teacher's explanation was that deeply looking at other people's work and figuring out how to make it better was actually the best way to learn to write better.

 My opinion is that the best/most economical way to edit is to "trade edits" with someone who's at the same writing level as you are. It could happen in a writer's group, but if you're writing a book-length project it might be easiest to just swap with one person. It might not seem like "saving money" because of all the time it will take, but since you're learning so much as you edit, you come out on top in the long run.

Beginning writers are notorious for imposing on their more-experienced friends. “I know you just got out of the hospital with your twins, but I was hoping you wouldn’t mind looking this over. . .??"

I know. You won’t have any money in hand until the magazine buys your article, and they’re not likely to buy it until an editor polishes it, but an editor costs money. Round and round you go.

What is that in thine hand? If they live nearby, clean their kitchen or bake cookies for them. Do you have a piece of dress fabric they would love to have? Mail it to them. 
As Emily said, you can trade edits if you’re at the same experience level.

Better yet, sit down and figure out a way to pay them what they’re worth. You’re a writer. Your imagination is that good.

Sheila Petre says:

What I pay others, for whom I am not trading edits, is a percentage of what they will get for the published piece—if it is published. Depending on how much work they put into it and how much I get paid, I will pay ten to twenty percent. Stephanie Leinbach edits the editorial for my girls’ magazine and she gets a complimentary subscription for it, though I am pretty sure I have sent her additional compensation occasionally as well (a book or two, cash in the two-digit range, a box for her and her family.)

 Because I do so much editing for free, anything is a bonus. So if you just stick a ten or a twenty in your envelope with an SASE, I am very happy. It seems like writers could be more creative than they are: postage stamps, Subway cards, gift certificates for your little catalogue store, stickers for my children to play with while I edit—but no, those are just the things I fantasize about as I stare down into the envelope full of their words. Follow the golden rule, folks—it shouldn’t be this complicated.

Of course, if the freelancer is not a friend, you will need to pay the set fee and that is that. 

Morty Miller, a former student of mine, charges by the page. She says:

I’m a licensed proofreader. But I also do some editing as in making suggestions for a smoother flowing sentence, or how to reword things to perhaps paint a clearer picture of what the author is trying to say. 

When you send your work to an editor, you need to be thorough and specific about what you need. Services range from line edits and proofreading [the exact terms and services vary a bit] where they check spelling, punctuation, and consistency with Oxford commas and such, to in-depth edits where they delete whole sentences, move paragraphs, and suggest major revisions.

If you’re not using paper and ink, make sure your editor uses the “Track Changes” feature so you can tell exactly what has been altered.

I’ve had a few bad experiences with freelance editors changing words and phrases in my book manuscripts when I only wanted punctuation and spelling edits, without marking their changes, and I had to go through the entire book line by line to find and correct their helpful additions. I was not happy.

I learned to be really precise and clear about what I was hiring them to do.

But I’ve also had editors who, with permission, snipped and curled a phrase here and there, tucked paragraphs where they belonged, and made the whole thing smooth and shiny.

Those editors are gold.

Here’s some information from Manuscript Editor Online:

Types of Editing

The most intensive form of editing is substantive editing. The document is evaluated as a whole and problems of structure, organization, coherence, and logical consistency are corrected. Sentences may be removed or added. Paragraphs may be rewritten, condensed, or expanded. Blocks of text may be moved from one section to another. 

Copy editing
The editor corrects problems of grammar, style, repetition, word usage, and jargon. 

Proofreading is the lightest form of editing. Minor errors are corrected. Minor errors include:
errors of grammar and style (e.g., verb tense, units such as ml, use of numerals and words such as “5” or “five”)
errors of capitalization, punctuation (e.g., the use of commas, semicolons, colons, periods, dashes, apostrophes)
errors of spelling and word usage (e.g., to/too, affect/effect)

5. The Professional Editor

These are the editors who work for publishers. After the soul thrilling raptures of selling a manuscript to a magazine or book publisher or newspaper, you discover with a bit of alarm that your work will be gone over by an editor, or several. They will be thorough. They will not be your buddy. They might send your work back for revision, heavily marked in red.

But ultimately they will make your story a lot better.

You don’t pay this editor like you do a freelancer. This is all part of the happy package of having your submission accepted.

My editor at Good Books was a woman named Delphine who consulted me about significant changes and did her best to preserve my voice and style. I was very sad when she retired.

I had four different editors in my years with the Register-Guard newspaper, and a good working relationship with all of them, but I didn’t get to know any of them very well. While none of them ever made huge changes in my articles, the small changes they made were always for the better.

May you all be so lucky.

Next: Sending short pieces to a publisher.


  1. Christine From Maine2/19/2019 9:16 AM

    What if someone is a freelance editor who works for publishers? But even if one doesn't, when a person earns pay for edits, I would consider her to be a professional editor. I am enjoying these posts about writing; I apologize for attempting to edit this fine post! :-)

    1. I distinguished between freelance and professional for my purposes this way--do you pay them or does a publisher pay them?
      But yes, one could be both.
      Thanks for pointing that out!

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  3. I appreciated hearing that it's okay to barter or even charge sometimes. I don't generally mind proofreading for people; I actually find it energizing. But there was one time I was fuming, I'll admit. A family member seems to think that since I enjoy editing and writing it "won't take you long to find the mistakes on my website where I market my baked goods". No, probably not. But it's apparently a free service whereas "that will be $30 for your son's birthday cake that we consumed at the family gathering. I actually gave you a really good deal!" I can only conclude that in some peoples' minds all skills are not marketable. Oh well, perhaps my reward will be that dementia is pushed off a few years by each article I proofread? That, and the thrill I get when I whip out that red pen!

    1. --GASP--at the audacity of that relative!! May you be rewarded with delayed dementia and much more!