By Susan Mary Malone
All writers need good editors. More and more, even in this age of immediate publication via e-books, writers are realizing this fact. But one of the toughest problems they face these days is in finding good editors for their books. Last Saturday, Lawson Brooks III interviewed me on his radio blog show and we spent a fair amount of time talking about this very topic
How do you sort through? A few simple (although simple often doesn’t translate to easy) points will help.
1. First and foremost, identify what sort of book editing services you’re seeking. Manuscripts truly need developmental editing, which is far different from copy editing. Yes, you’ll need a hard copy edit as well, but that’s the final stage, not the first or second ones. It’s tough, tough, tough to learn this craft, and a great editor works as a writing coach as well. For a longer explanation of the differences, see: Why Developmental Editing. The point is to get clear on your process, and that will help you target the right editor.
2. What are her credentials? Has she worked in publishing in some aspect? Editing books for a publisher? For an agent? This is a big plus, as those editors know the market as well as what goes into selling a good book. Books are more than the sum of their words, and the market is actually very rigid as per genre and category and sub-category. In other words, you need someone who knows what she’s doing
3. Successes. Almost all “editors” out there list publishing successes on their websites. But 99.9% of those include (or are limited to) self-published books. Even though so many writers intend to self-publish, the key here is: Has she edited books that were sold to Traditional houses? That’s absolutely huge. Because it means the editor’s work has been vetted by professionals within the industry, and not just by the writer. How have those books done in the market? And review wise? Dig deep here and the successful editors will begin to emerge.
4. Testimonials and References. Most editing sites include lists of testimonials. But what you want to focus on are those from authors who have been Traditionally published, rather than only self-published ones. Yes, it’s great that all those folks think their novel editor is marvelous. But what did the industry think of their books? Did the authors get publishing contracts from Traditional houses? And, will the editor furnish you with references so that you can speak to some of them?
5. Fixing the Problems. Finally, has she written successfully herself? Especially in developmental editing, this is truly key. Because if she has done so, then she’ll know how to not only identify the problems (and teach you why they are problems), but also how to fix them. I.e., she’s been down the road herself. On an interesting note about this, almost all of my editor buddies at NY houses write on the side! Many under pseudonyms, but almost all do in some capacity. A great editor not only identifies what’s not working, but also can explain to you why, and most importantly, can identify ways to fix the problems, having already waded through those trenches herself.
Whomever you work with will have a huge impact on your career, and we want that to be positive! So, do your homework, see what’s out there, talk to successful folks about what editors they used, and you’ll find the right one for you.
Happy Editor Hunting!