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Discussion Starter #1
Well, what I mean to say is, how do we judge editors and which ones best serve our needs? There are, of course, different kinds of editors and editing, so maybe one "ruler" doesn't work for all of them. Whether we want a content editor or a copyeditor or a proofreader might change how we judge them. But most of us at one time or another get complaints about editing and I wonder if some of that doesn't come down rather than to our not hiring editors but our difficulty in knowing whether we're hiring the right person for the job.

Any thoughts? No, I'm not looking for an editor at the moment; it's just something I'm thinking about because I just sent a novel for a THIRD edit--each edit consisting of several passes in one case with more than one person doing the editing--because of continuing negative comments in reviews about errors. I'd be willing to bet I'm not the only one who has had this happen and it's frustrating.

ETA: I have sometimes found such review comments unfair--the errors either didn't exist or were so minor such as two mistakes in the entire novel that they shouldn't have drawn comment. But other times the comments were correct and upsetting.



 

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For The Milestone Tapes I worked with an editor that was in the KB Yellowpages.  I liked her, thought she was very sweetly natured.  But, man, my book was potholed with errors after the edit, and my readers (and reviews) have suffered for it. 

I think found another editor who approaches things there differently.  Working with her was awesome -- though, still, not everything was caught.  I ended up having the book proofed and it's as clean as I could make it -- though I'm sure there are still little mistakes. 

The best editor for me is one who has a clinical eye.  I don't need nor use story-editors ... give me someone who is tough on the grammar and punctuation and I'm a happy camper.
 
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A good editor should demonstrate a "natural" understanding of the English language. At the most basic, their natural writing style should be predominately correct. When I see a new editor's forum posts, I expect those post to show an understanding of the language. It's a forum post, so I don't mind typos (gods know my fingers often don't cooperate with my brain!) But the way they write (sentence structure, proper tense, conciseness of thought) should indicate that the editor has a clue. People who understand grammar beyond a cursory level naturally write in a proper way.

If a content editor, then I want to talk to someone who understands the nuances of my genre. Someone who is well read within the genre I write and understands the norms and expectations of that audience. For me, specifically, I'd look for someone who doesn't just read indies but also trade books and classics in my field. I want to see a high level of genre comprehension. Content editors are probably the hardest to find and judge because unless they have strong professional credits it's hard to know who actually knows their stuff and who is blowing smoke.

Copy editing and proofreading: Attention to detail is essential. A sloppy website or sloppy posts indicates a sloppy mind. Again, I don't mean the occasional typo. I mean someone who routinely fails to capitalize the proper pronoun "I" or who uses too much textspeak. Does the editor have issues that would make him blind to problems in my manuscript? Does the editor use too many adjectives and adverbs in his or her own communication? Chances are they aren't going to recognize this as a problem in a manuscript. Is the editor long-winded in replies? Chances are he or she isn't going to be very good at helping me cut excess verbiage.

I want to see something beyond a "I love indies and want to help them!!!!!!!" insofar as credentials. I want to know the editor's educational background and practical professional experience. This doesn't have to be a degree in English and five years working for a publisher. But there should be SOMETHING in the person's background to indicate some competencies in the area. Maybe the person was a volunteer literacy tutor for a non-profit. Maybe the person's day job involves editing her boss's emails before he sends them to HIS boss. Heck, show me that you worked on your college newspaper for the love of the gods. Give me something to indicate that you have an understanding of what you are doing.

Ideally, I want to get feedback from people I know and whose opinions I value. I've seen plenty of so-called editors who list all of these ringing endorsements on their site, and when I look at the actual books of the people who give the endorsements they are awful. If that isn't available (which is the case for most of the new editors who pop up), then I ask hard questions and see how they respond. Is the editor overly sensitive or takes offense when asked to show credentials? How is someone thin-skinned going to help me improve my work? Is her focus on me "giving her a chance" or does she understand what is at stake for an author and show a willingness to put me at ease? I've found that good editors are happy to answer questions about their level of experience and welcome it. People unsure of their own abilities tend to get very defensive.

Beyond that, eventually you have to trust your gut. Are you comfortable with this person? Do you feel like they "get" what you are trying to do? Is this a person I can trust with my reputation?
 

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Good suggestions.

My two cents:

- Find an editor who has edited books in your genre/area. You don't want a literary fiction editor if you write sci-fi.
- Ask for a sample edit.
- Check the website for typos.
- Ask for credentials. Look for something beyond editing other indies. Did the editor work for a newspaper, magazine, etc.?

Also, look for professionalism when you talk to the editor, which should include:
- Payment: Be clear about payment terms. Expect to pay a deposit or 50 percent up front. It's better to pay per word or per project (don't make an agreement to pay per hour). Agree on a maximum amount.
- Due date: Be clear about when the editor will send the work back.
 

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When I originally went looking for an editor, I started poking around on the blogs of authors in my genre. I found one who spoke glowingly about working with her editor, and I saw that this author was also doing quite well on the sales front. I found the editor on eLance, and requested a quote from her as well as others. She had many great reviews from other writers/authors so that sold it for me.

However, I've been a bit grouchy on this topic for the last few months. She edited six projects for me in 2012. I routinely gave her a 10-day window turn around. I had noticed that from my first novel through to the last one, the edits that came back were increasingly "lighter"- as in 1-3 comments per page tops with none on some as well. (I'd love to say that I was getting that much better, but I'm not that full of myself. :D)

I looked at the time stamp on the comments of the last novel she edited for me, and discovered to my chagrin that they had all occurred in the last few hours of the last day that the edits were due (about 5 hours total with what looked like an hour break in there as well). Now- I can't say that she didn't read the whole thing through earlier and make notes beforehand, but something about that really rubbed me the wrong way. I spend much more than 5 hours on each of my own editing rounds prior to sending to her.

She was friendly and responsive and overall very pleasant to work with, but at the end of the day, I can't wrap my brain around working with her again. Ultimately what she provided were proofreading services that were done at the very last minute, and given that I DO get complaints from time to time in reviews about grammatical/typo issues, I just can't continue to pay someone who I can't be sure is all that thorough. Which is unfortunate because I did really like her.

Solid references are a must for me and a sample edit can tell you a lot. (You can quickly see if someone's style is going to be welcome or off-putting.) Then ability to meet deadlines and being responsive are key for me. I've always done 50/50 payment, so would expect the same in working with any editor.
 

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T.L. Haddix said:
How to find a good editor. Shew. That's not a can of worms at all. :) And yes, I think we do need to have the discussion, especially in light of events recently on the board where people met with unfortunate results at the hands of so-called "editors."

1. Ask around.
2. Ask for a sample edit. ---
3. Get some books - this one in particular - "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers." Even if you aren't familiar with language enough to know if someone is editing your book well or not, you can do a side-by-side comparison and see if they're at least right. "The Chicago Manual of Style" is also a great, if somewhat pricey, book to have.
I agree with this completely. Check the KB Yellow Pages, go to the editor's web site, take a look at their client list, sample those authors' published works yourself and then contact some of those clients for an opinion of what it was like to work with that editor. As you're reading acknowledgments, if you come across a particularly clean, error-free book and the author mentions their editor - take note.

I'd like to add one more thing: Work with beta readers who like hunting down typos, pointing out grammar slip-ups and aren't afraid to tell you if your word choice isn't the greatest. It also pays to proofread your own multiple times (or pay someone to do it), once before sending it to the editor (but after your beta readers have gone over it with a flea comb), and then twice more before publishing (once chapter by chapter backwards).
 

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I kinda see judging them ahead of time like picking fruit at the market. Even if you get a sample, you might still be disappointed because they may be putting the best ones up as samples.

I plan to get samples from 3 of them on the same pages. Obviously, if one catches things the others don't, then that's gonna be the winner. But most likely, they'll all catch the same stuff, and then it comes down to any subjective content advice they may give, and comparing that with your own vision for the book. I thought I'd try one who's recommended on editors and predators, and then two who frequent this board.

The one from editors and predators has a far more impressive resume than the other two, but I'm not sold that that's what should be the ultimate decider. Yeah, I can see advantages to having someone you DON'T know on a personal level. The better the editor knows you the more they may be inclined to assume you'll be more forgiving of their errors or, if you've befriended them, to not hurt your feelings. But then, hiring a friend is appealing because you already have a camaraderie and probably share a lot of world views, so there's a better chance you'll get in sync. The two on these boards I'm considering have earned my respect with their posts, even if their credentials are lacking. They make sense to me every time they post something, and communicate it in an effective way that's fairly close to the sentence cadence I use.

Ultimately, though, I think MY decision will be based mostly on the sample. Not saying that's the right way to go, it just feels right to me.
 

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cegesmith said:
I routinely gave her a 10-day window turn around.
This is something I've wondered about - is 10 days or two weeks really enough time to get a good edit? I'm genuinely curious. I've made an appointment with an editor with a 7-day turnaround, I've done edits with 10-day turnarounds, but the best editor I've worked with so far has been a story editor who regularly takes four weeks. How much time does or should a substantive line edit take? I know indie authors rush things because they wanted the book out the door ASAP but perhaps the trad model is better in that respect. *If anyone has experience w/ trad - how long did it take to get first draft line edits back?
 

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N. Gemini Sasson said:
I'd like to add one more thing: Work with beta readers who like hunting down typos, pointing out grammar slip-ups and aren't afraid to tell you if your word choice isn't the greatest. It also pays to proofread your own multiple times (or pay someone to do it), once before sending it to the editor (but after your beta readers have gone over it with a flea comb), and then twice more before publishing (once chapter by chapter backwards).
I agree with this. Work with no-nonsense, grammar Nazi beta readers, if you're lucky enough to know some.

And definitely proofread your own work. Run spell check. My spell check doesn't get slang or fragments, and won't catch homophones, but it will catch common typos, including extra spaces.
 

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Wansit said:
This is something I've wondered about - is 10 days or two weeks really enough time to get a good edit? I'm genuinely curious. I've made an appointment with an editor with a 7-day turnaround, I've done edits with 10-day turnarounds, but the best editor I've worked with so far has been a story editor who regularly takes four weeks. How much time does or should a substantive line edit take? I know indie authors rush things because they wanted the book out the door ASAP but perhaps the trad model is better in that respect. *If anyone has experience w/ trad - how long did it take to get first draft line edits back?
Yeah, 10 days seems BRUTAL. I'd assume it would take a month or two.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
vrabinec said:
Yeah, 10 days seems BRUTAL. I'd assume it would take a month or two.
It shouldn't for a professional.
 

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JRTomlin said:
It shouldn't for a professional.
For a full edit on 100K +-? Really? Wow. Well, now I know I'll never be a professional editor. It takes me days just to read a book, let alone stare at the lines and try to figure out what's wrong.
 

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I was going to jump into this thread but read Julie's post and as usual she has covered much of what I would suggest.

The issue with Indie authors is that they cannot possibly afford a "good" editor in the traditional sense. The edit would cost far more than most Indie books ever earn.

What you are faced with is the task of picking the most effective of the various self styled and often unqualified editors looking for eBook work. Most are little more than proof-readers who think that editing looks like a simple way to earn money online. A few have completed brief online "Become an editor in two weeks" type training courses. Some are actually good in a basic grammar/structure sense, but miss huge plot holes, don't fact check, and have biases toward certain styles. Some are appalling and have a "Language is an ever changing process - it shouldn't be rigidly structured" response to anyone who points out basic errors in their work.

Yes, I do realise that some people who offer editing services have qualification, and I am not slighting them.  The reality is that most do not have qualification -if you do as has been suggested and look at the work they have done for others you will agree. Generally, qualified and experienced editors will earn so much more in traditional areas that offering to work at a competitive online rate would have them starving.

My rule of thumb when looking to outsource MS screening is find a BabyBoomer with some sort of tertiary qualification - it does not have to be related to editing. Most of them have a thorough grasp of English - as schooling in their day was rigid and more thorough than nowadays. I have several who are instinctive when it comes to editing, they seldom miss as much as a misplaced or superfluous comma. What they cannot do is a structural edit or notice technological or factual errors. Depending on the time-frame I will often use such "pre-readers". It saves me effort and often also saves me frustration as well as speeding up the process. I pay them far more than most of the online services are asking. Most are retired and enjoy the opportunity.

If I was inexperienced and looking to get my work "polished" I would go to the local library and ask for permission to leave a notice looking for people who were capable of finding errors and analysing my MS. Get to people who love English and would like to help a new author. Get a few of those as Beta readers and many of your editing problems would go away.


 

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When I went looking for an editor, I followed the advice from Lets Get Digital: I set a realistic budget, I went to Preditors & Editors and came up with a potential list of people to contact. I looked at all the websites and looked up books they had edited. I checked out their credentials (I was looking for someone who had big publishing house experience). That part of the process took me more than 2 weeks (closer to a month, actually). With my list trimmed down to about 10 editors, I then reached out to them via e-mail and requested sample edits of my manuscript (shockingly, some editors wanted to send me samples of other books they had worked on ???). I waited for all the sample edits for about 2 more weeks. Then I compared and got my list down to 3 people. I reached out to those three to get a personal vibe. I had no trouble settling on my editor. She was great. She had major publishing experience and was really tough on my manuscript. I loved it! All this was for the copyedit. After that, I hired a proofreader from the Kindle Boards yellow pages. She did a decent job, but I still personally went over the book about ten times with my trusty Chicago Manual of Style at hand. Then I asked a few friends to read the book over again, looking for typos and errors . . . and I still occasionally find a mistake!
 

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Hello,
I do not know if I should jump in here or not. I am an editor and I want to say that I agree with most of you. Editing these days has become slap dash. Everyone and anyone claims that they can edit. I would definitely investigate any editor before I used them. Look at samples of their work, check references, compare prices, get a sample edit done, and above all...make sure that you get along with them. The relationship between an editor and a client should be friendly. You should get along and work well together. That makes the process of getting your book out there so much easier. I had someone tell me the other day that she was not happy with her current editor because he was sarcastic and derogatory about her work. To me that is unacceptable.

As for the turnaround times, mine is two weeks, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I work nonstop though. While I am editing, that book is my number one priority and I treat it like a baby. I go over and over it. It depends on how fast you read and what kind of eye you have for errors.

I would always ask for qualifications as well. I will complete my BA in ENG/LIT in the next few months, I have at least 15 books under my belt, I publish anthologies, and I edited for free on Wattpad for years before I went professional. That all adds up to experience. I am not trying to promote myself here...I promise. I am just trying to offer advice on the best way to pick an editor out of the multitude that have come out of the woodworks since people started publishing independently.
 

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JRTomlin said:
...
Any thoughts? No, I'm not looking for an editor at the moment; it's just something I'm thinking about because I just sent a novel for a THIRD edit--each edit consisting of several passes in one case with more than one person doing the editing--because of continuing negative comments in reviews about errors. I'd be willing to bet I'm not the only one who has had this happen and it's frustrating.
...
What you need is a "shark fin" to draw the reviewer's ire to something else. Perhaps an annoying side character, or a twist ending. Maybe a weird photo in the middle of the final pages.

;D
 

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Cynthia Shepp said:
Hello,
I do not know if I should jump in here or not. I am an editor and I want to say that I agree with most of you. Editing these days has become slap dash. Everyone and anyone claims that they can edit. I would definitely investigate any editor before I used them. Look at samples of their work, check references, compare prices, get a sample edit done, and above all...make sure that you get along with them. The relationship between an editor and a client should be friendly. You should get along and work well together. That makes the process of getting your book out there so much easier. I had someone tell me the other day that she was not happy with her current editor because he was sarcastic and derogatory about her work. To me that is unacceptable.

As for the turnaround times, mine is two weeks, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I work nonstop though. While I am editing, that book is my number one priority and I treat it like a baby. I go over and over it. It depends on how fast you read and what kind of eye you have for errors.

I would always ask for qualifications as well. I will complete my BA in ENG/LIT in the next few months, I have at least 15 books under my belt, I publish anthologies, and I edited for free on Wattpad for years before I went professional. That all adds up to experience. I am not trying to promote myself here...I promise. I am just trying to offer advice on the best way to pick an editor out of the multitude that have come out of the woodworks since people started publishing independently.
You must've done quite an editing job on Jason Brant's The Gate, because the most helpful five-star review calls the book "AWESOME!" and says "Jason Brant outdid himself this-

Oh, wait...
 

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WHDean said:
You must've done quite an editing job on Jason Brant's The Gate, because the most helpful five-star review calls the book "AWESOME!" and says "Jason Brant outdid himself this-

Oh, wait...
Hey, that book has a 1-star that reads "It was, however, better edited than many ebooks."

ERRRRR.
 

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DarkScribe said:
I was going to jump into this thread but read Julie's post and as usual she has covered much of what I would suggest.

The issue with Indie authors is that they cannot possibly afford a "good" editor in the traditional sense. The edit would cost far more than most Indie books ever earn.
This may be true for some, but certainly not all Indie authors. There are some Indie authors who can easily afford this, and who are taking a long term view to their career and are more than willing to pay for quality editing. :)
 
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