When I started writing novels, I was advised to hire a professional editor to review my books and polish them to perfection. At first, I hesitated because editing services can be expensive. I’ve since come to realize how an editor can improve the quality of my writing and my stories. For those of us who self-publish, it’s important to understand the types of editors that can help us fine-tune our work:
Content Editor: Reviews the story for consistency, accuracy, themes, plot, and characters.
Copy Editor/Line Editor: Often, these two will overlap. Copy editors proofread for clarity and accuracy. Line editors concentrate on each sentence to make sure that the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage are correct. They will often reconstruct sentences to improve the flow of the writing.
The selection and hiring of editors has been a learning experience for me. I sought editors at writing clubs I joined. I also sought them through online editing services. But I wish that I had been aware beforehand of how the editor/writer relationship functions and what to look for before you hire an editor. These are guidelines I will follow if and when I hire another editor:
- Speak on the phone or meet in person (if possible). Like any important relationship, you need to have a good rapport. I think it’s important to like and respect the person you are hiring to edit your work.
- Ask questions. Don’t hire an editor who doesn’t want to answer your questions or talks down to you when they do answer. You are a prospective client not a wannabe student.
- As a Latina author, it wasn’t necessary for me to work with an editor from my own culture, but certainly it can be an advantage. They could have a better understanding of the material you’re writing and could provide more insight. On the other hand, a non-Latina editor could bring a different cultural perspective to the work that might be valuable. Of course it depends on what you’re writing. I think this is a personal choice.
- What writing style manual does the editor use?
- How does their editing process work? (One of my editors asked for a paper copy of my novel. She made her comments on that paper copy. Nothing was done online.)
- Will they allow you to sample their editing style first? I hired one editor on a trial basis first. She understood I wanted to sample her work. She didn’t mind because I was paying for the sample.
- Check their previously edited works, if you can, or any books they might have authored. Editors have different styles (for example, some use the Oxford comma, some don’t).
As you work with an editor, it’s important not to take criticism personally. Keep in mind that the editor is improving your work. I see criticism as an opportunity to learn from my mistakes and become a better writer. That’s why it’s important to feel you have a good rapport from the start. You don’t want to work with an editor who has a superiority complex and treats you disrespectfully. It should be a respectful working relationship on both sides. My editors have helped me become a better writer.