Season 7 – epiBLOG 8:
April is one of my favorite months—not only because it’s the month I was born in, but because this time of the year represents new beginnings. I suppose that’s what springtime means. A renewal. A rebirth.
As business owners, we have to continuously renew our minds daily in order to prepare for the tasks at hand. We also have to revise and renew our approaches to our business to seek solutions to new challenges that arise.
Since I’ve founded my writing agency, I’ve had opportunities to speak with a variety of entrepreneurs in different phases of their businesses. Some of the most ambitious owners are those that have already written their book. Well, they have at least written a manuscript that is still saved in a Microsoft Word document, but for the purposes of this discussion, it’s their own book—just in raw form.
This “potential book” is usually something they want to use to generate client leads, to book speaking engagements, to educate, and/or to solidify their credibility within the space of their industry. Because of this, they want to ensure that they’re putting their best foot forward with a professional edit.
Today’s topic is on what to look for in a book editor for your self-help/business manuscript.
Before we jump into what to look for, I need to first expand the minds of those who feel that an editor is an unnecessary luxury. Many believe that they can forego the entire editing process. They say this for one of three reasons: (1) they don’t understand the importance of having an editor, (2) they want to rush the process in order to publish their book faster, and/or (3) they don’t want to pay an editor.
None of the above are good reasons to not edit your book.
I’m sure you’ve already heard that when you are “too close” to the work by it being your very own, that it’s challenging for you to see the flaws in it. It’s the same way you look at your own newborn baby. Your baby is perfect in your eyes. You subconsciously ignore the imperfections and embrace all that is good about that baby. That may work for parenting, but that doesn’t work for authors. You need a second pair of eyes on your work.
You need to get real with yourself. You definitely have mistakes in your manuscript that you keep overlooking each time you review it. An editor can find those oversights. Have a professional review your work before it gets published. Rushing to publish your book and being caught up in the excitement of what this means is a sorry excuse to not take your time to properly go through each stage of the process.
If you eliminate the editor, you’re risking public judgement for having typos, incoherent sentences, and for a story that may simply not be cohesive. Your credibility will vanish in an instant, and no one will care how fast you were able to get that book of yours published.
On the other hand, I want to manage expectations here. There are no perfect published books out there—bestselling or otherwise. Even the most experienced, skilled, and talented editor can overlook a typo. I’m sure you’ve seen typos within books with big name authors on the cover. I have. It happens. One or two typos can be forgiven; a hot mess of words is never forgiven, nor forgotten.
Finally, in my goal of expanding your mind, let’s talk about money. Just understand that editing is one of the most expensive costs involved in self-publishing. Be realistic and budget for this. You’re not going to have your entire book edited for $50 or $100 unless you go to an editor that is desperate to build his or her portfolio or a family member that is doing you a favor. You will get exactly what you pay for.
A quality self-help book usually has up to about 55,000 words, give or take 5,000-10,000 words. Let’s use 55,000 words as a standard as we move forward to discuss other numbers.
Some editors charge by the word. This can range between .08 cents per word and .29 cents per word. At .08 a word, you would be looking at spending $4,400 to have your manuscript edited. At .29 cents a word, you would be looking at spending $15,950 for a professional edit. I’ve done enough research and have actually found editors who are charging those amounts. Some charge way more and others way less.
Some editors charge by each of your Microsoft Word pages. Some charge by the hour for the time that they spend working on your project. Still others, like my company, charge a flat rate with specific qualifying variables.
Google and do some research into different editors and companies. Use the figures that I’ve provided, as well as the ones that you find on your own. Create a realistic budget as part of the self-publishing process for your book.
Qualities and Requirements to Look for in an Editor:
- Experience. This can come in the form of having served as an editorial assistant at a publishing company, having edited numerous books before yours, having served as an English teacher or English/Writing college professor who’s graded hundreds or thousands of papers, or any level of experience that falls in between any of these roles. You want someone who has the knowledge from experience and the “eye” for editing.
- Published writer/produced screenwriter. An editor who has published and/or produced their own writing is more likely to know how to effectively tell a story. It takes skill and experience to transition to this level of a writer. I’m defining “published writer” as someone who has published numerous articles and blog posts over the course of a period of time (more than 50) or someone who has published a minimum of two books. A “produced screenwriter” is defined as someone who was able to write material meant to be seen by an audience in the form of a movie or television show, and was able to bring to life what they had written with the help of producers, a director, actors, and all others who were needed to create the visual content. The produced screenwriter should have more than five feature length screenplays written. You don’t want an editor that simply proofreads to check your manuscript for typos. That’s only one step above your spellcheck on your computer. You want an editor who truly knows how to write. How can an editor evaluate your work if they’ve never endeavored to do it themselves? A published author or produced screenwriter knows what works and what doesn’t to create an effective experience for the reader.
- Credentials. People may have different opinions about this, but hiring an editor who has a bachelor’s degree in one of the following majors is helpful: English, Journalism, Creative Writing, Mass Communications, or any of the related fields. Not only does this show that the editor has written and read a lot, but also proves that their work had to be constantly evaluated by instructors. They needed to make changes to their work based upon instructor and peer evaluation feedback. Learning how to take direction and adjust in the editing process is crucial to the successful edit of a manuscript. This is not to say that a high school dropout who’s well-read can’t edit, but the dropout will obviously lack the skills and experience that a bachelor degree holder in the above listed majors would bring to the table.
- Must use three types of edits. At a minimum, an editor should perform a conceptual edit, a line edit, and a copy edit as part of their services for you. The only exception is if you specifically request for the edit to be focused on one area only. A conceptual edit looks at the whole story, the fluidity, and how effectively can the reader use the book for its intended purposes. The line edit will look at the way you use language to communicate what you have to say to your reader. Finally, the copy edit focuses on the technical flaws, which is more along the lines of proofreading.
- References. Upon your request, an editor should be able to provide you with 2-3 professional references of either former clients, former college professors, or anyone who has had a professional and working experience with them.
Today’s LESSON is to be patient with the self-publishing process and to treat each step as important as all the others.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Write down qualities that you want in an editor and apply the ones that I’ve provided above. Research editors. Create a list of them. Interview them. Choose your editor and create a budget to be able to use their services.
Nitara Osbourne owns The Infinite Writer Agency, LLC, which provides content to producers, publishers, entrepreneurs, and sales people seeking help with developing their life stories into nonfiction books and movie scripts. Ghostwriting and editing services are provided for clients as well. If you’re an accomplished sales or business professional, and are looking to tell your story, contact Nitara Osbourne. InfiniteWriterAgency@gmail.com.