You have done your first draft of a fiction book, and now you know it is ready for a professional. Maybe you are even savvy enough to know the first editor you need to hire is a developmental editor, also called the content editor. So if you know that, your question is, how do you hire the right one for your project? If that is where you are, then this post is for you.
Make your expectations clear
Now, first, you have to make sure you are clear on what genre the book is in and who your ideal reader is, and even what your marketing objectives are. Because you have to communicate that to your editor and explain to them what that means in terms of what you need to see from the manuscript edit, get clear on what your expectations are for this editor.
Are you looking for an opinion, or are you looking for someone to ensure it reads like an incredible resource? Maybe you think it needs a better story structure.
Determine what type of editing you need
You also need to be clear on how much time you are going to give the editor for this work. It is good to know that before you hire someone. And keep in mind a developmental edit is different from a copy edit.
A developmental editor is going to make suggestions and make some changes. When you get an edit back, you can expect you have got some writing work to do.
Where to find editors
OK, now you are ready to start the hiring process. Where are you going to find these fabulous editors? Well, there are some really great editors, groups, and editors associations, So you can try all of those things.
When you place the ad, make sure you include the following information, size of the manuscript, the timeline that you are working on, the genre of the manuscript, the ideal reader for that book, any concerns, or your primary goal with getting this person on your team, and you likely should or need to declare a budget. If you are looking for editors that specialize in fiction material, then you can look online for fiction book editors.
If you are hiring experienced professionals, and when it comes to editing, there’s definitely a threshold of lower-cost editors where you get what you pay for. If you can’t pay for the best, that’s OK, but there are tradeoffs in this journey. Now timing-wise, I have heard a lot of developmental editors taking months.
So just be ready to wait a month or more for many of the good editors who hire through these sites, as they have multiple projects on the go, and they can take their time. Now you have got the ads out there and some responses time to narrow your choices down. Now, this can be tricky for developmental editors.
All that said, the common threads we find that make a good developmental editor tend to be people with a journalist background because they are used to hunting down the facts, hooking readers with their words, and establishing credibility. Or they have experience with ghostwriting in a similar manner.
What to do once your manuscript is edited
You’ve gotten your edited manuscript back, and it’s covered in marks and comments, and you don’t even know where to begin on this. Are these changes optional? Are they mandatory? Who can tell?
Most editors will use the track changes function on Microsoft Word, and even if they don’t, whatever program they are using will have similar features such as comments, strikethrough, and text replacements. Regardless of which program they are using, there are two types of changes that your editor will make.
Yes, I know it seems like there should be more, but really in the grand scheme of things, there are only two types of changes. Either change made directly to your text or change is suggested to you via comments in your margins for the changes made directly to your text. This kind of removes the decision-making process from you.
It takes some stress away because as you look at those changes made directly to your text, whether it’s deleting texts, changing the wording, or simply correcting your spelling or punctuation, you have the option of either rejecting those changes or accepting them, and there’s a handy dandy button regardless of what program you’re using with the word you just say accept or reject depending on what your preferences.
Are all changes mandatory?
It’s important to emphasize that just because a change has been made directly to your text does not mean that it’s mandatory. You are the author, and you have the right and authority to reject any change that you do not agree with, even if made directly to your text.
Generally speaking, when your editor makes any kind of deletion, sometimes if it’s just a sentence, or especially if it’s a large scale deletion, they usually put a comment in the margin explaining hey, I deleted this because it was repetitive or because it contradicted something you had written earlier, or because this is really so bad, there’s just no saving it. That’s never good to hear, but trust me, it’s better to have the bad thing stricken out than to keep them in for the reader to see.
Unfortunately, not all editors do this, or if they do, they do it sometimes, but not other times, leaving you confused as to whether a direct to that exchange is optional or not. If you have a question, always ask your editor. And definitely, no matter how confident you are in your editor and how many times you’ve worked with him or her, do not push accept all. That is a recipe for disaster and really takes power away from you as the author.
The next type of change is more in-depth. These are not changes made to the text per se, but they are comments made in the margins informing you that more work needs to be done.
Depending on what writing you do, there may not be too many of these, but if you’re writing fiction or if you’re writing creative non-fiction like a memoir where it’s structured like fiction. You’re probably going to have a fair few.
The suggestions and overall commentary are the most difficult, but they are likewise the most important. And if you’ve been working on your book for a really long time, it may be tempting to look at those comments that are asking you to do more work yet and say to yourself, you know what I am done with this book, and I don’t care if this editor thinks that this scene seems incomplete or this character makes no sense.
Just ask yourself, are you actually disagreeing with what your editor has told you, or are you just feeling burnt out and fatigued. This is an important bit of self-reflection.
There you have it; with these factors combined, you should have less trouble finding the best fiction editor for your book. Make sure you have a clear sight of what you want and what your genre demands, and also what you demand from the editor.