Editing...how do you choose a pro?

With so many authors publishing independently these days, professional editors (those who get paid for reading, reviewing, and making changes in an author's writing) abound. Unfortunately, not everybody who hangs out his or her editing shingle knows all the facets of the job--and too many don't have a clue about what makes a story/book marketable.

There are line editors (also called content editors) who pick stories with potential and point out changes that can make the piece stronger in terms of characterization, plot development, and fitting the story into a predetermined market niche. The best of these people come not from schoolteachers, author friends, or beta readers but from reputable publishing companies--and they don't sell their services cheaply. $1,800 for content editing a 60,000 word novel isn't at all unusual. Many times a qualified line editor or "book doctor" will quote $.03 per word or even more for editing novels, although they may use a sliding scale downward if the material they are given is "clean," and thus less time-consuming and frankly annoying to work with. Copyeditors usually charge less, but they tend to concentrate on grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and issues that involve mechanics more than creative coaching.

An author, using the techniques I describe in my nonfiction book, SELF-EDITING FOR WRITERS, can find and fix most errors in mechanics, thus cutting the expense of both content and copyediting on a professional level. Self-editing, or its variant, editing by a fellow author or friend without editing expertise, does not, however, eliminate the need to find a great editor.

So, what qualities should an author look for in a "professional" editor? Determining a person's prior experience in editing is a start, keeping in mind as you do that not everyone who can write and publish a novel is qualified to edit one. I look for editors with experience editing for major publishers if I'm seeking someone to help me make my story better, more coherent, more marketable; while I search out copyeditors who know my genre and are so dedicated to detail that a wrong word or inconsistent fact would rarely pass their eagle eye.

I wouldn't pay anyone who lacks proper credentials to edit my books. I hope you won't either..

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