Before looking for an editor, it is best to figure out exactly what you are looking for, so that you don’t get (or pay for) more than you anticipated.
Let’s break down editing as a whole into 3 major categories – or levels: self-editing, copyediting/proofreading and developmental editing.
It is always a good idea to self-edit your manuscript first before “sending it off” to an editor. For one thing, it will save you money, as it will save an editor time in the long run. Also, as the person closest to the manuscript, you are in a unique position to make decisions and judgment calls regarding your work. Finally, during your self-edit, you may discover things that you wish to change in the manuscript overall, and these things are definitely best discovered before employing an editor.
Along with careful reading of your manuscript, two techniques you will want to include in your self-editing are:
Spelling/Grammar Checkers – While online spelling and grammar checkers aren’t perfect, they certainly help to shine a light on potential issues, and are right more often than not.
Listening to your manuscript – Reading your book aloud is one of the best ways to find awkward sentences, overuse of certain words and grammatical errors. Many programs such as Microsoft Word can read your text aloud, which is even better than doing it yourself since we all have a tendency to read what we expect to see and self-correct as we go.
Copy editing addresses spelling, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation. Proofreading corrects typographical errors, misspellings and any other formatting inconsistencies. Whether you enlist the help of a professional or have eagle-eyed friends and beta readers help out, you will certainly want more eyes than your own on your manuscript before going public. Inconsistencies throughout the manuscript are tough to spot, and don’t appear from online grammar checkers. Be aware of the following common pitfalls:
Numbers – Decide whether you will write out numbers or use ordinals (1, 2, 3) throughout your book.
Time – Be sure to use either AM, am or A.M. consistently throughout your book, as well as words like “half past one” or “1:30”
Addresses – Decide whether you want to spell out words like Street or use an abbreviation like St., and stick with it.
Developmental editing–such as analysis of character, mood, setting and plot development is much more involved and therefore more expensive than copyediting/proofreading. A good developmental editor can take a rough draft and craft it into literature and can guide you in your writing and choices as you go along. When searching for an editor, you will want to be clear about what exactly you are looking for, and expect to pay, for excellent work. You will also want to be sure to self-edit before engaging any editor, as you will be wasting the editor’s time (and your money) if they are tied up in the minutiae that could have been dealt with in advance. Experienced editors can be found online as well as through groups and publishers, and you will want them to come personally recommended or check out their new other clients and their work before signing on. Most will edit a page or section for you at a reasonable rate so that you both see if you will work well together. From debut novelists to best-selling authors, a good editor is a treasure, so while finding one who gels with you and your writing style may not be easy, it is a relationship worth nurturing over the long run.