I’ve been writing and publishing books for nearly two decades. I love all aspects of writing, as well as helping other writers. When I work with new writers, I tell them to follow the Magic 3 Rule: Write your manuscript. Edit your manuscript. Put it in a desk drawer for one month—preferably two. Pull it out and look at it with fresh eyes, and do a second edit. Once done, the third and final edit should be completed by a professional copy editor.
I also tell new writers that the only phase within the writing process that they should ever spend money on is the editing process (not agents or writing contests). Finding the right editor is equivalent to hitting the lottery in this industry.
Your editor should be someone who enjoys your work, but can still prove honest and critical; someone better at the mechanics of writing than you are; someone who is not simply feeding his or her ego. Some editors believe that your work is not complete until their hand—or the hand of God—touches it. Steer clear of these people. Intentions are everything here. You need a second set of professional eyes, though—and please be sure to appreciate every second they put into your work—but you also want someone who is fair. If an editor does not appreciate your style or voice, how can they help better your work?
Today, a copy editor worth his or her salt will charge anywhere from $3 – $5 per double-spaced page. It’s a lot of work, so it costs money. Some people try to haggle because the manuscript is double-spaced. Don’t do that. The price takes that into consideration.
There are lots of good editors out there, and I strongly urge that you hire one of them before you send your manuscript to any agent or publisher. It is not difficult to tell manuscripts that have been professionally edited from manuscripts that have not. In an industry where first impressions are everything, make the investment in your work.
What journey does your manuscript take while you’re at home pacing the carpet? A line-by-line edit for grammar, punctuation and sentence structure (composition). A good editor will also give notes on story gaps (inconsistencies and continuity), as well as character development, scene set up, dialogue and overall plot.
It’s up to you to do what you want with the notes, but weigh each one before you dismiss it. A worthy editor will make herself available for questions and minor edits once she’s sent the manuscript back to the writer. The editor who chooses to cut you off when they’re done is not someone you want to work with. Furthermore, a good editor will not get defensive if you ask her lots of questions. If she does, it’s another red flag.
Please don’t send out a manuscript with a coffee stain, dog-eared pages, and three different shades of paper—even to an editor. This says something about how you view your work. And aside from ratty-looking manuscripts, there are other common mistakes that you should absolutely avoid. With today’s technology, there is absolutely no excuse for misspelled words.
I’ve learned that the best way to find an editor is through referrals. If you’ve written a horror book make sure the editor you choose likes that particular genre. Many people actually don’t check for this. Seriously, you won’t get a fair edit if you don’t do your homework.
The editing process can be a scary experience when you first get started, but it’s necessary to succeed in this business. For my last two books, Twelve Months & Goodnight, Brian, I wouldn’t have been as nearly successful without my copy editor’s keen eye. Trust me, when my publisher sent me to her I didn’t realize that I’d just hit the lottery!
Steve Manchester is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of his works. Steve’s next book, The Rockin’ Chair, will be out on June 18. You can learn more at our website.