Wanted: How to Find Your Best Editor


by Carla Douglas and C.K. Macleod

@CarlaJDouglas @CKMacleodWriter

This post appeared first at TheBookDesigner.com on January 28, 2015.


This past winter, New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Work Week) put out a call for a managing editor. Curious, we decided to see what kind of editorial help he was looking for, to determine if there might be lessons for self-pubs everywhere. After all, this is a guy who has figured out a few things about publishing.

So, what did Ferris do? He created a questionnaire that would help him find the best editor for his writing projects. In studying his questionnaire, we learned that a well-designed editor questionnaire requires the author to be clear on a few important points.

1. Know what kind of writing you need help with.

What motivated Ferriss to create a questionnaire? We’re willing to bet that he created it out of a practical need to meet a personal writing goal.

Ferriss has content that wasn’t included in his previous books, and he’s looking for a way to repurpose that content on his popular blog, which gets between 1.5 and 2 million readers per month. Michael Ellsberg, author of the Tim Ferriss Effect, suggests that blogs with large readerships can sometimes encourage more book sales for indie authors than traditional media outlets. Because Ferriss’ blog is one of his best book marketing tools, it makes sense for him to seek out an editor to help him manage it.

Tip: Set your writing goals with your book marketing plans in mind. Determine what kind of writing you’d like an editor to help you with, and then find an editor who has experience with that kind of writing.

2. Decide which tasks you’d like your editor to perform.

Ferriss is clear about the kinds of tasks he wants his editor to perform. What he may not realize is that he is asking for a

  • project manager (blog, podcast, social media platforms and other content)
  • social media coordinator (setting up interviews with celebrities, sourcing guest posts and podcast guests)
  • writer/content creator for upcoming book and video projects
  • ghostwriter or developmental editor for his newsletter
  • marketer (managing SEO, improving traffic)
  • stylistic editor
  • copyeditor
  • proofreader

Although Ferriss doesn’t explicitly ask for applicants with copyediting and proofreading skills, it’s implicit in his request that the successful candidate will manage other writers and the work they produce (he’s looking for a managing editor). Content quality will be an important aspect of management, and attention to copyediting and proofreading details ensures a good reader experience.

If you’ve been following our posts on this blog, you’ll know that Ferriss has hit on all four levels of editing in his questionnaire and job description (in addition to tasks that fall under the social media coordinator/ marketer umbrella — but we’ll focus on the editing tasks here).

While some editors do have experience with each kind of editing, they usually don’t perform all levels for one project. Why? If you’re doing a developmental edit on a piece of writing, at some point you’ll find that you’re no longer able to be objective because you’ll be editing your own writing. (Even editors need editors!) If timelines allow an editor to set a writing project aside for a “rest,” and if proofreading tools are part of an editor’s arsenal, then this problem is surmountable.

Tip: As much as you’d like your editor to be all things (and as much as an editor might wish to be all things), it might not be a reasonable expectation. List three essential tasks that you’ll require your editor to do. That will help you to pinpoint what kind of editor you’ll need.

Editors: More and more, editing can include a lot of nontraditional skills. Pay attention to what indie authors are asking for, and see if you can leverage your social media and tech skills.

3. Jot down a list of skills you’re looking for.

Once you’re clear on the tasks your ideal editor will do for you, think about the skills associated with those tasks.

Ferriss appears to be looking for an editor

  • who can manage multiple projects
  • with developmental editing skills
  • with strong writing skills
  • who can work to firm deadlines
  • who is familiar with WordPress
  • who has strong interpersonal skills

What skills are you looking for in your ideal editor? Take a few minutes to draft a list.

Tip: Use this list of skills to shape the job description of your ideal editor.

4. Find a way to assess an editor’s skills.

Publishing companies create tasks to assess an editor’s skills. Editors are often asked to complete a copyediting or proofreading test to be considered for an editing project. Ferriss assesses his ideal editor’s skills with his questionnaire. For example, he asks:

Please add links to the 2–3 most popular articles/posts you’ve written or edited (unique views or social shares). Include any key stats you can share.

Here, Ferriss’ request for writing samples indicates he’s looking for an editor with strong writing skills. Note, too, that social media is also important to Ferriss’ writing goals, so social shares serve as data that will help him assess an editor’s ability to get his writing in front of readers.

Ferris also asks, “what software or method do you prefer for organizing editorial calendars?” This is a smart question because it will help him find an editor with project management experience. There’s an added benefit, too: he’ll collect a whole list of tools used for successful project management. Even if he doesn’t hire an editor at the end of this process, he will have gathered valuable information. (By the way, we use Trello, Google Docs, and Google Sheets for writing project management. Feel free to add your favourite project management tools in the comments below).

Tip: Draft a list of questions that will encourage an editor to demonstrate or offer proof of an acquired skill. Also, consider what the responses to your questionnaire might teach you!

5. Set the tone for your working relationship.

Ferriss’ approach to finding an editor suggests it will be a wild and wonderful ride. He’s clear on his immovables (deadlines), but writes the job description in a humorous and casual way. This isn’t the job for every editor, but it could be a dream job for the right editor.

Written communication is the ideal medium for establishing the tone of a working relationship. After all, Ferriss’ editor will be working remotely—possibly on another continent—and much of their contact will likely be in writing. Ferriss needs to know if he and his editor are “reading” each other accurately.

We can’t overstate the importance of developing a good relationship—which begins with clear communication—with your editor. State clearly what you’ll expect and encourage candidates to do the same. Communication foul-ups can be costly, and heading these off at the pass can help ensure that both you and your editor are confident you’re working towards the same goals.

Tip: Be yourself. We’re not the first to note that the process of finding the right editor is a bit like online dating. If you have a corny sense of humor or you keep to a nocturnal schedule and expect replies to your email messages at three in the morning, don’t try to hide it. You have a better chance of finding the right person if you’re transparent from the start.

Why It’s Worth the Trouble

It does seem like a lot of trouble, doesn’t it—all this assessing, evaluating, clarifying, and finally communicating your requirements as you search for an editor. But consider the possible consequences if you don’t do your homework before handing your book to a stranger.

You are in a sense the project manager for your book or writing project, and it’s best you know everyone’s job description—including your own—from the start. Gathering and organizing this information will most certainly mean a better end product, and you can use it as a checklist for evaluating what kind of editing your project needs. Even if you never use it as a job ad per se, creating it will make you think about your writing more objectively and bring you closer to your writing goals.

Did Tim Ferriss find the editor of his dreams? Time will tell. You now know how to find yours.

Image by John Morton

5 Ways an Editor Is like a Dentist

by Carla Douglas and Corina Koch MacLeod
@CarlaJDouglas  @CKmacleodwriter

This post first appeared on August 6, 2014, at TheBookDesigner.com.

scary dentist
Image by Soxophone Player

Most of us look on a trip to the dentist with a mixture of guilt and dread: we know we need it, but it’s going to hurt. The sight of the needles, the sound of the drill and the thought of the final bill are enough to induce hyperventilation. Sadly, we’ve observed that some writers perceive editors the same way.

Don’t editors also probe and poke a little too deeply and strike a nerve when you least expect it? And don’t they tell you to rein in your head-hopping POV and avoid adverbs, just as a dentist will caution you about the perils of red wine and too much candy?

Now, we know that dentists provide essential and worthwhile services, and so do editors. They’re necessary, but they aren’t always pleasant. Just for fun, here are a few more ways an editor is like a dentist, along with some tips for getting the most out of an editing experience.

1. When needed, a dentist will refer you to a specialist. There are specialties in editing, too. Do you need your teeth straightened? Then you should see an orthodontist. But if your manuscript needs straightening? Ah—there’s an editorial equivalent: a structural editor. For cleaning and polishing? A dental hygienist…or a copyeditor and proofreader. Need a new set of teeth entirely? See a denturist…or perhaps you need a ghostwriter. The list goes on.

Ideally, when you choose an editor for a project, you’ll want someone who is familiar with your genre and with the kind of editing your book needs. Each kind of editing requires a special skill set. Most editors develop specialty subject areas and genres, and many will have an educational background that matches your requirements. The key is to conduct a thorough search for someone who has the experience and knowledge you’re looking for.

Tip: Look for an editor who has experience with the kind of book you’re writing and the kind of editing you need. Consult editors’ profiles at professional editing organizations for this information:

  • Editorial Freelancers Association
  • Editors’ Association of Canada
  • Institute for Professional Editors (Australia)
  • Society for Editors and Proofreaders

You can also ask authors whose books you admire to share the names of their editors. Improve your chances of getting the best editor for your book by selecting authors who write books in the same genre.

2. Dental work can be expensive, and so can editing. And for both, you can get a quote up front about exactly what work needs to be done and how much it will cost. Sometimes, though, in performing a service, a dentist will discover an underlying problem that will add to the total bill. That can be true for editing, too.

Tip: To prevent any surprises, ask your editor to tell you right away if she uncovers something in your manuscript that could cost you time or money later. The problem, once identified, might be something you can address on your own or with your editor’s help, early in the editing process.

3. Dentists perform extractions, and so do editors. In both cases, it can be painful, but it needn’t be. A good dentist will only extract a tooth when it’s absolutely necessary. She’ll offer and administer anesthetic and pain medication, and the result will be a healthier mouth. An editor may suggest that you cut out areas of text that are not working for the project as a whole. As painful as this may be, paring down almost always improves a book.*

For example, if there are many instances of telling instead of showing in your story—something that will most definitely cause readers to zone out—wouldn’t you want to know about it? It doesn’t feel great when an editor points this out, and getting that news will likely require some rewrites on your part. Dealing with the problem now may prevent you from wondering why your book isn’t selling later. Keep in mind, too, that a good editor will deliver news in a respectful and constructive way, with steps you can take to fix the problem.

Tip:  Be brave: ask your editor what’s not working in your story. The answer might mean more work for you, but it could also mean a better book. Remember, an editor reads with the reader in mind, but he also wants to help you to write your best book.

*You should probably not count on your editor for pain medication, although she might buy you a nice bottle of red when your manuscript is published. Don’t tell your dentist.

4. In dentistry and in editing, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Having regular check-ups and following your dentist’s advice about brushing and flossing can save you discomfort and money later on. You can say the same thing about editing. Here’s what an editor can do for you if you check in early—even before you begin your first draft. An editor can

  • help you structure your novel or nonfiction book, preventing hours of rewrites later
  • suggest other ways of presenting information that will be more accessible to the reader (nonfiction)
  • help you create a sample chapter (template) that you can pattern the rest of your chapters after
  • highlight quirks in your writing (we all have quirks), which, once identified, are easy enough for you to fix on your own
  • suggest resources that will help you improve your writing
Tip:  If you’re not sure what kind of editing you need, ask for a mini-manuscript evaluation. An editor can do an assessment of 50 pages of your writing that will tell you what you can do to improve your book, without the expense of a complete edit.
Dental Tools 1
Image by CircaSassy

5. Dentists have an abundance of tools at their disposal, and so do editors. If you walked into a dentist’s office and saw these  in your dentist’s toolkit, you’d probably turn and run. To stay current, dentists regularly invest in the best equipment and tools, and they also invest the time needed to learn to use them effectively.

Editors, too, invest time and money in tools and training. An editor’s toolkit, while just as varied as a dentist’s, is hopefully much less threatening. It’s possible to edit a manuscript without tools, but editing tools can make all the difference, as they help editors complete editing projects more quickly, accurately, and efficiently.

Tip: Writers can learn to use some of the tools that editors use. Some tools, like writing and editing macros, are free, and involve a willingness to try something new and a small amount of time (see this 20-minute macro course for a an effective tool that won’t take too much time to learn). Others will require some study and will cost money. All the editing tools automate tasks and can help you to improve the quality of your book.

Finally, there’s one important way an editor is not like a dentist: Your dentist will never encourage you to work collaboratively with him. He will never say, “Hey, why don’t I freeze your mouth, then I’ll give you the pliers and you can pull out that pesky tooth yourself. I’ll be right here if you need help.”

But an editor might. Hiring an editor doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. At least, at Beyond Paper, we don’t think so. We think editing can be a collaborative process between the author and editor.

Sure, you can hire an editor to fix your writing for you—which is traditionally what authors have done—but this option often costs more than a self-publishing author is willing or able to pay. When presented with the potential costs, self-publishing authors opt out of editing entirely, not realizing that there is another workable and affordable option.

Consider approaching editing in a new way: participate in the editing process by asking your editor to point out what needs to be fixed, and then do some of the fixing yourself with your editor’s guidance, if you like. If you’re willing to do some of the heavy lifting, this approach to editing can save you money on editing costs, and you’ll also gain valuable insights into your writing that you can apply to your next book.

Tip: Editors often know a great deal about how to make writing better, so don’t be afraid to tap into that knowledge and, in the process, acquire some of it yourself.

We’re fairly sure that we don’t need to convince you of the value of going to the dentist. Similarly, if money weren’t an issue, we think more self-publishing authors would avail themselves of editing services.

Bestselling books usually go through an editorial process that helps to create the best possible reading experience, and you’d probably like to provide your readers with a similar experience. If you’ve suspected that working with an editor may be more pain than you’re willing to endure, try suggesting a collaborative approach to editing. And don’t forget to floss.

5 Things Editors Know About Readers


by Carla Douglas and Corina Koch MacLeod
@CarlaJDouglas @ckmacleodwriter

This article first appeared February 4, 2014 on Pubslush.

If you’re planning to self-publish or if you’re thinking about it, you’re likely aware that you — and your book — will benefit if you work with an editor.

How do you know this? Well for one thing, it’s impossible to get near the subject of self-publishing in the blogosphere without someone telling you to hire an editor. This advice is hard to miss — like a flashing yellow light at a dangerous intersection. And self-pubs are getting the message and conscientiously seeking editorial services as part of the publishing process.

But beyond the fact that editors catch typos and fix rogue grammar mistakes, why should authors care about editing? There is one reason, and to overlook it is risky.

You care about your readers. You want to give them a good reading experience and leave a good impression by meeting their expectations.

What exactly do readers expect when they read a book?

Editors know what readers expect. Why? The publishing industry has established these expectations over time and readers have internalized them. As publishing professionals, editors are privy to these expectations.

Here are five things editors know about readers:

1. Readers are more likely to finish your book if they read it “in flow.” There is no longer such thing as 100 percent distraction-free reading. When readers read a book on a tablet or smartphone, they can be summoned off-book at any minute by a text message or a Facebook alert. Authors are competing for reader attention.

For this reason, authors need to know the secrets to writing in a way that grips their readers — that keeps them in flow for as long as possible. They need to know how to pace a story to avoid lulls, and establish POV in a manner that allows readers to track seamlessly with characters. They also need to know what style decisions to make, so they don’t distract readers from the meaning-making process of reading. Editors know what trips readers.

2. Readers like all the essential parts of a book to be there, such as correctly styled headings to guide them through large swaths of text, or images, tables, and charts to illustrate or explain difficult concepts. Readers like familiar signposts — such as paragraph indents, or a row of space between paragraphs, to break up the text.

Ebooks are different from print books, and they operate differently, too. Editors know which features are essential in ebooks, and which features belong in print books, or work better elsewhere.

3. Readers like things to be where they expect them to be and to act as they expect them to act. If you like to get a sense of the topics in a book before you read it, you’ll likely consult the table of contents at the front, where you expect it to be.

In ebooks, a properly designed table of contents can always be accessed from the table of contents menu on an e-reader from anywhere in the ebook. If it isn’t there, readers have no options for navigating your book. There are other features that need to behave in predictable ways in ebooks, too, and editors know what these features are and how they’re supposed to work.

4. Readers don’t want to work harder than they have to. There are many things that authors inadvertently do to make readers work too hard, and some readers will just give up. Editors know that readers hate having to stop and figure out who is saying what in dialogue. Sometimes authors use style features (italics), or apply style rules (capitalization), in unconventional ways. These features and rules mean something to readers, and when they are used in unexpected ways, it can cause readers to pause and lose reading momentum.

Your writing and style choices should be clear, predictable, and consistent, and at their very best, completely transparent. If readers forget they are reading, you have done an exquisite job as a writer.

5. They may not say it in this way, but your readers will expect your book to have style. Editing is all about style — the decisions you need to make for the best possible reading experience. Editors are stylists who can show you how to make those decisions.Addressing reader expectations can make for a satisfying read and a satisfied reader. How do you find out what these expectations are so you can meet them? You can read lots of style guides, or you can ask an editor to help you.

Image by Living in Monrovia

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Don’t Touch My Words: How to Tell if You Have a Good Editor


 by Corina Koch MacLeod

What amazes and delights me most about working with self-pubs is how no two voices are alike. Your writing voice, like a thumb print, is uniquely yours. And it is what will make your book like no other.

An experienced editor knows that it’s never a good a idea to mess with a author’s voice. How do you know if your editor is experienced?

Here’s a test:

Every change an editor suggests needs to be

  • just that — a suggestion — one that the author can accept or reject.
  • as minimal as possible (hat tip to science editor, Adrienne Montgomerie for capturing this point so succinctly).
  • defensible — an editor must have a good reason for suggesting the change if the author wants clarification.

So, experienced editors make suggestions that will have the least amount of impact on your writing. In fact, they want your writing to be showcased in the best possible way. They can also tell you why they’ve made a particular suggestion, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Note: Because editors are often writers, too, they need to constantly check themselves when they suggest changes to authors. It can be tempting for editors to rewrite something because that’s how they’d write it, but this approach doesn’t serve the author at all.

Don’t Touch My Words

You don’t have to agree with every change your editor suggests, but I’d like to point out that sometimes an editor will suggest a change that looks like it’s “messing with your words,” or manner of expression, when it really isn’t.

Allow me to explain. A self-publishing nonfiction author we’re working with at Beyond Paper has a goal to make his book — which is on a complex topic, with lots of technical terminology — accessible to his readers, who quite possibly have learning disabilities. That goal has required us to make editing suggestions that will make this book easier to read for his niche audience.

He has a soothing and assuring writing voice that will win the reader’s trust, so, together, we need to preserve this voice while meeting the needs of his readers. Here are some of the changes that we’ve suggested and demonstrated:

Suggested Changes

  • Trimming words that make sentences longer, but don’t add to the sentence’s meaning (Jim Taylor, of 8-Step Editing fame calls this “taking out the trash”) 
  • Inserting a word or phrase for clarity
  • Moving a word to a different place in a sentence to create a better reading flow or rhythm
  • Shuffling the parts of a sentence
  • Changing the order of sentences in a paragraph

    *Note: these changes are “paragraph-level” changes. We explain the different levels of editing a document typically goes through at the Book Designer blog.

    Track Changes or Scene of a Crime?

    The edited document arrived in the author’s email inbox with changes tracked, but you know Word. Even a minimal number of changes marked using Word’s Track Changes feature can make a manuscript look like a graphic crime scene in the first chapter of a whodunit.

    So we sent two documents: one with the changes accepted and one with the changes marked up. We asked the author to read the changes-accepted document first, with these questions in mind: Does it sound like you when you read it? Will your readers be able to better understand what they read?

    If the author answers yes, we’ve done our job. We have preserved the author’s voice. The author can then look at the tracked changes document so see how we’ve done that.

    Set a Goal for Your Book

    It’s possible to make changes (touch your words) without touching an author’s voice or manner of expression. In the example above, the author had to decide if we had preserved his voice, and if every change we suggested was in line with the goal of his book project, which was to make a book on a complex subject more readable for his intended audience.

    And that leads me to my final point: What is the goal for your book? Is it to created a fast-paced story for the kind of reader who will expect that? Even a fiction book should have a goal—a goal set with the reader in mind.

    Your editing goals also need to be in line with your book’s goal. And any editor who tries to help you accomplish your book’s goal, while leaving your voice in tact, is, in my opinion, a good editor.

    Image by Alan Cleaver

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    Self-Pubs: Is Your Editor Trying to Tell You Something?


    by Carla Douglas

    Image by Twerksome21 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    There’s an article that’s been making the rounds with editors over the past week – 10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You — But Should, by Tanya Egan Gibson in Writer’s Digest. In it, she hits every note in the editor-author songbook, from describing what different levels of editing involve to identifying the often unspoken understanding that “the editor’s job is to make your book the best it can be.”
    Many editors who read this piece said they would recommend it to their clients. Many also said they wished they’d written it themselves. Editors know how important clear editor-author communication is, but that doesn’t mean they always achieve it. Unspoken expectations on both sides of this relationship – about fees, timelines, who is responsible for what – can lead to disastrous results, and both parties pay a price.
    Between points 1 and 10, Gibson raises the delicate question of whether or how well editors are able to provide the kind of honest criticism that is as difficult to deliver as it is to receive – the news that an author’s work might not be ready for publication. If, after all, both editor and author agree that the editor’s job is to make the book the best it can be, then they may also tacitly agree that it is the editor’s job to bring the book up to scratch.  
    But never mind publishing. What if the author’s manuscript is not ready for editing?
    The same day that Gibson’s article appeared in Writer’s Digest, Catherine Ryan Howard, at her self-publishing blog Catherine, Caffeinated, published the results of a poll that asked: Do you read self-published books differently? The answer? A resounding “yes.” Howard suggests that reasons might include obvious errors (typos? formatting?) and the impression that the book was not finished. In other words, Howard’s respondents regard self-published books as WIPs. Ah.
    I learned of this survey in an online group, where editors discuss (mostly) work-related topics, and this subject comes up again and again. Typically, someone will query the other editors, asking for an opinion about how to handle an aspect of a manuscript. Inevitably, options and opinions go back and forth until someone says, “It sounds like this manuscript wasn’t ready for editing,” and the one who queried replies, “I have tried to tell the author it needs more work, but he/she insists it’s ready and wants to move ahead.”   
    Response to Howard’s poll in the editors’ group was even more pointed. Many agreed that they receive manuscripts that need considerably more work before they’re edited, but that eager authors just aren’t receiving the message that their money might be better spent initially on writers’ workshops or courses. They would rather take the exotic route, it seems, and use feedback from reader reviews to revise their work after they’ve published it.   
    There are lots of options out there for writers who want to perfect their skills. They focus on mechanics and other aspects of writing and also offer constructive feedback – writers’ groups and workshops, classes, online courses and writing coaches, to name a few. There are platforms such as Wattpad, where you can post your work and receive feedback before you publish your book. Litreactor is another online writing community offering workshops and classes. Many editors will provide an express manuscript evaluation, assessing a portion of your book and pointing out where and how it can be improved.
    Editing is expensive. Self-published authors who invest in professional editing are hoping for a return on this investment, but this is less likely to happen if they haven’t also invested the time it takes to improve their craft. Editors can and want to help, but can only do this effectively if authors are willing to take the additional steps required to make their work shine. It’s a conversation. Editors, speak up! Authors, are you listening?

    Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously credited Brian Klems as the author of 10 Things Your Freelance Editor Might Not Tell You — But Should. Apologies to Tanya Egan Gibson.

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    Image by Bev Sykes (CC BY 2.0)

    by Corina Koch MacLeod

    Should you hire an editor to edit your manuscript? What does it mean to have a manuscript professionally edited?

    The editor’s role
    An editor’s job is to act as an informed reader. If an author is open to it, an editor can reveal issues in a piece of writing that might get in the way of the reader’s enjoyment. Sometimes, though, an editor will see things in a manuscript that an author is not willing or able to address. That’s when things get tricky. Allow me to explain by way of analogy:

    When you hire a painter to paint the ceiling and walls of your kitchen, you expect her to… paint your kitchen! Imagine your surprise if you arrive home from work and your painter has painted your bathroom.

    “But I wanted you to paint my kitchen,” you say.

    “Have you seen your bathroom walls? They’re in terrible shape. They needed a coat of paint more than your kitchen did,” says the painter.

    I’d bet that you wouldn’t be too happy with your painter.

    What if your painter actually did set out to paint your kitchen, but noticed a water leak in the ceiling. Would you want the painter to paint over the water leak (you’ve hired her to paint, remember), or would you want her to tell you about the leak so you can have it repaired before she paints?

    Sometimes, an editor can see the water leaks in your manuscript — even if you’re not prepared or able to deal with them. But because you’re the customer and the customer is always right, an editor will generally try to do the job you’ve agreed upon.

    Kinds of editing
    Editors view manuscripts differently than authors do. They are trained to assess the kind of editing that’s needed. For example, editors ask themselves

    • Does this need a big-picture edit? Are there issues with plot, pacing, characterization, point-of-view? Are there lapses in logic that need to be addressed? (developmental edit)
    • Are there issues with dialogue? Sentence structure? Transitions? Do sentences need to be rewritten? Do paragraphs need to be moved around? (stylistic edit)
    • Does the manuscript need to be checked for correct word usage, punctuation, consistency, capitalization and spelling? (copyedit)
    • Does the manuscript need to be checked for reading distractions in its final environment – on a Kindle, if it’s ebook-bound, or in a PDF, if it’s print-bound? (proofread)

    What’s required
    A structural edit often requires an author to so some rewriting and perhaps even some fact checking. A stylistic edit may require the author and editor to do some sentence smoothing. An editor can generally manage a straight copyedit or proofread without the author’s involvement. If an author has an unlimited editing budget and the editor is following a logical process, big-picture and paragraph issues are often addressed before consistency and punctuation…

    Except most authors don’t have unlimited budgets…

    Working within a budget
    Editors know that authors don’t have an unlimited amount of money to spend on a writing project. Authors can help editors by establishing their expectations for a project and editors can help authors by asking questions that will help to establish those expectations.

    Questions an editor should ask
    Your editor should ask you questions that will help her to understand your expectations.
    Here are seven of my editing colleagues’ favourite questions:

    1. How much time are you still willing to put into this manuscript?
    2. Is there any aspect of your book that you’re still not sure of? (plot, characters, point-of-view, etc.)
    3. Who do you think will read your book?
    4. What is your intention in writing this book? What message do you want to leave with your readers?
    5. Are you planning on publishing your book? What are your plans for publishing? (self-publishing/ebook, print-on-demand, traditional publishing)
    6. What is your timeline?
    7. What is your budget?

    *Some questions were adapted from An Editor’s Guide to Working with Authors, by Barbara Sjoholm. See Sjoholm’s book for an exhaustive list of questions that editors can ask authors.

    If your editor forgets to ask you questions that get at your expectations, it’s in your best interest to volunteer this information unless of course, you’re okay with having your bathroom painted.

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