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

How to Write a Quality Book Fast


by Corina Koch MacLeod

There has been a bit of buzz recently about authors who can write a book collaboratively in six weeks or by themselves in nine weeks. How do they do it? 

Getting a book from idea to ebook can happen fairly quickly, particularly if you know how to create an efficient writing and publishing workflow (I wrote the first draft of the book on the left in about 10 hours and completed the rest of the process in nine weeks).

1. Have a System 

To get a book to publication quickly, it helps to know the essential steps in the idea-to-ebook process. As both an author and editor, I’ve discovered a few efficiencies that can save you time in the writing and publishing process.

Here are the steps as I follow them:

  • Collaborate (optional)
  • Brainstorm
  • Research
  • Organize
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Add Images (optional)
  • Clean Up
  • Format
  • Proofread
  • Create a Cover
  • Publish

You don’t always have to follow these steps in order, but if your steps are orderly and logical, it’ll help you to be more efficient.

2. Use Efficiency Tools

You’ll be more efficient at writing books if you use the right tools for the job. Scrivener, for example, is a wonderful drafting tool that can help you organize a potentially unwieldy book. Trust me, it’s never good news to discover at the editing stage that your book’s structure isn’t working. If you use an organization tool like Scrivener early in the process, you can sort out any structural issues at the beginning, long before the editing stage (where they can become costly). Scrivener can benefit writers in other ways, too. (See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast for more details).

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft Word is currently the best tool for the editing stage of your publishing process (I’m hoping that the creators of Scrivener will remedy that). You may not agree with me, but in Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I think I make a pretty good case for why you might want to have Word in your writer’s toolkit. I also recommend over 30 free and inexpensive tools that writers can use to create quality books efficiently.

A Caveat

It’s one thing to publish quickly, and quite another to publish well. Quality matters, and it’s important that you don’t sacrifice quality for speed. Your readers won’t care how long it took you to produce your book—but they will care whether your book is good. I believe that creating a quality book fast is within every author’s reach. Your “fast” might not be my “fast,” but there are ways to create better books faster.

Want to know more about how to create a quality book efficiently? Curious about how Scrivener and other tools can help you do that? Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast is a quick read, and you’ll find it on Amazon and  Kobo for $0.99 during NaNoWriMo. 

Related Posts
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5 File Management Tips From the Pros


by Corina Koch MacLeod

Image by Akaitori (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When you’re writing a book, you can generate a lot of files. I don’t know about you, but I have this overwhelming impulse to save every file version, back up every version, and to be safe, back up the back-ups. It’s no wonder, then, that files multiply like rabbits. And when that happens, so much can go wrong … like working on the wrong file, or overwriting the most current version of a book chapterone that you spent three hours agonizing over. Kill me now.

In a previous post, I described 6 principles for managing book files. Since then, Carla and I have consulted our colleagueseditors from the Editorial Freelancers Association and the Editors’ Association of Canadato see if we could glean some additional tips for you.

How do you manage your files? we asked. Here is how they answered:

1. Have a system.

Each file that you work on will need a label. And you’ll have less trouble finding files if you label your files consistently, and in a systematic way. So, how do you label your files? Read on…

2. Initial them.

If more than one person is working on your book files (if you’re collaborating with a co-author or if you’re working with beta reviewers or an editor), have each person attach their initials to the file name after they’ve worked on the file.



…and later

BestbookeverCKM_CD.docx (author, editor)

3. Date them.

Sure, most computer operating systems will include a date tag with each file you create, but not everyone knows where to look for this option. To determine the most recent file at a glance, include the date in your file name.




BestbookeverCKM080913.docx (day, month, year)

…or some other iteration that makes sense to you.

4. Number them.

If you’re working on a book-length work, or a course, you may want to split your project into chapters or modules. Number each chapter or module alphanumerically, so you can find it quickly.




5. Colour-code them.

Some editors colour-code files for each book project they’re working on. You can too. If you have a Mac, you have a built-in option of colour coding your files (lucky you!). If you have a PC, you can install software that allows you to colour code your files:

Folder Marker ($19.95 USD)
Folder Colorizer (free)

6. Back them up.

Now that you have your files labeled, back them up. No, really. Do it. Editors have lots of ways of backing up their files. Choose a method that works for you:

There is no one right way to manage your files. The key is to come up with a system that makes sense to you, and that will prevent you from losing your work (and your mind).

Many thanks to our editing colleagues at the EAC and the EFA for sharing tips on file management.

Related Posts

Weathering a File Storm: 6 Principles for Managing Book Files
How to Avoid Amateur Writing Mistakes
From Manuscript to Published: 8 Steps to Publishing Your Ebook
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10 Last-Minute Publishing Tasks Every Author Should Know About


by Corina Koch MacLeod
Updated February 2014

Image by cumi&ciki (CC BY 2.0)

You’ve finished your book. Congratulations! Perhaps you’ve even had the foresight to hire or acquire a copyeditor to check your book for accuracy (grammatical and otherwise), consistency, clarity and typos. It’s time to hit Publish and uncork that bottle of champagne, right?

Um… maybe not yet. (Sorry).

If your manuscript still lives in Microsoft Word, there’s a lot you need to do to your manuscript and outside of your manuscript before you hit Publish. I know, right? No one ever tells you this. And like a really punishing fitness class with a sadistic instructor, when you think you have one more set to grunt your way through, you discover you actually have ten. (Kill me now.)

Because I’m not a sadistic sort of instructor, I’ll list for you the ten sets you need to complete before you hit Publish. Put that bottle of champagne back in the fridge (it’ll keep), grab some water and remember to breathe. Knowing what in you’re in for will help to alleviate the stress you will feel around those last-minute publishing tasks.

1. Decide how you’d like to publish your book. Do you know your publishing options? Will you produce an ebook? A print book? Both? You’ll need to know something about your potential readership to make this decision. If your readers are not likely to own an e-reader, you may consider using a print-on-demand (POD) service like CreateSpace so that you can make print books available to them.

You’ll also need to consider the kind of book you’ve written. Some kinds of books work better as print books, while others work nicely in print and ebook formats. 
Also, think about what you can do to help book sales. If you’re a healthcare professional who has just written a book on seasonal affective disorder, you might want to have print copies on hand to make available to people you interact with you on a daily basis.
2. Decide where you’d like to sell your book. If you’ve chosen to produce an ebook, you’ll need to decide if you’re going to make it available on one of the many ebook retail sites: Kindle, Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press (Barnes & Noble), Smashwords, Lulu, Bookbaby, and the list goes on. Each ebook distributor has specific ebook file requirements (epub, mobi, PDF), so it makes sense to decide who you’d like go with at the outset. Print options include CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and Lulu, among others.
3. Format your book for your distributor. Each ebook distributor and POD service has specific requirements for submitting files to their service (see our Amazon cheat sheet and the Lulu cheat sheet for details). You’ll need to format your Word file to those specifications. So, for example, if you’re submitting your book to CreateSpace for printing, you’ll need to submit a PDF, and if you’re submitting an ebook file to Kobo, you’ll need to figure out how to get your Word doc into the epub file format that Kobo accepts. 
I’ve written a few tutorials on how to get your book from Word to epup using Sigil, a free epub editor. Jutoh can help you create epubs and mobi files with relative ease. Joel Friedlander and Tracy R. Atkins have created book design templates that can help you create beautiful print and ebook interiors. If that’s too techy for you, you can hire an ebook serviceformatter or book designer to do some or all of the formatting for you.
4. Create a book cover. A good cover looks professional and is legible as a thumbnail. If you can manage to create a professional cover within these parameters on your own, go for it. If you need help, consider following Derek Murphy’s (Microsoft Word) or Aubrey Watt’s (GIMP) cover design tutorials, using cover templates from Creativindie, or hiring a cover designer to help you with this process.

5. Finalize your book title. There is a lot to consider in creating a good book title. In short, readers should be able to tell what your book is about by reading your title (and gleaning clues from your cover design) and your title ideally needs to contain keywords that will make your book discoverable by your readers.
6. Promote your book. That’s right  before you hit Publish, heck, two months before launch day, you need to promote your book. If you have an author platform, like a blog or a website, post your final cover (with your final book title) so your readers can begin to get excited about it. They’ll also know what they’re looking for when they go online to purchase a copy.  
Blog about topics related to your book to build anticipation. For example, if you’ve written a cookbook, blog about special ingredients you like to use in the recipes in your cookbook. Offer a sample recipe for prospective readers to try and comment on. Discuss special cooking techniques. If readers like what they see on your author platform, they will be more likely to buy your book.
7. Build your book page. If you’ve decided which book distributor you’re going to go with, you need to create a book page for each distributor’s website so readers can get a sense of what your book is about. By way of example, here’s our book page on Smashwords, and again on CreateSpace for one of our books. Building a book page requires you to write a book description. There are lots of opinions on how best to do this, but in the end, your goal is to write a book description that will match what your prospective readership is looking for. 
8. Build your author page. Distributors, like Amazon and Smashwords, will sometimes give you an opportunity to build an author page (here’s mine on Smashwords) that links to your book page. Consider putting some time into building your author page. Readers will sometimes buy a book because they like the author.
9. Upload and check your book. You’re nearly there when you upload your book to your chosen distributor. But before you hit Publish, be sure to proofread your book in its final environment (on an e-reader or in print). You can proofread your book using this proofreading checklist, or you can hire a proofreader (yup, that’s us!) to do it for you. Whatever you do, don’t skip the proofreading step. Your readers are worth that last push of effort.

10. Choose key words for your book. There is an art and a science to choosing keywords for your book so readers can find it with a Google search or on a distributor’s website. This post by David Woghan explains what you need to consider.

And *now* you can hit Publish  and grab that bottle of champagne. It should be nicely chilled by now.
What else should be on this last-minute task checklist? Feel free to comment.

Weathering a File Storm: 6 Principles for Managing Book Files

Image by Michael Cory (CC BY 2.0)

by Corina Koch MacLeod

Are you working with an editor on your book? If so, good for you. You’re brave: handing your potential gem over for a good polishing. Your readers will thank you, and they might even thank you in sales.

If you’ve hired an editor to do some work on your manuscript, and if that work requires more than a copyeditsections of your book need reordering, or sentences and paragraphs need rewriting—(see this post for the various kinds of editing), files will be flying around. Truly. You will find yourself in a file storm. So, how do you tame that tempest, and keep track of all the versions of your book’s files?

Your editor can help you with this. Here are few principles that will prevent the worst case scenario: working on the wrong file. Gasp. Wither. Yep, we’ve all done it.

Principles for File Management

1. Consider a split. If your book chapters need to be reordered, and the chapters reworked, your editor may split your book into individual chapters for the time being so that reordering is possible later on, and so you can work on your manuscript in manageable chunks. Roll with it. Splitting up a book is especially necessary if you’re lucky enough to find an editing service (like ours!) that has two editors (two sets of eyes, two brains, two skill sets) working on your manuscript.

2. Allow your editor to name your files in a way that makes sense for now. For example, Ch1Anti-aging Solutions. The file name will contain just enough information for an editor to remember its contents. This will be important for reordering chapters later on. Trust your editor’s file naming choices and don’t change the file name.

3. Be prepared to do a little more work.
When an editor does a pass of a chapter, she will make changes right in the text, with Word’s tracking feature on, so you can see and approve (or reject) those changes. 
Word’s Tracking and Comments features
Your editor may also write comments or queries in the margins, using Word’s Comments feature. This is your book, and an editor who is determined to keep it so will bring to your attention decisions that only you can make. These queries need to be addressed by you, and in most cases, you’ll address them right in the text. I’m sorry to say that queries often mean more work for you, the author, and when you’re not in the “I just want to be done with this” mind set, you’ll be glad your editor asked you to make these decisions. 
4. Make changes in the right file, and check with your editor if you’re not sure which file you should be working in. Your editor will be happy to tell you if you’ve forgotten or misunderstood his instructions. Never go back to the files on your computer to make changes. Once you’ve sent those files to your editor, they’re yesterday’s news. If an editor has done a pass on a file, it becomes the most current file, you need to work in that file, too.
5. Only make the changes your editor asks you to make. Imagine if you hired someone to paint a really big room that took two days to paint. If, after the first day of painting, you decide to spackle parts of the wall that had already gotten a coat of paint, your painter, upon arrival the next morning, will surely be frustrated with you. By all means, make changes in files that your editor has not seen. But as soon as you release a file to your editor and your editor has worked on it, you need to put down your spackling tool. From here on in, only make changes to the parts of your manuscript that your editor has flagged for you.

6. Add your initials to the file name. After you’ve made changes to the file, save the file and add your initials to the file name. For example, Ch1Anti-agingSolutionsCKM. This will let your editor know, at a glance, that you were the last person to work on this file.

File Management Systems

Every editor has her way of transferring and managing files. Check with your editor to see what method she uses. She may handle files by email, use an FTP client, or use file sharing sites like Dropbox or Google Drive. Ask your editor where you need to pick up files and what you need to do with files once you’ve made your changes. Being clear on these two things can help you both to weather the file management storm.
Editors: What file management system do you use? 
Authors: Have you worked with an editor who used a particularly useful file management system? 

We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

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From Manuscript to Published: 8 Steps to Publishing Your eBook

The Kindle Reader (A Young Girl Seated), after Renoir
Image by Mike Licht (CC BY 2.0)
by Corina Koch MacLeod

Have you noticed? It’s getting easier for authors to publish ebooks on their own. 

In a context where publishing experts continue to insist that you need to hire a professional for everything from formatting to cover design, is DIY even possible? 
Yes it is. Book distributors like Amazon, Smashwords and Lulu are trying their best to make the process of getting a manuscript from a word processing program to an ebook as simple as possible.

In fact, Amazon has most recently attempted to demystify cover design for authors, with their new cover creator. That’s right: distributors are creating free tools with authors in mind and it’s in their best interest to continue to do so.

If you’re self-publishing, you’ll be most successful if you model your steps after the tried-and-true steps used in the book publishing industry. Here’s how the ebook production process generally works:
  1. Write your manuscript in your word processing software. 
  2. Edit your work or hire someone to edit it for you.
  3. Clean up your manuscript in your word processing software by getting rid of any “typewriter formatting.”
  4. Upload your manuscript to your chosen distributor using their online conversion software, ensuring that you’re following their formatting guidelines (Smashwords, Amazon, Lulu). This is important because every distributor’s conversion software has its quirks. Remember, you can take the easy road: if a distributor allows you to upload a doc file, do that, unless you’re a tech wizard and know how to hand code an ebook (then do that).
  5. Proofread the converted ebook file and make any changes in your word processing document. You can also hire a professional proofreader for this step. Upload your corrected manuscript.
  6. Create a cover. Consider checking out Amazon’s new cover creator, so you know what’s involved in designing a cover, or if designing is not your forté, hire someone to do it for you. 
  7. Fill out your metadata so readers can find your book, and write a book description that will compel them to read it.
  8. Click on publish (and throw a party).
Over the next month or two, I’ll unpack these steps for you. For now, click on the links in each step to get a sense of what each step entails. Sure, publishing a book is a learning curvebut you just wrote a book. That’s a huge accomplishment. If you can write a book, you can publish one.

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Pin-spiration for Writers

by Corina Koch MacLeod


According to Forbes, Pinterest was one of the fastest growing social media platforms in 2012.

Image by Peter Alfred Hess (CC BY 2.0)Pinterest allows you to create online pin boards – not unlike the cork boards of yesteryear (minus the push pins and the terror of sticking yourself) – that enable you to collectorganize and store images that interest you. One writer recently described Pinterest as “my mom’s fridge door … gone online.” That says it just about perfectly.
Why is it so popular?
In a sea of words, a beautifully crafted image can be an island oasis. Images can convey a great deal of information with impressive economy, and arguably make welcome demands on our word-saturated brains. Where tweets are the shorthand of the blog form, a “pin” is a world of meaning at a glance.
How is it used?
Interior designers collect images of furniture, fabric, wallpaper and accessories that inspire them, authors gather images that elicit time and place of a published or current writing project, publishers create boards that feature book covers and images related to book themes, and artists showcase online “sketch” books.
Pinterest and writing?
As discussed in this post, writers are sometimes at a loss for what to write. Why not steal a trick from artists and designers and begin an inspiration board? As you collect images that inspiresurprise and yes, even disturb you, you’ll get a better sense of the inner workings of your writing brain.
Writers know that it’s easiest to write about what you care about, what excites you, what distresses you, what interests you and what you know. Gathering images that reflect these sentiments is one way of breaking past barriers to writing. It’s also a productive form of procrastination.
 Try this:
Set a timer for five minutes. Pin as many images as you can. At the end of five minutes, choose one image to focus on. Why did you choose that image? What does it make you think about or feel? Now write about it.

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