You’ve finished your book, completed your marketing material or are looking for some help with your PhD thesis. Now you’ve got to find an editor / proofreader / wordy wordsmith.
It’s a tough decision. First you have to find them. You can find an editor (let’s just call them editors so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time) in a variety of ways. You can find them through:
word of mouth
places like writers’ groups
or you can actually go straight to society directories (such as the SfEP directory).
I’m sure there are other ways to find an editor. If you use a different way be sure to let me know in the comments below.
Finding an editor can be equally tough if you are not sure exactly what you want. Let’s face it, unless you’re an expert at something, you rarely know exactly what you want and will rely on expert guidance. Do you really know if you need an edit or a proofread? (Hint: unless you have your material completely finished and ready to go, it won’t be a proofread you’re after).
So, let’s imagine you’ve trawled through the available resources and have decided that there are one or two (or more) editors who fit your profile – they are qualified, knowledgeable in your area and fit your budget. (Hint: cheapest is rarely best).
How on earth do you choose which one to work with?
Do you choose the most qualified?
The one nearest to where you live?
See? It’s a tough decision. One editor may offer incentives (price plans, bundles and packages, discounts), another may just offer one or two services, whereas another may be so highly qualified you think you’ll never be able to afford them or fit into their schedule. If you are a business, budget may be less of a problem but timescale may be – do you choose the one who can deal with you straight away or wait until the one you really think you could work with has an opening in their schedule?
Here’s a thought – how about also finding one you enjoy working with?
When it comes down to it, once you have your shortlist you could procrastinate until it’s too late to book any of your preferred choices. Remember, good editors usually get booked up pretty quickly and may only be able to fit you in at short notice if they have a project timeline slide.
You will have chosen your shortlist to criteria of some sort, but now is the time to see if you can actually work with them.
How many people actually do their homework when choosing who to work with? You could find that someone who fits your profile academically is a nightmare to work with. Come on, we’ve all had that brilliant colleague who has the personality of a robot, or the colleague who seems mediocre on paper but is a delight to work with.
While qualifications are important, you also need to be able to feel comfortable with your editor.
This is why it is so important to start a dialogue with the editors you choose.
Talk to them.
Ok, email them. Whatever, but do talk to them.
Right at the outset, when you send that first enquiry, you need to talk about what you think you need, ask for their advice and see where you fit into their schedule.
How do you feel when you talk to them? Gut instinct can work here, but do you feel comfortable with the conversation.
How will they work on your writing? Do your ideas and theirs mix well?
Do they seem to know what they’re talking about? They should, but do they communicate it well too?
Are they too technical? Would they mind explaining things or do you think they are used to working with more technical clients.
This may be a teensy bit controversial … but …
If you don’t feel comfortable with the level of communication you probably won’t feel comfortable with the editing process.
You don’t have to LIKE your editor, but you do need to be COMFORTABLE working with them.
Some people prefer a more formal editor/client relationship.
Some people like a more informal set-up.
Now, don’t get me wrong, most professionals can work either way, becoming more formal when the occasion demands, or more conversational when it’s preferred. Hell, even I can scrub up and do the formal thing when needed.
But the working relationship, no matter what that might be, needs to be something you can live with. Sometimes hiring an editor is a one-off, but for many writers or businesses it becomes an ongoing relationship that can last a long time. Talking to your editor shouldn’t be a thing of dread, you should look forward to working with them and allowing them to help you hone your writing.
Here are three ways you can figure out if you’ll get on:
Some editors have swanky websites, some don’t, but you should be able to get a bit of personality and information from their sites. It’s not the be-all and end-all of a working relationship, but it’s common sense to check them out.
You may gauge something of their working agendas, their specialities and affiliations. If someone highlights their academic work, they may not readily take on your work of high fiction.
You may also get a shock and find out your editor has green hair, and you have to ask yourself if you could work with such a non-conformist.
Before making a firm decision ask them questions about how they’ll work with you, what level of editing they think you need, where you can fit into their schedule and timescale. You should, through conversation, be able to figure out whether you’ll be able to work together.
Does their work seem to tie in with yours, or if not are they interested in your type of writing? Going by someone’s past work isn’t always an indicator of their future work. There may be good reasons that there’s little information on their website about the type of work they have done in the past. For example I have a portfolio, but it by no means shows all my past work – working with individuals and companies rather than traditional publishers can mean work won’t appear in a portfolio because of confidentiality issues.
If you can’t find any examples of their work online, bring it into the conversation. Ask if they’ve worked on your type of material, and if they haven’t ask if they are qualified to work on it. You may find that your editor hasn’t made it public knowledge, but they are dying to work on your type of project. And don’t be afraid to ask about qualifications, your editor won’t be offended.
So, do you need to like them?
In short, go with whatever feels the most comfortable.
You don’t need to LIKE your editor, but you need to take into account:
Are they qualified to do the job?
Do they work in a way that you’re comfortable with?
Can you talk to them properly?
Can you afford them?
Are your timeframes compatible?
If you can actually like your editor too it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable and you’ll look forward to working together.
If you think you could work with this green-haired editorial consultant, why not take a peek at my SfEP directory entry? Contact me and we can talk through your project.