Since The Romantic Editor’s January 14th launch date I’ve received a lot of questions with the same meaning:
Is my manuscript ready for an editor?
Today, while reading author Jeaniene Frost’s blog post titled Q&A for Writers about when to get an agent, I was inspired.
When to Hire an Editor…or not
Let’s just all agree that no manuscript needs an editor until the manuscript is finished.
I have worked on barely unfinished manuscripts, but I will not–will not–line edit or copyedit them. I’ll help fill in plot holes, give pointers for characters or general feedback. (Basically, writing advice with a bunch of expert blog posts and writing websites to back me up.)
But never pay for your words to be line edited, copyedited or proofread until your manuscript is finished, critiqued, critiqued again, and solid. If you get line edits today, then receive a critique from your CP (critique partner) tomorrow about how Heroine’s sister should replace the character of Heroine’s best friend…you’ve just wasted your money. You’re going to need the manuscript line edited post substantial plot/character changes to check for consistency.
Sometimes you just don’t know about a plot or character. An editor who offers content and substantial edits or editorial letters can help. Spoiler Alert: So can a critique partner, a really good beta reader or both. If you don’t have access to skilled friends whom you brainstorm with or if you just want an unbiased third party–you can use an editor. But only use them for plot and character analysis until you’re finished and have self-edited.
Self-edit first, then hire an editor.
Only you know how you intend for your novel to flow. Your first draft will not flow that way. You can leave it to the editor to determine what you meant or you can do another read through (or two) and make your characters come across exactly how you want. Don’t worry; the editor has lots more to do and the better the self-edit, the better the editor’s edit.
Determine whether you are looking for an agent, submitting to a publisher or self-publishing.
I hit a lot of walls when I ask this question. Be forewarned: if you email me about a manuscript I’m asking you what you intend to do with it.
If you have a 110,000 word paranormal manuscript and want to sell it to Harlequin HQN, my suggestion will be to cut about 10,000 words through edits, then I’ll ask who your agent is and what your query letter looks like. Because as of today, HQN is 90,000 words and only accepts agented submissions.
If you want to submit to a romance category line there are general tropes I will look for. Category is also shorter than single title.
If you’re self publishing your word count is your own and tropes aren’t required. You can write about taboo topics and you have more plot leeway. The rules are different. What editors edit is different.
So determine where you want your manuscript to land and tell your editor.
Do NOT hire an editor you’ve never heard of, who has no references, no contact information, and for all intensive purposes is anonymous.
This goes without much explanation. Even a brand spanking new editor should have a few people you can contact to confirm they are legitimate.
Do NOT hire an editor you can’t afford.
You love your book; so do editors. But don’t break the bank paying for the editor of your dreams. Freelance editors can’t guarantee you a book deal, an agent contract or book sales. Be cost efficient and smart in your choice. If you can’t afford one editor you love, ask them for a reference to one who costs less.
Do NOT hire an editor to do something they aren’t qualified to do.
Editors edit and not all editors offer the same edits. Websites and fee agreements should plainly state what you’re paying for and a deadline in which you’ll receive it.
Your editor should act legitimate.
Not every editor has three social media accounts, a home address listed, and a phone number for you to call, but there are certain things that should make you feel more at ease.
Editors who accept payment through Paypal or Google can probably be traced if necessary. (Check Paypal and Google’s website to find out.) Look for editors with well-known references. Editors who send detailed invoices and emails are good indicators as well.
Editors should give you a paper trail and your editor should allow their edits to be your own once you pay for them. Meaning: if your publishing house editor wants to see what your freelance (pre-contract) editor did–you should be able to turn over their notes and emails guilt free.
Lastly, editors should remind authors of one thing:
Publishing houses will edit your manuscripts again even if you pay for it to be edited for submission. It’s going to happen. You probably should have your manuscript edited for submission anyway, but keep in mind that your publisher will edit it too.
Any other advice for authors searching for editors? Let’s hear it!