I first went in search of an editor in the fall of 2010. I had decided to self-publish the youth novel Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove (under the pen name Candy McMudd) and knew I couldn’t complete the final edit myself – no writer can.
My search began on the Internet. I googled editors specifically in Canada for two reasons.
1) I wanted to use Canadian English in my novel and believed an editor outside of the country might have difficulty knowing which spellings we used.
2) I’m patriotic and wanted to shop locally.
What I found made me smile and gawk in horror. Editors charged either by the page or by the hour. Some charged $1.00 a page, while others knocked me over with $4.00 or more a page. A selection of editors charged a flat rate after reviewing the manuscript. Again, a wide range of prices existed (from $100 to $1,500). Hourly rates also varied from minimum wage to the pay long-time government employees expected.
On average, the going rate for editorial services settled around $2.00 a page. It was determined a page contained about 350 words. For a 30,000-word manuscript, this rate would cost an author about $170. That’s very reasonable. Other fees may be included. It all depends on what the author requests and the services the editor provides.
Services include the basics – correction of spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes – to providing feedback and guidance on plot structure, character building and scene construction. The more an author asks for, the higher the fee.
Armed with this information, I posted a notice to an email group of local editors and authors. I could have also posted a notice on the mailing list of writing organisations such as Writers Federation of Nova Scotia. Asking other writers in a writing group or writing circle or ones you happen upon at book launches may also help locate an editor.
The first time around I found my editor through the post on the local editors and authors mailing list. This time, for Shadows in the Stone, I met him at my writers’ group. More on Jay Underwood in my next post.
Working with an editor was straight forward for me. I knew what I wanted, basically spelling, grammar and punctuation corrections. I’m not interested in someone rewriting my words or adding things to take away my voice. If my novel needs major work, I want to be the one doing it.
Turn-around times vary, but often, editors want to complete the work in a timely fashion because they have other clients to serve. Busy editors may be unable to begin work on a manuscript for a few weeks or a few months, depending on their workload. This is why it’s important to line up an editor before you need one. It’s not unreasonable to book an editor three to four months in advance to make sure they can work on your manuscript when you’re ready. Waiting for an editor can push back the publication date of your novel and stall other projects you’re working on.
An honest and open relationship when working with an editor is best. State what you want upfront and don’t change it halfway through the assignment. This could increase costs or put you in the manure pile with an editor and their editor friends. When payment is due (usually half up front and half when the job is completed), pay the agreed upon amount promptly.
A simple contract stating the specific service requested, fees, estimated completion date and the fact the author retains all copyright of material will keep everyone honest. Ensure a receipt for services is provided.
That’s the basics of hiring an editor. They can be hired to complete the final edit on a manuscript before you self-publish, or if a traditional publisher is sought, they can help polish your work before you submit it.