Frequently Asked Questions
Getting a book published isn’t easy, even for those who have had their work published before. Both first-time and experienced authors can use help not only in preparing their proposals and manuscripts for literary agents and publishers, but also in navigating their way through the sometimes perplexing world of book publishing. An independent editor with experience in the industry can evaluate your work and help you revise it to make it more marketable. He or she can also provide you with advice and guidance on finding and working with literary agents and publishers, or, if you decide to do it on your own, help you through the self-publishing process.
Independent editors provide essentially three types of editing—developmental or structural editing, line editing, and copyediting. Most, however, concentrate on the first two.
Developmental or structural editing involves looking at a project from a “big picture” perspective. In nonfiction this means ensuring that the material is well-organized and well-written, provides the information its intended audience needs and wants, and, when appropriate, presents its readers with a convincing argument. In fiction it means making sure that the structure and pacing of the plot work, characters and scenes are credibly drawn, the use of dialogue and detail is effective, and the narrative point of view is clear and consistent.
Line editing is what most people think of as “editing.” The line editor goes over a manuscript word by word and makes sure that its sentences and paragraphs make sense, are structured correctly, and contain no spelling or grammatical errors. Depending on how much work a manuscript needs, line editing can mean anything from making a few small changes to substantially revising the entire manuscript.
Copyediting is essentially dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, or at least their electronic equivalents. This type of editing is usually handled by a publisher before a manuscript goes to the printer, and consists of checking to make sure that the text conforms to accepted rules of grammar and spelling as well as the publisher’s preferred style of punctuation, use of capital letters and italics, and similar details.
Every independent editor has his own way of determining fees. Some prefer being paid a flat fee, some want to be paid on an hourly basis, and some choose one or the other depending on the nature and extent of the project. Virtually all reputable editors, however, expect to be paid in increments rather than all at one time. Once an editor has had the opportunity to read your work and gauge how much editing it will require, she will be able to provide you with either an exact amount (in the case of a flat fee) or an estimate based on how many hours she thinks it will take to complete the project.
In making a decision about working with an independent editor it’s advisable for you to consider several criteria.
Because self-publishing has become so easy, many authors are choosing that route instead of the more traditional path. If you’re interested in self-publishing, an independent editor can help you in several ways. She can assist you in selecting an appropriate company to work with, edit the manuscript, prepare it for publication, and help you move it through the process. In addition, since self-publishing requires the author to make decisions that are ordinarily made by staff members in a commercial publishing company, an independent editor who’s had experience working in-house can provide you with invaluable assistance in guiding you through the process from manuscript to bound book as well as helping you with publicity and promotion.
If I’m interested in working with an independent editor, what kind of material should I send him or her?
If you’re working on a nonfiction book, when you first contact an independent editor you should e-mail him a brief description of the project—no more than a paragraph or two—and some information about your credentials for writing the book. If you’re writing a book of fiction, you should e-mail a one- to two-page synopsis of the story. If the editor feels that she may be able to help you, she will contact you and, at that point, advise you of what other materials you should send.