|Finding the Perfect Editor$ or How to Hire an Editor|
Unfortunately, she seemed to become frustrated as the conversation continued. The problem?
She knew that she wanted the draft edited quickly, but she didn't know what she wanted from me, the editor. Because I wasn't familiar with her writing, I wasn't able to propose what her writing needed. She knew she wanted to hire an editor.
Before we ended the discussion, I asked her to forward me several pages of her work so I could read her writing and then we could discuss what I could do for her.
That was four days ago and I'm still waiting.
So, based on my conversation with this potential client.... For writers who want to hire an editor, here are a few tips to consider when approaching a person to edit your writing:
- Know your writing. When you write, what areas do you avoid writing--dialogue? description? These clues suggest areas that might be considered weak in a draft. If you know what areas you may show some weaknesses, re-read those areas and determine if, indeed, those are areas that need work. If you suggest areas you don't feel comfortable with, your editor could help your writing by focusing and giving feedback on those areas.
- Know your timeline. If you need the edits back in a week, there may be enough time to respect your request. But your editor won't be able to answer the turn-around question before she has had a chance to look at (in the very least) a sample of the manuscript...if not the entire manuscript. She also needs to have an idea of the level of edit you need.
- Suggest what level of edit you are considering. When you bring a car to a mechanic, you have some idea what issue you would like addressed. (Substitute "mechanic" with dentist, grocer, lawyer, heart surgeon, counselor and so forth and you can see that if you consult a professional, you know why you are there.) If you're not sure, but know you need an editor from what readers mentioned, let the editor know. Have they provided comments? If so, are they commenting on problems of plot structure or punctuation problems? Do you know your weaknesses? Is this the fifth time someone has reviewed it or is is the first time the manuscript has been touched by other hands.
- Do you have a budget? Have you asked for a proposal? My mechanic repairs items we've discussed and he gives me an estimate before he starts the work. He consults me before making any additional (read: more expensive repairs). Discuss dollar amounts upfront with your potential editor and ask for an estimate that spells out the work agreed upon. One client explained that she knew that her piece had other issues, but she only wanted me to address the punctuation and grammar issues.While I made a couple suggestions outside of that realm, I only charged for the work for which I estimated (punctuation and grammar).
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in North Carolina. In November, while folks are blazing through NaNoWriMo, Elizabeth will be completing her editing certification with the University of Chicago, Graham School.