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Friday, May 13, 2016

Q&A On Figuring Out What Editors Do and How to Hire One

I love the regular "Q & A a la Ann Landers" features I use in my #SharingwithWriters newsletter because I make it time-effective for me to spend time with authors who send me questions by recycling their questions and my answers as part of the monthly letter. I try to include something on editing in every issue and you can get the letter and a free e-book (editing! of course!) at  The subscribe window is in the upper right corner of most every page and you can read some back issues , too!

This question came from a reader who finds that editors often don't clearly define exactly what what their editing process includes and how they work.

I just finished my first novel, historical fiction, and I’m finding different editors’ sites don’t give me much information and that no one seems to be speaking the same language in terms of definition when they toss around the editing terms. Copy editor? Proofreader? Etc.
If this is a first novel, I believe you need a full edit. Sometimes first novelists—even ones who have taken lots of classes—still don't have things like structure, motivation, setting, characterization down. It's not just our own punctuation or homonym errors we don't see! It would also be helpful if you tried to find an editor experienced specifically in historical novels—especially the specific period you are writing in. Your editor may even spot a historical inaccuracy or two.
You also might want to read the multi award-winning The Frugal Editor ( It includes a battery of questions to ask editors to get what you need.
I know a full edit like this is expensive, but one of the things I say in my The Frugal Editor: Think of the money spend as the equivalent of three university classes at a top writing school in addition to the editing. If you get an editor who explains why she does things and what the alternative is, you'll come away from the editing process a much better writer—even if you are already a great writer. (-:
PS: The Frugal Editor also defines the terms of editing—at least for purposes of the book—so we’re all talking the same language. I sympathize with the confusion you expressed.

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of writing and publishing. Find her at Find the second edition of her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your bestseller. (HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at , where writers find lists and other helps including , Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her SharingingwithWriters blog. She tweets writers' resources at . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

1 comment:

Karen Cioffi-Ventrice said...

Carolyn, great tips on getting a manuscript edited. And, I agree that getting an editor who works in the genre you're writing is the best way to go.

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