Authors who self-publish are often surprised to find that their biggest expense is for editorial services. Some decide, “Who kneads an editor when spell-check is free?” The answer: spell check doesn’t know the difference between kneads and needs.
A good editor will also notice that a character who had blue eyes on page 28 has brown eyes a few chapters later or that the pacing moves too quickly (or too slowly). Editors work on many levels. Some focus on organization and logic. Others fill in material that’s missing from a textbook. Copy editors polish language.
Names for these different types of editing vary. You can get an idea of the various editorial services available from the Bay Area Editors’ Forum “What Do Editors Do?”
While these definitions seem straightforward, they’re a bit slippery in practice. If you ask for a developmental edit, one editor might think you want a review of manuscript structure while another might identify places where more information is needed.
To get the results you want, tell the editor what you expect to get back. A fiction author might say, “I want to know if readers will be able to follow the flashbacks and understand why the characters act as they do.” A nonfiction author might say, “Please note anything you find confusing and correct any mistakes you find.”
Be prepared to negotiate with your editor. You may think your manuscript just needs a quick check of spelling and grammar. After reviewing a sample, the editor may agree. However, while working with the manuscript, the editor may find problems that need more than an quick fix. When the editor lets you know about the problems, you can either decide to pay extra for the additional work or redefine what the editor will do for what you agreed to pay.
How much does a good edit cost? That depends on many factors, including whether your manuscript is well written and how much experience your editor has. To get an idea of rates, you can read Dani Greer’s “What Does an Editor Cost?” or visit the Editorial Freelancers Association rates page.
How can you find an editor? Ask for referrals. Join groups of authors or self-publishers, in your area or online. Consult directories, including those of the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE).
Still not sure you need an editor? Read Linda Jay Gelden’s post on “6 Ways Copyeditors Make Your Book Better.”