Monday, February 15, 2016

FREELANCE EDITORS: Should I Hire One?


Aspiring authors ask this question almost as often as they ask, "Should I get an agent?" Well, unlike agents, freelance editors charge up front to edit a book-length manuscript – $1,500–$3,500 – and it can take several tries to find the right one for you. But, once found, a good editor is a treasure indeed.
Why would you hire a freelance editor? Perhaps you are unsure of your grammar and want the manuscript to be as perfect as possible at submission time. Maybe you need an expert to look at your plot, point of view, characterization, tension and pace. Or you may sense that something is not quite right but you can’t put your finger on it. My advice is to pinpoint exactly why you want your work scrutinized by an editor, then go looking, because editors do different things and have various specialties. Some prefer technical manuscripts, some edit only fiction, and some work on textbooks or special subjects. Others are proofreaders. Also know what you are aiming for with your work — traditional or self-publishing for a book, newspapers and magazines (international, national, or regional) for articles, or literary journals for short stories. Informing an editor of the writing's final destination is vital, as is the readership's demographic.
Where do you find freelance editors? The best place to start, and perhaps all you need, is your national editors' association. In Canada, this is the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) at www.editors.ca. Association websites give advice on hiring an editor, an online directory, contact numbers and addresses for their regional branches, etc. The really good news in Canada is that non-members can also attend their inexpensive local workshops for writers presented by expert editors.
How do you know if an editor can do the job you need? First you need to understand that there is no regulatory body in Canada governing editors – anyone can hang out a shingle. However, EAC does list the editorial standards that they expect of their members on their website and certifies those willing to study and pass a series of exams. Many editors do not have a degree in English, and writers should understand that this is not necessarily a hindrance. Once you have found a fit with the expertise and preferred areas of three or four potential editors, at the very least interview them and ask for references, see some of their work at the before and after stages, and request that they edit 2–5 sample pages of your manuscript. You need to establish not only their skill level but also the beginnings of a relationship. Taking criticism from someone you dislike does not come easily to anyone. Pick an editor to whom you relate comfortably.
How do editors charge?  This varies. Fees can be hourly, by the page or even by the word, or a fixed price per project. Rush jobs are 10–20% more, so try to schedule the project proactively. And remember to find out your chosen editor’s fee schedule at the outset.
What steps can you take if you cannot afford editors’ fees? Take some self-editing courses through writers’ associations or continuing education departments, sign up for EAC’s local workshops, and join a local writers’ group. 
I recommend two articles by a professional freelance editor. Joyce Gram has been editing my writing, including this post, for about twenty years and wrote the articles below for my blog. They are essential reading for unpublished authors:
http://www.gramediting.com/wisewords/freelance-editor.htm 
http://www.gramediting.com/wisewords/acquisitions-editor.htm