If you’re jumping into the indie author world for the first time, welcome to what may be the most difficult part about publishing. If you’ve been here for a while, hi, welcome to the circus again.
Finding an editor can be hard! With the explosion of indie authors into the publishing world, there was also an influx of new editors who are working for themselves. There are diamonds in the rough, and there are fool’s gold. Most of the time, you want to go with editors other people are recommending. In particular, if that is a person whose books you enjoy.
But there are also those situations where you might meet someone who sounds awesome, does a decent job, and wants to grow with you. There are pros and cons to this situation, but we’ll chat about this soon.
Things you want to see in an editor
- Someone who improves your writing.
There’s a fine line between what makes your author voice awesome, and what makes it weak. An editor should be able to pick out these moments and highlight them. They aren’t changing the way you write so drastically that other people won’t be able to know it was you who wrote the book. But they’re strengthening situations that you don’t need. For example –
A cigar was balanced precariously between two fingers. Red smoke curled into the air. If one looked closely enough, skulls and screaming faces could be seen inside it. But with every breath, Pitch inhaled the substance as though it was the meaning to life.
Is not poorly written. It’s not necessarily STRONG writing, but it gets the job done and sounds pretty good. Your editor should see this, and start flipping things around to make this less passive, more interesting, and also help you along that process. The previous writing then turned into –
The cigar between two of his fingers was balanced precariously. Red smoke curled up from it into the air, and, if one looked closely, skulls and screaming faces swirled in the haze. Pitch inhaled the substance as though he needed it to live.
Now that’s a lot better.
- Is human.
What do I mean by human? Obviously you’re being edited by a human, unless you have a robot in your pocket, in which case, please gimme. What I mean is that you want someone who’s going to understand that you (the writer) are human and have flaws, but also that they (the editor) also make mistakes. Authors can find things that editors are doing wrong, and can point them out.
This is a growing opportunity for us all. No one is perfect, and learning from each other is only going to help. An awesome editor once told me how much she loves editing books because it makes her own writing, and editing, stronger. Seeing someone else’s vision and learning from them is the only way to get better.
- Communication is key!
With a little disclaimer again to remember everyone is human, communication is probably the most important part here. We’re all on deadlines, we all want to make sure that the book does well, so keeping up with expectations is required. If a vacation is happening, if circumstances change and the editor can’t get the book completed in the agreed upon time, then that needs to be loud and clear.
This seems like it should be an obvious, you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget this! But there’s another thing to add here that moves right into the next segment…
- Business Professional
One of the late, great, editors (Lora Gasway) was the queen at this. If an editor can’t get the book completed on time, if the services are not as expected, if the client isn’t happy, your editor should be aware of this. None of us are making money hand over fist.
Here’s a perfect opportunity for my favorite analogy, the toaster. Say you find this amazing toaster, no really, everyone loves it and says it makes perfect toast. You buy it. You plug it in. And it works. Of course it does, everyone loves it. But the toast it makes isn’t the toast you like. It isn’t golden brown, but slightly charred instead. The timer doesn’t work and always takes longer than you wanted. And sometimes, but not all the time, the toast is more crunchy than you like it.
Obviously, you’re going to bring that toaster back to the store and say “This isn’t what I wanted, can I have my money back?”
Same goes with editing. If you aren’t getting a refund for a poor job from your editor, then you aren’t really getting the editing you deserve. As said before, we’re indies. We aren’t getting paid from a publishing house up front, we aren’t getting the support and advertising publishing companies can offer. Money is scarce. And if we don’t get the service we expected, then the editor needs to be aware of this, and return your money.
Sometimes, it’s hard to hear that your writing isn’t all that great. Or that you’re doing things that make people roll their eyes, laugh a little, or just plain ol’ say “that’s not so good”.
And every time someone says “Hey you use ‘told’ a lot, could you not do that anymore?” you should listen. But in return, the editor should be open with what the author wants. If you want to use comma splices, if you don’t want to write in passive voice, if you really really want to keep your main male character overly feminine without him realizing it, that’s ultimately your choice. The editor shouldn’t go about trying to change that.
In the end, we’re all trying to make sure that we create the best product, that the storyline is good, that the characters are justified in their actions. Find an editor who’s worth the money (and they ain’t cheap let me tell you) and don’t feel uncomfortable providing them feedback or finding a new one if your current editor isn’t giving you what you needed.
Life happens. Business is business. But friendships should be maintained.