(and a few things nobody asks)
These are the most Frequently Asked Questions that I get asked ahead of editing. I'll try not to get too geeky... But consider yourself forewarned!
WHAT DOES AN EDITOR DO?
Metonymy? Semantics? Tautology? Say what? (I know. I told you it was geeky.) I spent several years studying language and have a Masters degree in linguistics, so you could say I love this stuff, but I know it's not for everyone.
I'll try to keep this sort of description to a minimum and use straightforward English words to explain what an editor does. Because the answer is: a lot. And it might surprise you to learn that it's not just about grammar!
An editor is a master of words and how those words communicate meaning. There are a number of ways you can do this, but all of them have the common goal of making your piece of writing (in this case, your book!) more readable.
There are several 'depths' of editing, which means different levels of scrutiny.
WHAT KIND OF EDITING DO I NEED?
Here's an idea of the main 5 types of editing. Note that these are different skills and many editors do not provide all of them.
Substantially changing the text, usually to be used for a different purpose, for instance a webinar transcript turned into an ebook.
Looking at the overall order of ideas and how they work as a whole. (Also called 'developmental'.)
Making sure the ideas have integrity and nothing is missing or superfluous. Checking for clarity, cohesion, gaps and repetition.
Making it read better for your reader, while still sounding like you. Ensuring there is no jarring of sentences and the words flow smoothly.
Making it strictly accurate, catching typos, and dealing with grammar.
Your experience as a writer does not necessarily determine what depth of editing you need. In fact, the more experienced a writer is, the more they are likely to understand the great benefits of editing.
With non-fiction, I tend to find that structural editing is optional, especially if you have taught your content before in a structure that you wish to use again for the book. Most people who are writing a book will need at least content editing, copyediting and proofreading and potentially several rounds of each, especially if they are self-publishing and the book is unlikely to be looked at again by an editing professional before publication.
For more info on what an editor can do, check out this post: 34 Things You Didn't Know Your Editor Could Help You Do
CAN I HAVE A TRIAL TO SEE IF I LIKE IT?
While my schedule doesn't allow for individual test edits, my process does take into account that you might be nervous about selecting an editor you like.
It's important that you get along with the editor you choose and that you can work together collaboratively.
Your book is precious.
And working with an editor is a big decision and major investment.
You want to know if the editor you choose will take good care of you and your voice.
You want to get this decision right.
That's why I always:
- schedule a meeting and speak to you face-to-face before we start, so that you can make a call on how well we gel
- invite you to reach out to any of these past clients about their experiences
- provide a list of works I've edited so you can go see if you like my style
- suggest you take a look around at my own writing on this site to get an idea of my style*
- offer samples of my work on my editing resources page**
*Editing is about your style, not my style, and I can work with any number of styles as an editor. However, many people who are in the position of choosing an editor are afraid that an editor will scrub their personality from their words. Taking a poke around my blog should set your mind at ease that I'm not one of those kinds of editors!
**Head to the samples section for examples of heavier and lighter edits. These are real-life projects, used with permission from real-life clients. They illustrate the exact kinds of comments and changes you can expect.
CAN'T I JUST GET MY FRIEND TO PROOFREAD MY WORK?
You could, but whether you want to is another matter...
I don't know your friend's credentials. And a second pair of eyes is certainly better than none at all.
However, what many people don't realise is that editing is more than just being "good with words". A degree in English doesn't mean someone can proofread. And having good attention to detail doesn't mean someone can make it read well for your audience or identify a synonym that will have more impact.
Here are the sorts of things a professional editor does that your well-meaning helper will possibly overlook.
- Make sure the wording is appropriate for your target audience
- Check capitals, hyphens, spellings, grammar, words, definitions, acronyms, style choices are consistently used
- Check assumptions that you're making about the reader are consistently applied
- Make sure sentence length is right for the style and genre you are writing in
- Simplify and clarify concepts
- Choose better fitting words for the context
- Know when it's better to break the rules for the sake of better readability
- Transform flabby or passive writing into tight, relevant, succinct and active writing
- Apply digital self-publishing knowledge
And lots more besides.
It's not just making sure the commas are in the right place.
The best combination of all, of course, is to do both. Get your friends and family and clients to lend their time as test readers, then get your writing edited and proofread by a professional.
It's great to get as many pairs of eyes on it as possible before it goes out to your readership.
Every read-through will improve the piece. Just make sure you know when to stop tweaking!
(Hint: Your editor can help you with that too!)
HOW LONG DOES EDITING TAKE?
Editors all work at different speeds, which is why you should never hire anyone at an hourly rate without talking about word count.
It can be difficult for a first-time author to estimate word count, of course, which is why I suggest getting in touch when you are about 4 to 8 weeks away from finishing your draft. That way, you will have an idea of how it's going and be able to reliably select a date.
I prefer to focus solidly on one book project at a time, rather than juggle several writers all at the same time. Allocating a slot for your project and working exclusively with you when the time comes helps me tune into your language and message, which gives a far smoother, more consistent result. And not juggling too many projects means I can provide a fast turnaround to you.
You'll get an estimated turnaround when I provide a quotation for your work.
As a guide, block out 3 weeks per 25,000 words for my complete three-stage editing service.
If you are trying to find a date for your book release, the most successful and experienced authors leave some breathing space between editing and launch. Depending on the length of your book, I recommend locking in your editor around 3 months before you are set to publish.
That said, always ask for last-minute quick turnarounds. My calendar is constantly changing!
WILL YOU TELL ME IF MY WRITING IS TERRIBLE?
Okay, first up, if you're wondering whether your writing is 'good enough', I can already tell you that it's much better than you think! Only very self-aware writers even ask themselves this.
I'll never tell a writer that their writing is terrible. I don't believe in ripping apart people's work and there's no such thing as a bad writer.
My approach is encouraging and enthusiastic. My aim is to make it better, not tell you it's shit!
I can advise you as to whether the language you've used speaks to your audience.
I can craft a piece that will not only look pro and polished, but will shine in comparison to all the other noise out there.
I can give my opinion on where there are gaps and point out repetition.
I can switch up words to make them have more impact.
I can shorten and clarify sentences to make them flow more fluently, be less waffly, and get more information across more succinctly.
I can help you write a book your reader will thank you for.
But what I can't do is sell your book for you, make sure the right people are coming to your website to buy it, or guess what your readers want.
To do that, you need to know your audience inside out and then go find those people to read your words. Once you test out your writing on your audience to see what they like, you have something to work with and then I go about making your book as beautiful and relevant as it can be.
ARE YOU A COPYWRITER?
In short, no. But I do offer rewriting for time-poor entrepreneurs who want to publish a book but don't want to write it themselves. If you have existing content that you want to turn into a book, get in touch and my team can handle the whole project for you from start to finish.
As a copyeditor, I'm often confused with a copywriter, so to explain the difference...
A copywriter writes for you. Usually website pages, content and emails that aim to sell something. They have extensive marketing expertise to do this.
A copyeditor takes the words you have written yourself and makes them more beautiful, engaging, punchy... whatever you need.
This can be web copy, content and emails and pieces of communication that aim to sell. Or it can be books, articles, magazines, documentation, reports that aim to inform, engage, educate and more.
I edit books.
Mostly (but not exclusively) books that will be self-published first.
Mostly (but not exclusively) for first-time authors who are also entrepreneurs, small business owners, health practitioners, experts or speakers.
Mostly (but not exclusively) women who know their businesses inside out and want to retain the creative control of their writing.