All manuscripts require editing, and gone is the day when publishers provided this service. Today, most publishers insist that the manuscript arrive in a polished state, requiring only minor pre-press typo edits. Publishing houses simply don’t have the staff to provide comprehensive editing services anymore.
Hiring an editor is essential. To save on cost, it’s best to “workshop” your manuscript through 3 to 5 revision rounds before hiring a professional editor. Some editors are willing to review early drafts and flag areas that require intensive revision. This is often referred to as “developmental editing.” Your editor will not correct typos at that early draft stage. (It’s irrational to correct typos in a scene that may not even show up in the final book!) Independent book editors are happy to provide light copyediting for a final manuscript, but realize they expect that this will occur after you’ve completed multiple revision rounds with a developmental editor.
Completing draft 1 feels fantastic. But draft 1 is only about 20% of your book-writing effort. Hire a coach, take online classes, and go to writer’s conferences. Take the next year or two to work on crafting your book’s structure, honing the theme and voice, and re-reading each revision out loud to catch awkward sentence structure. Really. Read it aloud. It’s amazing what you’ll catch!
Build a circle of friends and family who will act as your “test readers”–people who will read your revisions and give you honest feedback on areas where they felt lost or uninterested. Sometimes that’s due to quirks and personal preference; a specific test reader might not be a good fit for your genre. But, more often then not, critical test reader feedback ought to be heeded.
The more you polish the manuscript before it goes to an editor, the better. When you’re ready to hire an editor, you will need to provide certain information up front so he or she can craft an estimate:
- Final word count
- One-page synopsis of the book
- At least three sample chapters or the full manuscript
The editor reviews these materials, lets you know if they’re the right editor for you based on genre and writing quality, and provides a cost estimate. It typically takes 3-5 business days to supply an estimate. If you approve the estimate, the editor will need your full manuscript. Be sure to honor industry standards in formatting it:
- Microsoft Word file
- Header on every page with page number, author name, book title
- Chapters numbered
- Times-style font, size 12
- Line-spaced at 1.5 to 2.0 per editor’s preference
Some editors request a hard copy print (double-sided, 3-hole punched) in addition to a digital Word document version. The editing itself can take several weeks or months depending on the density of your edit needs, your word count, and whether you ask for multiple rounds of edits. All these factors should be clearly outlined in the editor’s estimate and contract.