Good copy-editors have all the traits you see in your best friend.
Trust, tact, loyalty, honesty.
They have your best interests at heart.
They reassure you when you’re doubting yourself.
They know what you’re thinking (or trying to say) without asking you.
See where I’m going here?
Let’s dive deeper into the traits of a good copy editor/best friend then, shall we?
A good copy editor/content editor will treat you and your book with respect.
They have your best interests at heart and any changes, edits, tweaks they make to your words will enhance them. Reducing sentences or lengthening them isn’t a criticism or a sign you’re an amateur writer, it’s more about improving flow or explaining the context more fully so your readers can enjoy a better reading experience.
A good copy editor/content editor isn’t just for Christmas.
If you find a good editor with whom you gel, you’ll gain so many benefits. They get to know you well, understand your writing habits (good and bad) and understand the point you’re trying to make even if you go about it in a clunky way. Long-term partnerships between writers and editors are renowned in this industry, so take your time to find someone who isn’t just a great editor but also someone you gel with personally. That way, you’ll both bring out the best in each other and who knows how incredible the book results will be.
I’ve built up long-term business relationships with many of my author clients. The longest I’ve worked with someone is 10 years – a wonderful lady who lives in Amsterdam. Since 2010, I’ve done everything from critiquing, ghostwriting, proofreading and editing her novels, to submitting them to global publishing houses and literary agents. We’ve both grown and learnt so much from each other during this time.
A good copy editor/content editor won’t let you down.
They contact you when they say they will. They give you a deadline and stick to it (or negotiate an extension in advance if something comes up). They make your book a priority. Offer a confidential service. And support you unequivocally.
Handing over your book to someone is scary.
Of course it is. This book has consumed you for weeks, months, maybe years. And passing it to someone in the publishing/writing profession can stir up all kinds of emotions. You might feel vulnerable. Or riddled with self-doubt.
“What if the editor thinks my writing’s rubbish?”
“What if the editor changes so much of my content that my voice disappears?”
“What if the editor thinks my book isn’t worth publishing?”
And that’s normal. Many of my author clients message me while I’m editing their books to ask similar questions.
That’s why you need to see all the personality traits of a good friend in your editor.
So where and how do you find these people? Well, I’d recommend trying this route for starters.
1. Ask for Recommendations from Author Friends
If you have writers in your circle of friends, then ask around for recommendations. Don’t assume, however, that because so-and-so was a fabulous editor for someone that they’ll automatically be the same for you because that isn’t always the case. They may take on your project alongside another handful of clients and miss your deadline. They may specialise in non-fiction and you’ve written an historical novel. They may not be within your budget. However, let’s say you’ve got a couple of recommendations – what next?
2. Take a Look at the Editors’ Websites
Read through their testimonials, blogs, ‘About Me’ page if there is one. Try to get a feel for the person behind the business. If they don’t have a website, look up their social media business pages and spend some time reading through their posts and articles. Could you gel with them? Are they personable and knowledgable? If you’re nodding your head at their website/details, then it’s time for step 3.
3. Approach Them and Break the Ice
A simple email will do. Ask if they offer a free 1k-word sample edit with tracked changes. (I do this for all potential new clients because it has two-way benefits – the client gets to see how I work and whether that’s the level of editing they’re looking for, and I get to price the job based on the time it will take to complete the proofreading and provide an accurate deadline based on my availability and schedule.)
4. Speak With the Editor on the Phone
If every light so far has been green, and particularly if you’re going to invest a large amount of money into this part of the publication process, now is the time to speak with the editor. A short conversation about your deadline, your plans for the book once it’s been edited and what you’re particularly looking for help with (and/or what you don’t want them to focus on) can cement this relationship and get the ball rolling.
Final thoughts …
- It’s important you have peace of mind when you’re handing over your book. There’s nothing worse than wondering if you’ve done the right thing in hiring this particular editor, so trust your instincts.
- Your editor needs to know you have complete faith in them too – respect and trust works both ways. Messaging them day in and day out with minor queries that won’t impact the overall context of the editing will wear them down and eat into their time (which could result in a missed deadline) so try to avoid it if you can. If the project is going to take, say, six weeks, and you know you’ll be fretting during this time ask if it’s possible for a fortnightly update from your editor if that’s appropriate. Or bundle up your queries and send them, say, on a Friday afternoon for the editor to answer in one email instead of ten.
- Accept any edits as improvements and not criticisms but don’t be afraid to query any you feel are incorrect. Editors are human too and ultimately you have the final say over whether a semi-colon needs to replace a comma. 🙂
- Ask questions about any edits you don’t understand. When I work with my clients they get the first round of edits (I used tracked changes so they can see what’s been altered) and then they come back with queries and I complete a second round of editing based on their feedback/answers to their questions and any further changes they/we decide on. They also receive an Editor’s Report which outlines the basic changes I’ve made so they can ask questions about the entire book as well as the line by line edits.
So, what do you reckon? Are you convinced that a good editor needs to have the same traits as your bestie?
Good luck with your book!
Self-Publishing Services UK