Like most authors who are serious about taking their writing to another level, at a certain point in the publishing process the services of a professional editor come into play. After all, this is my work, and my desire is for it to represent well. Of course, before I even hire an editor, it is up to me to do my share of editing and proofreading first. One of my personal quirks? I tend to think faster than I write/type, hence I often wind up skipping words. I can figure out what the word is when I review the context of the sentence. Still, it is something ongoing that I work on.
There are many blogs and websites regarding editors, whether for traditional publishing or independent authors. Theirs is a valuable service for us as authors, and in the best scenario it becomes a partnership. That being said, I would like to share my own experiences in the search for a professional editor.
As an independent author, the single biggest business expense in the process is the editing. Many seeking to be published have been discouraged by the costs of this service, so it is beneficial to shop around for one who best fits your budget and specific needs. States have websites and organizations listing freelance editors and their services. Referrals and word-of-mouth are also great sources, especially from other writers; this was the route I ultimately chose.
A good fit between author and editor is also determined by the genre(s) the editor works with; they must be in line with your vision. If you’re a romance author and the prospective editor only does horror…not a good fit. To get a feel for their editing style, I asked the editors I was vetting for a sample edit. In this process, I received a taste of their reliability. Were their responses timely? Did they follow up? Did they do what they promised to do? Were they available for the questions I subsequently had?
As an African American, LGBT author who writes about African American characters, one criterion stood at the top of the list when considering an editor: cultural sensitivity. The editor of my first novel was African American, so that wasn’t an issue. However, the vast majority of professional editors are white. As such, the nuances that African Americans bring to stories can easily be missed, and our stories pay the price for it. To my brothas and sistahs out there, these are questions I learned to ask up front: What does cultural sensitivity mean to you? Have you had experience editing novels about cultures different from your own? Have you worked with authors of color? At the end of the day, it’s my book and my story. When it comes to matters that are culturally specific, I’m the expert.
It’s a learning process for both author and editor. Their work has tweaked my novels in the right ways to make them stronger and more polished, ready for publishing and release. I, in turn, have broadened the editor’s scope with my own unique voice and observations. For independent authors, a successful collaboration of author and editor can make for a long-term partnership.
Believe in dreams and never give up.