In our experience, the process of editing a novel is as daunting as writing it in the first place, if not more so. Not only do you have to ratchet up your objectivity to find all the spots that don’t work, you also end up handing it over to another human being who’ll be doing the same thing…
No matter how uncomfortable this prospect may be, every author intent on turning his or her manuscript into the finest finished work it can possibly be knows the process is necessary. But if you’ve never worked with an editor before, how do you know what to expect? True that every editor brings a distinct skill set to the task at hand…but there are a few basics that stand as hallmarks of a qualified, competent, professional contributor to your masterwork. That’s exactly what your editor will be, after all.
We’ve listed below some of what we consider essential qualities you should absolutely not compromise on when selecting an editor, whether you choose someone from the Dapper Press family or opt for an editor from the many fine members of the independent publishing community!
Your editor should be respectful and considerate all the way through
These aspects are key if you’re going to feel absolutely comfortable entrusting your work to an editor. The editing process is give and take; you should be able to ask questions about the guidance being given and alterations being suggested, and should expect considerate responses and explanations. After all, while your editor may be rolling in expertise where storytelling and writing are concerned, he or she is working for YOU, not the other way around. It’s very likely that you’ll be paying a fair sum for his or her work; you want to be sure your money is well spent. It’s a good idea to send a sample of your work to your potential editor—your first chapter, say—to get a feel for the mechanics of his or her technique prior to making your decision. You might suggest a quick phone or video chat as well, to gauge your compatibility. Think of it as interviewing a potential employee. A respectful, considerate editor will be completely open to the idea!
Your editor should edit to the needs of your story
In the most general of terms, your editor is acting as Reader to find glitches and flaws in your storytelling and writing before you present it to the world at large. Though he or she may bring a world of experience to the job, his or her first priority should always be listening to YOUR story and making sure it leads the process. Some editors may specialize in a particular genre or writing mode, while others might take a more “general practitioner” approach. Both are completely valid and can lead to wonderful finished works. But if your editor prefers working on westerns and you’re hoping to have him or her fine-tune your historical romance, you’ll want to make sure that he or she is willing and capable of remaining faithful to the story you’ve written rather than to his or her area of expertise. If it isn’t possible, you’ll know to seek a more compatible editor to work with. Better to clarify this point from both sides before the work begins than to learn otherwise after the first pass!
Your editor should be willing to make several passes to finish the process
A developmental editor will help you strengthen weak plot lines, identify opportunities for reinforcing character development, and make sure your narrative voice remains strong and consistent. A copy editor will clean up your grammar, spelling, usage, and punctuation once the storytelling has been tidied up. A proofreader will polish your manuscript after it’s been through the processes of developmental and copy editing. Depending on the services your editor has been contracted for, you may end up with any or all of these as part of the process. No matter how deep an edit you’ll be receiving, both author and editor should agree from the beginning that multiple passes are not only recommended, but are also the only way to ensure that you end up with the utmost confidence in your finished product. And since it may not be clear from either side exactly how much work will be required until after the first pass is completed, it’s highly advisable to work out a distinct yet flexible time frame to allow for it all!
Your editor should be honest and encouraging throughout the process
This one may seem like a matter of personal preference. But let’s face it: honesty is a must in this type of exchange, and having someone else tell you what you’ve done wrong in your writing can really smoosh your birthday cake. An editor is actually a partner and a teacher in your authorly endeavors, and as such they should be equally willing to tell you what you’ve done RIGHT! Not only does this make for a much more pleasant editing experience, it also reinforces your strengths as a writer as you revise your current work and will help point out elements for you to focus on improving upon when writing your next manuscript. It may also help forge a trusting, ongoing partnership between you and your editor, which will make for an easier, more fulfilling editing experience in the future!
We at Dapper Press pride ourselves on providing all of the above. It’s all part of our philosophy that elevating the art of self-publishing should be a fun, happy experience for everyone involved! And if it isn’t? Well…we might as well be ice cream vendors or circus clowns instead. When you’re ready to chat about how a Dapper Press editor can help you, reach out and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We’ll be happy to get the ball rolling!