Well, it actually does work, but not necessarily every time. There are a few potholes though, waiting to snare a trusting writer.
This is how it goes. After slaving before that computer screen for months, your eyesight ruined, you have finally finished your opus and it is ready to unleash on unsuspecting readers. After downing a stiff whiskey or two, you begin to wonder if the book is really ready for publication. Despite having edited and proofread the damned thing several times, you are mindful that an odd typo or punctuation error could still be lurking among those pages and you don’t want to have your readers sneering at you for adding another amateurish book to an already large pile of amateurish books out there. After a long sigh or two, you realize there is only one thing to do. You have to submit your manuscript to an editor or proofreader, confident that this process will give you a polished manuscript, not to mention a hole in your pocket.
Wow, talk about walking into the jaws death!
Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer that before publishing, every manuscript should be professionally edited and proofread. Having said that, you probably spotted the gotcha word here—professionally. And that’s the rub. How can you tell if an editor is worth the money? The unfortunate fact every writer must be aware of, anyone can hang out his shingle proclaiming to be an editor. You can come across one of these home-made self-styled practitioners who will do a blanket replace of ‘has’ with ‘had, and ‘will’ with ‘would’, regardless of sentence context. Another will blindly follow Microsoft Word’s grammar checker feedback to make changes, which doesn’t say much for his understanding of grammar. The one I like best is removing every comma in sight! It’s enough to make you grind your teeth in frustration.
The answer to picking a professional editor is obvious: do your research. Google lists of editors and check their references and testimonials before submitting a request for a quote. This will not guarantee that you will land a professional, but it should eliminate the pretenders. The other part of the equation before you engage an editor is, of course, price. This part will likely make you cringe.
There are lots of guides out there on editorial services pricing. Once of them is from the ‘Editorial Freelancers Association’ http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php Once you get over the shock counting additional white hairs, you need to realize that the quoted prices give you a yardstick to measure responses from editors you may get in touch with. You can always negotiate! I would recommend one thing: Ask for a per page quote rather than a per hour quote. The latter is a bottomless hole; the editor could be sipping coffee for an hour and charge you for the privilege!
When doing your research, you must first understand what proofreading and editing actually means, and the services provided. When querying an editor, list what you expect him to do, rather than merely asking, ‘I want my manuscript edited’. This will avoid a lot of heartache and angst down the track. Don’t submit the entire manuscript when asking for a quote. Send five pages, and when you get them back, carefully review what has been edited and why. Ask the editor to insert comments. I am assuming that you are familiar with Word’s Track Changes function. If not, you need to get familiar with this tool.
– Copywriting – means writing pretty much anything that will appear in print, but can mean assistance with writing your website, articles, newsletter, employee communications, flyers, company profiles, letters, emails, presentations, proposals, pitch documents, manuals, policy and procedure documents etc.
Proofreading – The final proofread usually takes place when the manuscript is completed and involves:
Corrective spelling, grammar, punctuation and typos, and incorrect word usage.
Consistency of terminology.
Consistent use of fonts.
Excessive usage of a single word.
- Editing – This involves:
Assisting with the structure and content of a document
Incorporates all the elements carried out in proofreading, including sentence rewriting and provision of comments for the author.
This is a collaborative effort to maintain the author’s style and vision, while ensuring the document creates maximum impact with the intended reader.
One last note before you publish that book. After you have the manuscript proofread or edited, let it sit in your cupboard for a couple of weeks or so, then drag it out and proofread the thing yourself! You need to remember that editors are people too—well, most of them—and can make mistakes. What you need to do is develop the skills to become your own harshest editor.
If this article challenged you, please read more about writing, editing and publishing on my Blog. I would love to get your feedback!
For very handy hints on some esoteric aspects of writing, refer to the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual.
Freelance editors, but there are lots of others out there: