Your Editor is Not Your Friend, and That’s a Good Thing

When you hire an editor or proofreader for the first time, you may be shocked at how critical they are about your book. Your feelings may initially be hurt when you see your beautiful, genius manuscript marked all over in red, with comments, questions and suggestions in the margins, or along the sides. When your friends or family members read the book, they said it was marvelous!

You cannot trust people who love you to tell you if your book is any good. They are most likely to tell you how great it is so that you will be happy. And they may not be qualified to tell you what needs improving.

Your editor’s job is to point out anything that may be an error, or enlighten you to strategies and options that you can make your book the best thing it can be.

I have worked with two kinds of authors. One kind of author writes several books a year, and they make a lot of little mistakes that need to be fixed. But otherwise, their successful track record is their guide.The other kind of author labors on for many months, or even years, before they have a book they believe is ready for market. It may be! But the second type typically make bigger errors, and they take corrections and comments very personally.

Be aware, if you are hiring an editor for the first time, that you don’t have to accept the changes your editor makes (unless you are getting published through a traditional publisher, in which case you are probably not reading this blog!). Your editor is giving you every suggestion or thought she or he has. They are adding value through criticism, like a coach.

I promise I will not ask you to do push-ups.

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How Editors and Proofreaders Charge for Services

For my editorial services, I charge by the word. I have heard of others charging by the  hour, with an estimate coming before the agreement to do the work.

The advantage of charging by the word is that it sounds fair. An 80,000-word book works out to this rate or that, depending on the editor. And it is fair, if all authors are created equal.

Charging by the hour is fair, with an estimate, because all authors are not created equal. Some need more help, others need less. But sometimes estimates are too high or too low. They are based on how much work an editor thinks he or she will do with the manuscript.

Perhaps one day I will consider a hybrid of the two approaches.