Hands down, sample edits are the best way to get a feel for your editor’s particular style. Give the same book to ten different editors; you’ll come back with 10 different edits. But that’s also the challenge: do you really want to have to review ten different versions of your book chapter to find the right editor?
So, be strategic about the process. Before you send off the sample to your prospective editor, be sure to prequalify that person.
1.”Have you edited many books?” Editing a book is different than editing an article or any other piece of work. It usually requires multiple run-throughs-especially if you’re looking for content editing and copy editing-and you need your editor to be able to spot missing information, jumpy scenes, stilted dialogue and inconsistencies. These are often editing challenges unique to books. If the editor doesn’t specialize in editing books, you will be better off with someone who does.
2.”What type of books do you edit?” If the book you need edited is a memoir, but your prospective editor specializes in science fiction, you may not be a mutual match. Many editors will only work in certain genres-usually it’s ones they enjoy! If your prospective editor doesn’t edit your type of book, ask for referrals of someone who does.
3.”What are your typical editing rates for a book of this type and size?” Many editors have varying rates for book editing, depending on the length of the book, the amount of work it needs, whether or not it’s a “rush” project, etc. Some may charge by the project and some may charge by the hour. But the editor should be able to give you an approximate range of what similar projects have cost. If this is too high for your budget, it’s better to know this upfront. However, be careful in awarding the project to the lowest bidder. Most editors could tell you stories of books they’ve been hired to re-edit after a subpar job was completed by their first editor. It’s more cost-effective to hire the right person the first time.
4.”What is your average turnaround time?” Even if you don’t have a hard deadline for your book edit, you will still want to know when the manuscript will be complete so you can submit it to agents/publishers or prepare it for self-publishing. Ask the editor for an approximate turnaround time, and get a latest date it will be completed. Then you are both clear on the expectations of its completion. If your editor doesn’t think you need it done by a certain date, you may get continually pushed back to the bottom of their work pile.
5.”Do you provide free sample edits? If so, how many pages?” Sample edits are a great vehicle to serve two purposes: one, for the author to find out if the editor’s style matches what the author’s looking for; two, it allows the editor to see if it’s a book he or she wants to work on. Be sure to ask your prospective editors if they offer sample edits and how many pages or words it includes. Though it may be great for you to see an entire 20-page chapter edited by one editor, it is very time-consuming for the editor and not necessary for you to get a sample of the editor’s skills and style. If you absolutely want more of a sample edit than your prospective editor provides free, ask the cost to do a sample edit of the size section you’d like.
Sample edits are a useful and tangible tool to evaluate how your potential editor would edit a specific section of your book (realizing of course, that the editor doesn’t have the benefit of being familiar with the rest of the book). Sample edits, however, are most useful to you and your potential editor after you have interviewed the editor, found the pricing matches your budget, and that editor has experience with your type of book. Sample edits are a final step to matching your book with its best editor. You’ll know you made the right choice when you read the returned sample edit and say, “Yes, that’s what I’m looking for!”
All articles copyright 2011, Lauren Hidden
Articles may be reprinted, as long as they include the following author box
About the Author: Lauren Hidden is an author, a blogger, and the owner of The Hidden Helper (http://www.hiddenhelper.com), an editorial services firm. To read her blog, visit http://www.hiddenhelper.com. For more information, email her at Lauren@hiddenhelper.com.