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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nina Alvarez, Editor/Writer, Shares Tips on How to Hire an Editor, and Why!

Nina, I want to thank you for being my guest today, and for sharing your expertise with us.  I am sure the writers and aspiring writers will appreciate the article that you prepared for them.  Before we get into your article on how to hire an editor, could you tell us a little about how you got started writing, and how you eventually became both an editor and a writer.

I sat in my backyard, inventing rhymes when I was four. When I was eight in wrote my first short story and fell in love with the blank page and all its possibilities. When I was 15, I published a poem in Teen magazine but it wasn't until I was 27 that I started to submit my short stories and poems regularly for publication in online and print literary journals.
In those in-between years I studied creative writing at the University at Albany with minors in Psychology and Philosophy (all of which would play into my later work). I returned for a master’s in English and wrote a thesis that combined memoir, creative nonfiction, and critical theory.
I have lived in Paris and South Africa, taught college-level English, copyedited and copywrote in corporate office and nonprofits. For the past three years I have written website content, ad copy, marketing material, professional blogs, and edited fiction manuscripts for individual clients and small companies.
What can you tell us about hiring an editor and why we should?

In praise of his editor, Stephen King quips in his book On Writing, "To write is human. To edit is divine." He was being tongue-in-cheek, but only somewhat. Skill at editing is a craft and, I would argue, an art. A good editor gets your crossed wires - those conduits that serve the all-important telepathy from writer to reader - uncrossed. To strengthen those conduits, an editor has to have double vision. She must be a reader and simultaneously the writer so she can see where the language has served as a vehicle for the writer's meaning and where it has hampered it. That is why a good editor can, hands down, be the difference between publication heaven and slush pile purgatory.
But how do you find the right editor for you?
Some writers believe hiring an editor before submitting to agents is simply something they can't afford. Others don't even know where to begin, who is worth the money, and how to find the right editor. I will address both those concerns.
Writer’s Digest, Writer’s Market, and Publishers Marketplace all list professional editors who have paid to be listed in these high-profile pubs. This is a good way to look at editors successful enough to put real money into advertising. Check out their websites and peruse their services, by all means. But also know that many good editors keep a lower profile and get their work through word of mouth and social networking. They work from home, handle fewer projects, have less overhead, and will often be less expensive.
That is why I suggest trying out your social network first. Solicit referrals from friends and connections, no matter how distant in the literary field. Most writers love to share a good editor. And a personal referral plus the pricing and services gleaned from an editor’s business website will help narrow down your list.
If you don’t get any good leads, try online searches using key terms like “freelance editor” and the name of your genre or subject matter. Consider the information given as well as the branding of the website. How do they talk about themselves and their services? Does it resonate with you? Send introductory emails, make phone calls, then use your instincts to hone in. Working with an editor is not just about who is fastest or least inexpensive. It is about resonance, personality match, and ease of discourse. I never take on a client whose subject matter, style, and personality don’t resonate with me. I suggest creating a similar ‘red velvet rope’ policy when choosing your editor.
What do you want from your editor?
Beyond finding a good personality and genre match, consider how much work your manuscript needs. Do you want notes on the big-picture stuff like plot and character? What about the word choice? Do you just need a spit polish? It’s okay if you don’t know. Most editors will tell you after a consultation what they think the manuscript needs and offer you different editing packages accordingly. 
Editing services fall into three general levels: developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing.
Developmental editing
Developmental editing includes, but is not limited to, rewriting passages and restructuring plot, pointing out gaps in the internal logic of the story, offering suggestions to improve character development, and suggesting the best way to tell the story (this is where hiring someone who knows your genre particularly helps). 
Line editing
Line edits suggest sentence structure and word choice to strengthen the effectiveness of the language. A line editor constantly asks herself: “Does this match the author’s intent, is the vocabulary appropriate, is the voice active,  is it consistent in style and voice, does it read smoothly, and are these literary devices (smiles, metaphors, etc.) working to the author’s advantage?” A good line editor knows how to trim, cut, rephrase, or embellish lines to give a paragraph resonance. Notice how that word "resonance" keeps showing up? I am referring to it as a sense of richness, a quality of evoking response.
Copy editing
Copy editors fix spelling, punctuation, and formatting mistakes. A copy edit and proofread is essential before sending a story out. At best, their work clarifies the author’s meaning and at worst adds a nice layer of polish. For uniformity across the field, fiction editors use the Chicago Manual of Style as their style guide. I suggest writers familiarize themselves with Chicago online using the free 30-day trial.
The Price
To get a sense of the general costs of editing services, bookmark this handy chart at the Editorial Freelancers Association. It is organized into ‘type of work,’ ‘estimated pace,’ and ‘range of fees.’ The problem with the chart is that although the hourly wages are fair and, I believe, accurate, they can give you sticker shock. For example, the final cost of editing a 400-page manuscript at an average speed of 7.5 pages per hour would take about 53 hours. At $30 per hour, the final cost of that project is near $1,600. That is obviously fair wage for a degreed professional, but not exactly pocket change for the average writer.

So I understand why some writers balk at hiring an editor. But I say have an honest conversation with each of your potential hires. Let them know your goals and your budget. Many editors offer flat fees, low-end and high-end packages and allow clients to pay in installments.

All the heart and soul you have already put into your book is the very reason you should consider going the extra mile. Editors are people whose profession and calling is to make manuscripts attractive to agents, publishing houses, and readers. No one can promise you publication, but if you have the right editor, then you will have someone to report back to you from the eyes of the reader and help you make those connections across time and space that we call great stories.
Learn more about Nina and her services at:
Dream Your Book Literary Services,
and you can find out what she else she is doing at:


1 comment:

Michael Asante said...

Thank you very much for throwing light on this topic, especially, the three levels of editing services.