Friday, May 18, 2012

Maintaining a Good Relationship With Your Editor

By Lourdes Venard

In two previous blog posts, I wrote about the differences between editors, and how to find a good editor.
The next step, after determining what type of editor you want and hiring someone, is to maintain that relationship–and make the most of it. If the two of you are a good fit, this is a relationship that may potentially continue for many years–throughout more books, short stories, magazine articles, websites or blog posts.

The secret of maintaining a long-lasting relationship is like many other working relationships. Communicating clearly and with respect goes a long way. Here are some other tips:

·         Be honest and upfront. Before you hand over the manuscript, make sure the editor knows what you want her to do. Do you want in-depth, substantive editing or just light copy-editing? Will you need her to fact-check information?

·         Get your manuscript in on time. The editor probably has other work, and has scheduled her time accordingly. If you tell her you’ll have your manuscript (or a number of chapters) to her on a set date, try to meet your deadline.

·         Pay on time. For many editors, this is their full-time job and timely payment is critical.

·         Don’t argue over an edit–or, at least, do it politely. If you don’t understand why an editor changed something, ask her. If she misunderstood something in the text, it’s likely that readers also will misunderstand. There may be other reasons for the change. And if you still disagree, well, you have the last word anyway.

·         Don’t expect more beyond the editing services. An editor cannot guarantee you publication, and don’t expect her to have an “in” with agents or publishers, although she may point you to websites and professional directories that are helpful. If you have a good working relationship, though, you may find editors who will go beyond what’s required and send you updates about writing contests, conferences in your area, or other useful advice they come across.

·         Finally, say thank-you. A simple, but often overlooked, step. Editors, working behind the scenes, will always appreciate this. If you’ve really enjoyed the process, you can even volunteer a testimonial or offer to be a reference for the next client.

Lourdes Venard, a Long Island, N.Y., newspaper editor, also freelances and teaches an online copyediting course. She’s edited mystery, science fiction, memoirs and nonfiction. You can find more information on editing and self-publishing at her website at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finding–and Hiring–a Freelance Editor

By Lourdes Venard

You’ve finished your novel and now you need an editor. Some writers turn to an English teacher they know or a friend who was always good at spotting errors. But these may not always be the best sources. A professional copy editor has training and years of experience behind her, and will give your novel a far more thorough look.

How do you find this editor, and how do you go about hiring her?

One of the best ways of finding a copy editor is to ask for references from other writers. There’s also a very large pool of talent at the Editorial Freelancers Association ( A posting there will generate dozens and dozens of applicants. Some regions may have their own groups, such as the Bay Area Editors’ Forum in San Francisco (

Now that you have a pool of applicants, the best way to winnow them is to ask them to complete a sample edit (anywhere from six to 12 pages). This is probably the most important step you can take. This will give you an idea of their editing strengths and, just as importantly, their bedside manner. Most editing inherently feels like criticism, and you’ll be reading page after page of this, so make sure you understand (and can stand) an editor’s comments.
A sample edit of this length is also enough to give the editor an idea of how long it will take her to complete the project, and she can base a price estimate on this. You can find common copy-editing rates at, although individual rates vary considerably. Just remember, as in most everything else, you get what you pay for sometimes!

Editors also vary on the way they like to be paid. Some editors ask for a deposit, then a second or even a third payment later on, and a final payment. Other editors will charge you weekly, or as they finish sections of the book. Make sure all this is spelled out in advance in a contract.
Here are other important questions for you to ask:
  • When can you start my project, and how soon can you complete it? Editors often juggle several projects at once, so if you need it soon, make sure you spell that out up front. Be careful, though, of an editor who promises to edit your manuscript much more quickly than the other editors you’ve contacted. Editing, by nature, is a slow, methodical process. Editors who rush or do only one pass will miss things.
  • What is your experience editing books, especially mystery novels (or whatever genre you are writing in)?
  • Do you have at least three references I can contact?
  • What is your editing method? Most editors will edit a manuscript in a Word document, using the "Track Changes" feature. However, I had one author who wanted his manuscript edited on paper and mailed back to him; I complied.
  • How do you prefer to communicate if I have questions? If the editor only wants to communicate via email and you have questions or concerns you want to address in a phone call or in person, this could create problems down the line. 
  • Do you provide a contract or letter of agreement? This protects both you and the editor. The contract should spell out rates, timelines, the length of the manuscript, and the type of editing (substantive versus line editing). It should also give you an “out,” if you feel the editing relationship is not working. Generally, an editor expects to be paid for work done up to that point.
  • Do you provide other services? If you are happy with your editor, the relationship may continue, with the editor reviewing letters to agents/publishers, editing your blog posts or website, etc. Some editors now also prepare manuscripts for publication, although this is not usually considered a part of editing services.
The next step

This is part two of a three-part series on editing. The series concludes on Friday, with a look at maintaining a good relationship with your editor.

About the author
Lourdes Venard, a Long Island, N.Y., newspaper editor, also freelances and teaches an online copyediting course. She’s edited mystery, science fiction, memoirs and nonfiction. You can find more information on editing and self-publishing at her website at

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Reasons You Need an Editor

By Lourdes Venard

We’ve all had the experience of reading a book, being completely immersed, and then, whoosh, we’re thrown out of the story. It can be as simple as a misspelled word or as grievous as a character whose name has suddenly changed.

This is where the editor steps in—or should have stepped in, I should say.

Editors often get a bad rap. Most writers don’t like their words to be changed, trimmed or otherwise played with. Editors are seen as nitpickers, at best; an intrusive presence, at worst. A good editor, though, leaves behind a better story, without having left a footprint behind.

If you are a first-time writer, this experience can be invaluable, as Toby Speed, a Long Island Sisters in Crime member, found. Speed spent 15 years crafting her first novel and another year shopping it around.

“After many revisions and a couple of overhauls, at 101,600 words it was perfect,” she said. “I’d had two groups of beta readers go through it carefully and I incorporated their helpful, detailed comments.”

But Speed’s mystery story was going nowhere until one editor wrote back, explaining the importance of pacing and suggesting a cut of 15,000 to 20,000 words—and, best yet, the editor had shown her how, by editing the first 70 pages. But, at first, this only annoyed Speed.

“She had even deleted my prologue, the best writing in the book!” Speed said. “I walked around grumbling for 24 hours, wondering how I could possibly cut that many words without harming the story."

"Then I read the editor’s version with the tracking turned off. It read really well—in fact, a whole lot better than the original. The story got started right away and moved right along. The first two chapters ended in the right place. I took a deep breath and over the next six weeks, following her example, I shaved nearly 16,000 words from the story and resubmitted it."

"No one else had seen my story as it was—or as it had the potential to become.”

Speed resubmitted her book, and a publishing company is considering it.

Her experience is not uncommon. As a writer, it’s hard to be objective of one’s own work. A fresh set of eyes—an experienced set of eyes—is always helpful.

When searching for an editor, you should be aware that there are three levels of editing--developmental editing, copyediting and proofreading. Some editors will work in all three areas; some editors specialize in only one of them.

Developmental editing (also called substantive editing).

In traditional publishing, this is the first round of editing, and it may reshape your manuscript quite a bit. Not all writers may feel they need this, but if you do, you should expect a developmental editor to look at:
  • Plot structure
  • Character development and voice
  • Story pacing
  • Scene structure
  • Improving the flow of the story, which may mean moving around sentences, paragraphs or even chapters 
  • Point of view and dialogue
  • Gaps in the story
  • Themes and whether your book is appropriate to the genre in which you are writing

Copy editing (or line editing), which includes:
  • Grammar, spelling and word usage
  • Consistency in names, the timeline and other details
  • Consistency in dialogue and point of view narration
  • Glaring factual errors, as well as fictional ones (if you’ve established something as fact in Chapter 1, it should remain the same throughout)
  • Repetitiveness
  • Smooth, clear writing that will be understood by the reader


If you’ve worked with a good copy editor, you are not likely to need this last step. Generally, proofreaders are employed by publishers to read the story in typeset form, to look for any remaining errors in spelling, punctuation, or typesetting. 

The next steps

This is part one of a three-part series on editing. The upcoming blog posts this week will look at questions to ask when hiring freelance editors, what to pay, and what to expect when you work with an editor.

About the author
Lourdes Venard, a Long Island, N.Y., newspaper editor, also freelances and teaches an online copyediting course. She’s edited mystery, science fiction, memoirs and nonfiction. You can find more information on editing and self-publishing at her website,