Editing: Going it alone or with a guide
You have a vision of the work you want to write. You’ve laid out a plan for a textbook or monograph (or article). You might have a book contract, or you may be doing the work prospectively. The writing is done. You breathe a sigh. But how about the editing?
Many writers and academics feel comfortable with the content creation, that is the writing. But they may feel less qualified with that pesky editing. Split infinitives, that or which, ending a sentence in a preposition, and a thousand other archine rules haunt some writers and sap their confidence about their work.
Should you hire an editor? The first point to consider is if your potential publisher will expect a final edited manuscript. Depending on if you have a contract or not, have a dialogue with them to see what their expectations are when it comes to your submission. Even if they don’t expect a final manuscript, you might want editorial help to ensure they see your work in the best possible light.
The next step might be to assess your true level of writing and editing. Many times, your level of editing will more than suffice and meet publisher’s expectations. But for those that feel they need additional help, there are choices for editorial assistance.
Editorial service falls into two categories: freelance individuals or editorial services organizations. Both have their merits.
With individuals, you can develop a one-on-one relationship and get much deeper with the project. They will know you and your work better and potentially deliver a higher quality service. These individual editors can get very busy and you will need to schedule your work with them; especially if they are very good. Individual editors can be found through organizations like TAA. There are freelancer sites that you can search (Editorial Freelancers Association or sites like Upwork.com). Or a general web search will yield more than you need. Best is to ask colleagues about any they have used or know or can vouch for. When you find one, have a conversation about your work and what you are specifically looking for. Send them a short sample for their review. Always check references for any individual editor. It is best to get quotes from three editors or more, so you understand their pricing structure. If they provide a chart with per page charges and hourly rates, ask them to give an estimate of how the chart translates into a topical job (with no guarantee in your specific circumstances).
Another option are the editorial companies that have proliferated in the last three to five years. Companies like Enago, Editage, Scribendi, and many, many others offer a menu of services at all different levels. They have professionalized and brought order to what was a cottage-industry prior to their work. Once again, make sure you understand the level of services they provide and the costs. Check on any satisfaction guarantee they have. Also ask where the work will be done. For most of these companies, there is no worry with their schedule as they have virtually unlimited bandwidth.
Before you consider any editorial services, ask some colleagues or friends to read a portion of your material to see how much editing it needs, if at all. And always remember to get all details in writing when it comes to costs, deadlines, and services offered. You don’t want to get lost in the woods.
PS—If you need recommendations for individuals or companies, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Bond is a publishing consultant at Riverwinds Consulting. He works with individuals on publishing and writing projects. Schedule an initial complimentary phone call at Publishing Fundamentals. In his career, he has directed the publishing of over 500 book titles and 20,000 journal articles. He is the host of the YouTube channel “Publishing Defined.” Contact him at email@example.com.