Editing is a scary business. Someone taking your manuscript and pointing out everything that’s wrong with it. That’s what I think anyway.
However, editors aren’t there to be mean. They genuinely want to help you produce the best piece of literature you can. And I also want to produce the best piece of literature I can, which is why I have gritted my teeth and approached several professional editors. There are a number of things I have discovered:
1) Prices vary. A LOT.
One company offers a set price depending on word count. Another offers a ‘per hour’ service and you need to contact them for a quote. Another has a tier system depending on what level of editing you require.
All in all, it’s very confusing when you’re trying to compare companies’ services and prices. A lot of companies will give you a complimentary “sample edit” which helps a lot. I’ve sent one chapter of my manuscript to several editors to see what they would do to it, with varying results. More on that below.
2) Editors are not necessarily good website designers.
Unfortunately. A number of the websites my google search coughed up were basic to say the least, and I found three that seemed to have identical website designs, to the point that I suspect they’re actually the same company with several different names. Or a scam. Generally, if the website was not easy to navigate, I gave up and looked somewhere else.
My preferred layout is a clear “about us” section that says what they offer, where they’re located, and whether they specialise in a particular genre. Also, a clear pricing guide that gives you an idea of whether or not you can afford them! There’s no point contacting someone that is way too expensive for you. Also, if they have varying tiers of editing services, it needs to be clear what each service includes. A few websites said something like, “Manuscript Assessment: $xxxx.” That’s all good, but for a newbie like me who didn’t know what “manuscript assessment” meant, it’s not very helpful.
3) Beware the tick-box!
I filled out a form on one of the editing websites I visited to get a quote from them, and I also included a sample that they could edit. They sent me a very reasonable quote, but their sample focused almost solely on spelling and grammar and didn’t really go into content at all. I’m not sure if that meant my content was fine, or if they simply weren’t thorough. They also went and changed all my English/Australian spelling and grammar to American, which was annoying.
I replied and said, “Thanks, if I decide to use your company I’ll be in touch.” After this, I was spammed every single day with emails from them: “Did you get our editing sample?” “You won’t find prices cheaper anywhere else” and so on. After a few angry responses from me, I finally discovered a tick box that I had neglected to uncheck when I sent in the original form, which gave them permission to send me emails.
I don’t think those kind of emails are very nice, and needless to say I’m not using that company.
4) Finding someone local (or even in Australia) is difficult.
Thanks to Google AdWords (which I’m not dissing at all, by the way. I think it’s a great advertising service), whenever I googled “book editors australia” I had to scroll several pages down to get past the companies who have paid to have their websites pop up first to get to companies who are ACTUALLY in Australia. I finally found a company called “The Book Doctor.” Cute name, huh?
Their website had a very clear page on the editing services they provide, including a “what we will do/what we won’t do” section. Their prices page showed prices for manuscript assessments according to word count, and then said “all other editing services $70 per hour.”
What did that mean? How was I supposed to know how long it would take? So I emailed them, and lo and behold….A HUMAN BEING REPLIED TO MY EMAIL! Wow, a real live human! They already had a tick in my book. They said that if I emailed them a sample of my manuscript they would give me a “twenty minute edit” and an estimate of how long it would take them and how much it would cost.
Well, talk about thorough! They picked up on so many more things than the American “tick box” company, and made regular comments on the content and characters and so on. They offered me a flat fee or an edit at $70 per hour and I could pay exactly how long it took them, up to a certain price. I liked the options, and they were so clear about everything. And did I mention that a human emailed me? A real live human? Oh, and they’re based in Australia 🙂
I’m going to use The Book Doctor when my Pozible campaign is over and I’m ready to send Quest for Revenge to them. I’m proofreading QfR at the moment, and I have a couple of grammar Nazi friends who are also reading it and giving it feedback.
So this is what I’ve learned about editing so far! I know some people who have said that they found professional editors a waste of time and money, but I have to say that what I’ve received so far from The Book Doctor has been extremely helpful, and I have already been able to apply the feedback they gave to the rest of the book.
Next Up: Book Covers. DIY or pay someone to do it?