It has been called the bane of being an author. Imagine, submitting your beloved manuscript to an editor and have it come back with a sea of red ink! The indignity!
Yet, editing is not meant to be for writers, it is meant to be for the readers. The readers you want to trust you and the words, styles, and punctuation you use to get your messages across.
The I-DON’T-NEED-AN-EDITOR MYTH
Of course, you caught the spelling error in the title. Only one (t) is appropriate for the word. When we reread our manuscripts and catch some things like that, we feel pretty good about ourselves. We may even think: Hey, I’m pretty good at this! But the truth is, no – you are not! Maybe better than some, but not good enough. Even if you have an English degree, all writers have a built-in disadvantage and that is FAMILIARITY (with the text). Subconsciously, our minds tend to self-correct, It causes us to read what we want to read, not what’s really on the page.
What do I mean? Well, read the following sentence out loud to yourself:
You may be familiar with the saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” So, you read it out loud, but you probably didn’t say the word “the” twice – as it is written. If the text (above) was a part of your manuscript, then you just blew it! Familiarity Happens because we are human. It usually serves us well, but not in editing.
“The lawyer who represents themself in court has a fool for a client.”
That paradigm applies to writers who act as editor wanna-be’s. I want to encourage you to not be that fool. A good friend of mine wrote his first book on Christian living. He is a pastor in Oregon, and I was sitting in his office when he gave me a copy. Along with the gift was his admonition: “Don’t get upset about the grammar and such.” Later, I sat down to read it and found out (quickly) why he told me that. The paperback was replete with errors. One page had a total of three! Now, this was a good self-published book. On the content end, he had done a good job, but he failed to invest in his message enough to have a good editor go through it with a fine-toothed comb. WHY? You know why – to save $$$, which brings us to a key question we need to ask ourselves:
How Much Is Your Reputation (as a writer) Worth To You?
The first edition of Growing Food God’s Way was 55,000 words. My wife and I decided to do the editing. She was a publication editor in HS. We got the proof back from the printers and decided the task of reading it cover-to-cover again was too daunting and time-consuming, so we quickly went through each page to double-check the footnotes. We found a LOT of things to change in the footnotes. That SHOULD have been a wake-up call that the rest of manuscript was not quite up to snuff. But, we were in a hurry. We sent the changes back and the book was printed. Alas, as the Bible points out in Numbers 32:23b “…be sure your sin will find you out.” A number of my readers (around the world) felt the same cringe that I did when reading the pastor’s book. The Type A readers even took the time to email me what they had discovered. It was an exercise in humility and, for most reader’s part, an exercise in grace and patience. What 3 words could soothe my conscience?
WAIT, that doesn’t soothe my conscience, that reminds even me of some of the errors that got by me. They are called homophones: words that sound alike but have different spellings. My favorite example of homophones is a clever sentence that was used in early American grade schools: Pare a Pear with a Pair of scissors. By the way, words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings are called homographs (read/read). “I will read chapter four tonight.” “I read chapter three last night.” Same spellings, different meanings.
What About WORD Editor, or Software Like Grammarly?
First off, I haven’t used Grammarly, but it looks intriguing to me. All my personal books and ghost-written books have been created on Microsoft Word. At any point in your writing, you can check for spelling, grammar, or even use the Review tab to find synonyms for words you want to replace. Under “Home” at the top of WORD, see the “Proofing” section at the left. Select “Editor.” SEE below:
When you click “editor” it will scan the document for issues and make suggestions. In the 2-page draft of a potential ghost-writing chapter, you can see WORD makes 3 suggestions:
As you can see WORD was OK with my clarity of the writing, my punctuation, and vocabulary. But, there are 2 words they think aren’t spelled right. Turns out, they suggested I capitalize the words: “theo” and “vaya,” which I did. Next, the grammar issue was what they considered a gratuitous (unneeded) comma, which I removed. Then, it gave me all green checkmarks. However, it would be foolish of me to assume that it’s “all good,” because I met the expectations of my document software. There are too many nuances that can get through AI text review like water through a sieve.
Where to Find A Good Editor?
As there are good writers and bad writers, and a lot of ho hum writers in between, there are good editors and bad editors. What do we look for in a good editor?
Some look at credentials, some assume they are good because they’re pricey, some look at editing samples. I like the latter. The prospective will ask you to send them a page, a few pages, or chapter of raw manuscript and they apply their skill sets to your writing and send it back with all the markings, comments, and suggestions. By the way, good editors rely on established spelling and grammar conventions. You need to know which source they base their editing on. I lean toward the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) as the blueprint of how my writing will be edited. Back to the question: Where do I fond a good editor?
You can ask around with your author friends and acquaintances, query authors you like about who they used. If you are working with a publisher, they either have staff editors or will provide you a list of approved editors. Note that major publishers like Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster put their authors through at least 3 rounds of editing. Accordingly, there are no errors to be found in their books. The 2nd edition of GFGW went through one round of editing and three rounds of fine tuning.
What’s a Beta Reader?
Would that my pastor friend had used beta readers to help him see what he could not see when he re-read his manuscript. A beta reader is like a literary focus group; akin to beta testing new software. Usually beta readers are friends and relatives, but you may belong to an online writer’s community that would add knowledgeable strangers to your beta community. Beta readers are not formal editors, but they are extra pairs of eyes that may spot things you overlooked. Remember A Bird in The The Hand? If your beta readers are like mine, they will not confine themselves to mundane things like spelling. They adopt the liberty to comment on any aspect of your work. That ranges from: “Take this chapter out,” (which can be good advice) to: “Here’s how I would order the chapter.”
How Many Beta Readers Do I Need?
Depends on the length and complexity of your manuscript. I used a handful. To help make it easier for them I made up a sheet of questions that prompted them to think about what they are reading and see what I was sensitive to. One of my authors had many friends, so he used about 20 beta readers. From that, we removed a section of a chapter that one person felt would alienate some readers. Others good things came of that effort also.
My Bad and Good Experiences
Like you, I was constantly trying to save a buck here and there. Consequently, my first paid editing attempt was made through FIVERR. www.fiverr.com It was a complete waste of time and money! Needless to say, I got what I paid for. You can see editor ratings on FIVERR, but that didn’t help me. One of the creepy things about using FIVERR for editing is that you may need to send your source WORD manuscript file to a person in a foreign nation. You decide whether you can trust such a person. Alternatively, you can try to pick from only those editors that reside in your country, but I suspect there are some shenanigans going on in that regard (ppl listing a country they don’t really live in). Again, it goes to trust.
On the 2nd edition, I chose to go with a hybrid publisher. That is, they are not competing with the likes of Penguin House. No, they come along aside you and get you through step by step. That was Book Publishers Network http://www.bookpublishersnetwork.com I had the advantage of working with a good editor on a previous ghost-written book, so I sought her out directly to see if she had both the time and inclination to edit GFGW – 2nd ed. Her name is Julie Scandora. Email me at [email protected] to get her contact info or: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julie-scandora-499b968. Julie had already seen a glimpse of how I write from the previous book, so she went right at it with this one. On the first round she came up with well over 1000 changes! Here is a sample page:
See what I mean? Imagine about 300 pages of editing like this! It was a bit overwhelming, but it shows us how necessary good editing is to our books.
What Should I Budget for Editing?
Get a few bids if you have the latitude to do so. Most editors cost out on a per-page basis. I can’t share what Julie’s bill came to, but I can share that I felt the investment was well spent. I haven’t received an email from a 2nd edition reader that is complaining about spelling or punctuation errors. There’s intangible value in that. Editors are like physical therapists. They push you till it hurts and then they push you some more. Editors have found it to be the only way to make the progress (or product) that is desired by everybody. Your book is your legacy. The quality of that legacy starts up front. There are no “do-overs” once we are gone. DD