In my last article, I talked about hiring an editor, and I warned you against hiring an editor. Say what?
Many people have had horrible experiences with freelance editors. They’ve spent thousands of dollars to end up with a book far different from their original vision and still unpublishable. Early on, I realized that the Village Writing School needed to help people protect themselves. Two groups find someone on every corner hawking them a quick fix: those who want to lose weight and those who want to be published. I’m in both categories.
Here are my thoughts on hiring an editor.
Be sure you are ready. Before you hire an editor, your book should be as good as you can make it.
I write historical fiction, teach creative writing, and direct the Village Writing School. I believe stories have the power to connect us to our histories, one another, and our best selves.
It should have been read by competent readers—either a writing circle or some good beta readers who have told you where they got bored and where they got confused. Listen to them. On the other hand, don’t let someone force your book into a direction you never intended. One reader told me Jake should meet another version of himself who is trying to stop him. Yikes. Not the book I’m writing.
Make sure the editor understands your overall vision. When my editor and I were exchanging emails, I said, “I think the novel is really about living in the zone where you’re open to possibility rather than bound by dogma, whether its religious dogma or scientific dogma.” She replied: It’s super helpful to have your philosophical take-away. I wasn’t planning to change any of that meaning.
As a writer, you must be able to identify and articulate your themes. That’s what is important. Not the order of the scenes or the quantity of historical detail or any of the scaffolding. You are looking for an editor who gets what you’re trying to do and can help you bring it into sharper focus.
It’s also possible to hire a “developmental” editor, who can help you articulate themes or find your narrative arc. Many editors do that as well.
Don’t be in love with your every word. Last week I talked about the arduous process of getting published. Yet almost every month I meet people who think that they should be able to barf out a story, it should go sailing to New York, and the whole world bow down. They complain that they “can’t get a break,” or “publishing is screwed up.” Successful writers understand it’s about revision and continual education to keep up with what it takes to be published in today’s marketplace.
I’m willing to evolve my vision for this book because I want to be published by a major house. If that’s your goal, you must: 1) Invest in craft; 2) Understand the market. A good editor can help you with both. And if that is your goal, then it only makes sense to work with an editor who has previous experience acquiring novels for major publishers. So how do you find them?
Here are three sources. I don’t know these people, and this is not an endorsement per se. But they were recommended to me by a major-house editor, and they have years of experience in the business. Look for an editor who has previously handled a book in your genre that went on to be published.
A word about cost. Yes. It’s real money. Which is why your book should be at its optimal before you engage an editor. A good editor will give you an estimate before she starts.
The thing to remember is that you are paying not only for the edit of this book but for an education. I think of my work with my editor as MFA, Part 2. What I learn will make all my future books more publishable.
Another thing to consider is how expensive it can be to go to a large conference. Add travel, the expensive hotels they usually hold those in, registration fees, banquets, extra fees for pitching to agents, etc. Conferences are great, but wouldn’t it make more sense to spend that money on an education that is specific to you and your book?
Certainly I’m not saying that hiring an editor is the only way to go or that everyone should. If you’d like to talk to me further about your project and whether you’re ready for an editor, email me.
Whether you’re a writer or not, let 2017 be the year that you show up to your creative project and take the next step, whatever that next step may be for you.
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