Sunday, February 04, 2007


By Mindy Reed, MA, MLIS

Think of yourself, the author as a racecar driver and your book as the high performance machine. You are in control of the vehicle's destiny, guiding it through every hairpin turn. No matter how accomplished the driver or how excellent the car, a driver would never put the car onto the race until a mechanic checked it out.

An editor is your mechanic; the professional who “gets under the hood,” delves into every nuance and gives you the green flag. Regardless of how many times your spouse has read the manuscript, your critique group has given you feed back and your aunt, the English teacher, has proofread it, do not submit it to an agent, editor or contest until an editor has reviewed it.
The editor should be someone totally objective. You want someone who will give you the honest feedback and guidance provided by publishing house editors. You may be wondering, “if a publisher is going to assign me an editor, why should I hire someone now?”

Over the past decade, publishing houses have been consolidating and downsizing. They are no longer willing to shepherd new writers through the process. Nowadays, publishers and university presses are requiring authors to submit faultless manuscripts. And, as more writers follow the example of musicians and produce their own works, they need to be aware that POD (print on demand) publishers print what you submit. It is folly to be pennywise and pound foolish after you have spent ten years or more on your book.

The editor should be completely impartial but professional, someone with skills, training and an established client list. Rates vary depending upon geographic region and depth of edit (proofreading versus full content editing). Fees may be structured hourly or per page and some folks may request a deposit. Every book is different; some can be edited on a chapter-by-chapter basis, but always have the completed book reviewed. If you want to make sure the editor is a good fit for you and your book, ask them to do a two to three page sample edit.

Remember that with freelance editors you are in the driver's seat and have the final say on what gets added, deleted or changed in your manuscript. The editor you hire should share your vision and be committed to helping you achieve it not mold you to their own writing style or perspective.

Let agents, editors and publishers know in your query letter that you have had your manuscript professionally edited. It shows them you are committed to providing quality work.

In 1995, Mindy Reed, a professional editor, librarian and researcher, founded her company The Authors’ Assistant, through which she has helped scores of authors polish their manuscripts for publication.

1 comment:

Devon Ellington said...

Great comparison.

And, it's VERY important for the writer to remember that the editor needs to support the writer's vision, not try to turn it into the kind of book the editor would write.