Note: This post contains some excerpts from the infamous book 5 of my Publishing Gold Series, the one that can't be published on Amazon. I'm offering a special price on that book since you have to go to Smashwords to get it. Use coupon code: QN34K and you'll get it for 99 cents. Coupon is available through June of 2017.
In the Practical Guide to Publishing, I talk about hiring professionals. Let's specifically talk about editors.
Working with indie authors, I've worked with a number of different editors and they are mostly terrible at the job. There is nothing more disheartening than having to edit a book that an author has just spend thousands of dollars having edited "professionally."
How did this happen?
Be very clear with the editor up front. Let them know what you expect and when you expect to have it done. I've also learned from others that it is best to schedule updates so that you can check on progress.
Spell out exactly what you want the person to do and when you expect to have it done.
Talk with other clients or read reviews their clients have posted. If at all possible, connect up with a real person who has used this person's services. LinkedIn is wonderful for checking references. Just as people will find you from your web presence and that carefully maintained brand you have created, you should be able to find out about this professional's quality of work.
A referral from their aunt is not the type of referral you want. You want to talk to someone who has used their services.
If you were traditionally published, you would likely have several editors working for you. Let's face it: there is a quality difference that shows when you have a team of professionals working on a project!
As an independent author, you'll start out doing most of your editing yourself. I have a friend who works with traditionally published authors simply checking the facts in their books. Until you become successful, you will have to check your own facts! You may have to find your own typos, too. (By the way: it is almost impossible to find your own typos. Hiring an editor should be one of your highest priorities.)
[A joke I can't resist mentioning: while reviewing this post, I found a typo that had made it through numerous spell checks and multiple passes by my editor. There is always at least one that gets through! And yes, I did stop everything and fix it! That's a blessing of being an independent author!]
The first contractor you should hire is an editor.
Be careful if you find yourself working with someone who treats you like you are "not a professional." My experiences with this type of individual have always ended in disaster. The quality of their work was substandard. Was it because they thought my indie publishing work didn't matter? I don't know. Was it that their snobbery was masking their own lack of professionalism? Possibly. If the contractor you choose is not going to treat you with respect, hire someone else.
Your editor can become a key to your process, someone who not only makes your work sparkle, but also helps you stay productive. Once you know that editor has your back, you can work with more confidence. Your editor is an invaluable part of your team.
One word of warning: I've noticed a few traditionally published authors are working as editors for indie authors to make extra money on the side. Let's face it, mid-list traditionally published authors do need to make money to supplement their income. But these are not the people you want editing your books.
Why? Many of them are productive authors. You've read their books. The writing is solid and the books are well edited. Why wouldn't you want that person to do your editing?
Because traditionally published authors have editors to edit their work. The books you've read are as well written and edited as they are not because the author is a good editor, but because the editor who edited them is a good editor!
I recently read a post bashing indie authors written by a traditionally published author who does this sort of work on the side. After reading her article (which I do not want new indie authors to have to suffer through), I finally understand why my indies have found such terrible editors.
The author of the post saw indies as hopeless. She edited them with disdain. I am certain that even if she is an excellent editor, she did not do good work for her indie clients.
Editing and writing are different skills.
A good editor is going to cost you money. Your book will earn more money if it is well edited. Just as a professional cover will help sales, a professional edit (or three) will encourage your readers to recommend your book.
Starting out, you may not have the money to afford a high quality editor. Raise money. Save money. Barter. Use GoFundMe.
A good editor is worth every penny.
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