Editor credentials help you trust
Trust is the most important and yet difficult-to-build component when doing business on the internet. If you don’t trust someone, you’re not going to invest your hard-earned money or your time with them. You’re not going to trust your book—your brainchild, your baby—with them, either.
Too many internet marketers hide things and play shady games. They deceive people. You want to avoid scams, and Lord knows there are so many of them out there. Check editor credentials before hiring an editor for your next work.
Choosing an editor
When you’re choosing an editor, it’s a very important decision, and you need to know that you can trust that person. Some would say to hire only very experienced editors, but I say that would be unfair to those who are just starting out and don’t have any editor credentials yet. If every writer hired only very experienced editors, how would new editors ever get experience? There has to be a way to determine whether or not a potential editor has what it takes. I believe there is. This story shows how it can work well.
I had already done a lot of editing over the years, but it was not primarily books. It was mostly academic papers and internal and external materials for different places I worked. When I wanted to get into editing books more, I started contacting traditional publishing houses. That first day, I received about 100 responses that basically said, “We have no need for a freelance editor. Our in-house editors handle all of our books.” Then I had the urge to check out the chat room at Free Agent Academy, where I was (and still am) a member. I’d never been in there before, and I needed a break from rejection, so I thought I’d just chat with some like-minded entrepreneurial individuals…
There was only one other person in that chat room, Justin Hughes, and we met and conversed a bit. We had both seen each other’s posts and comments on that website, but hadn’t talked before. It was a nice conversation.
As I was getting ready to leave the chat room and get back to prospecting, I told him I had to go because I needed to get back to contacting publishers about freelance editing. He said he needed an editor. <screeching brakes> You do?
Turned out his wife had written and published a book, was ready to do a second printing, and wanted it to be line edited and proofread by a professional first. Call it chance, coincidence, perfect timing, the universe conspiring, Providence…whatever term you like. I was thankful for it.
Justin asked me to email him some information so we could discuss it and see if we could come to an agreement. A few emails later, we had a deal, and Surviving the Flier was in my inbox to be edited.
It was a wonderful experience for both of us, and a lifetime friendship and working relationship sprang from it. All of Rebekah Hughes’ books are welcome to cross my desk! Her next book is scheduled to do so in the Spring of 2015.
If Justin and Rebekah Hughes had insisted on hiring an editor who already had several books under her belt… if they hadn’t considered my other experience or my ability… if they hadn’t taken a little bit of a chance on me (I sweetened the deal and reduced their risk, but they were still taking a bit of a chance), things would have been very different, and, I think, not nearly as good. Who knows what kind of editor they would have ended up with if they hadn’t gone with me, but instead insisted on more book-editing experience in the list of editor credentials they were looking for? She and I connected so well that I’m sure another editor would have been less beneficial for her. God willing, I’ll be her editor for life.
When you’re looking for an editor, how can you be sure to find a good one?
Experience is one factor, but it’s not the only one, and the experience doesn’t have to be books that they person has edited. If the person hasn’t edited any books yet, I would be sure that they’ve read a lot of books and are familiar with how books should be. When I say “a lot of books” I mean thousands of books. Not many people have read more than a few hundred books in their lifetimes. Most editors haven’t even read that many. If someone’s using their experience as a reader and doesn’t have experience editing, I’m setting the bar pretty high on that so you’re more likely to find someone good.
Education is another factor. Someone doesn’t necessarily have to have a degree in English or Creative Writing to edit. Education and Journalism are two other majors that sometimes yield good editors, and, believe it or not, some good editors don’t have a bit of related education.
I actually failed the Writing Fiction course I took, due to an oversight on my part and inflexibility on my college’s part. I meant to drop the course because the time it met meant I wouldn’t be able to eat dinner, multiple nights a week. I did it for a while, but it just didn’t work. I thought I’d dropped the class… until I got my grade report for that semester with a big fat F. The school wouldn’t work with me on that, and I never had time to retake the course later on to supplant that grade, so I live with an F on my transcript. An F in a writing course, of all things. Does that mean I’m no good at what I do? No. There’s no connection at all.
Ability is the third and probably most important factor. Can the person do it? When you look at their facebook page, their emails, or anything else they write, do you see grammar, spelling, and usage errors? No one is going to be perfect, and even professional editors make a typo here and there. But there shouldn’t be very many. If they don’t care enough to check their own work, why should you trust them to check yours?
When you look at the before and after clips they show you, can you see a difference? (Note: they might not have any to show, because of nondisclosure agreements. A lot of writers don’t want anyone to know how bad their writing was before they handed it over to be edited, so they require the editor to sign an NDA. That’s understandable and just fine.) For editors who don’t have before-and-after clips that they can show you, you might ask them to edit a page of your writing as a sample so you can see their work. A page is reasonable to ask for. A chapter (or the whole book) is not.
Yes, I’ve actually had people ask me to edit their entire book for free, so they could “see if I work out” and then they’d decide if they wanted to pay me or not. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, that’s nowhere near reasonable. I’ve even had a publishing house ask me to edit a book for free as part of their “editor’s test” to see if I’m good enough to edit for them. I wonder how many books they get edited for free by scamming freelance editors that way. It must be working for them, or they wouldn’t be doing it.
Writers, please don’t ask that kind of thing of editors, and editors, please don’t fall for the free editing scams. If you’re going to do work for free or at a steep discount to build your credits, that’s one thing, but know what you’re singing up for.
The people who want you to work on spec like that… they’re not going to pay you. They probably won’t even put your name on the copyright page as the editor. There are a few books out there that should have my name on the copyright page as editor or proofreader, but don’t. I’d like to say that from now on, every book I edit will have my name on it, but I’m not that naive. Sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. Will I edit under an NDA again? If the price is right, I probably will, but I’d like to be able to list the books I edit on my CV, so it would have to be worth it.
Editor credentials include soft skills
And, finally, when you’re trying to find an editor, talk to people whose writing they’ve edited in the past. Ask them if this person can edit well. It’s the perfect time to find out what kind of person the editor is to work with, too. Do they keep promises? Are they understanding or rigid? Do they listen, to be sure they understand what you’re trying to say with your writing, or do they try to shove your work into their own mold? Technical ability is important, but if the editor doesn’t have any people skills, working with them is going to be a bumpy ride!