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Writing Tip: Get Your Work Professionally Edited

Updated on December 26, 2016
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Rebecca Graf is an experienced writer with nearly a decade of writing experience with degrees in accounting, history and creative writing.

One of the worst trends I’m seeing in writing and publishing is the lack of editing, specifically professional editing. It is very easy to see which books haven’t done this, and they suffer for it.

If you are smart, make sure your writing is professionally edited.

What It Means to Be Professional

What makes a professional editor? Well, it is someone who has the background and knowledge to edit your work well. In a strict sense, they own an editing business or they have the certification as an editor. I stress that this is only in the strict sense. To me, a professional editor is one who knows the grammar and punctuation rules and can edit content and fact as well.

In other words, just because Aunt Gertrude reads a lot and finds many mistakes in books doesn’t mean she is a professional editor and should be editing your book. I made that mistake once with a relative. They might have found issues in a book, but they had no clue to what grammar rules were still in place nor did they understand how commas really worked. They also could not find holes in the plot or point out where a character was weak or the dialogue needed to be redone. Bad mistake on my part.

A professional editor knows the rules and has the background to back it up. A professional editor understands what it takes to get a book edited.

Cost

A professional editor is not cheap nor free. Yes, you might know someone who will do it for you for free, but the average author doesn’t have that connection. Editing is very hard work. Asking it to be done for free is cheating the author.

Most professional editors cost around $2000 for a novel of 75,000 words. If you find anything less than that, make sure you get a good reference. I’ve seen some charge only a hundred dollars and couldn’t even detect a run on sentence. You get what you pay for and if you can get a good editor for less than a grand, count yourself lucky.

Personally, I charge a much more reasonable fee because most authors cannot afford $2000, but I will not edit someone's book who isn't willing to work on it from their end. Editing is time consuming which is why so many editors charge a few thousand dollars.

Time

How much time does it take to edit your manuscript? More than you think it does, and more than you’d like. If your edits with a full novel take only a week, it’s not being edited. If it takes over a month with few comments, it’s not getting edited. Expect a full novel to take one to four months to be completely edited. I give such a wide range because there are ways to speed up the process and not lose out on quality.

Typically, editing takes multiple rounds to get done. There will be fewer edits if the author has done multiple self-editing before submitting to the editor. That will eliminate the need to fix basic issues that should be addressed before content editing. I’ve had to focus on spelling and sentence structure before I’ve done content editing because the author didn’t do his job before submitting. I have to be able to read the story before I can truly edit it. All authors should have spelling, basic capitalization, and basic punctuation done before submitting to an editor.

When an author does a lot of clean up before editing, it should only take a month or two of up to three rounds of edits to finalize a book. No work done ahead of time….Expect up to six months or more.

Finding an Editor

So, how do you find an editor? You can go online and look. Typically, you’ll find the very experienced and very expensive. If you can afford it, please check them out and read their reviews. If you can’t afford it, check out what other authors have done. Read the author’s work and see how well the editing was done. If it is good, ask who their editor is. Word of mouth can be great when the author knows what makes a good editor.

There are directories for editors, but most of them I have found are very expensive and very selective. Look around and don’t settle for just anyone no matter what the cost.

If editing is under a grand, ask around about them. They might be like me and just want to help others, but they might also not have the background to do a good job. I had one editor trying to get business on Facebook by bragging about her low costs. Posting an example of her edited work, I realized that she didn't know how to edit.

Pay attention and be smart, but always get your book edited.

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