Monday, May 11, 2015

Using a Professional Editor

By Holly Lorincz

[This is an excerpt from the recently published book
by Chip MacGregor and Holly Lorincz, reprinted with permission from Benchmark Press]

"How do I use a professional editor? And how can I find someone trustworthy?"

Answer by Holly Lorincz, owner of Lorincz Literary Services, and professional editor for New York Times Bestselling Authors such as Vince Zandri and Deborah Reed

This is a good question; most writers who seek publication understand this is a collaborative process. It’s important to know what to look for in an edit, and an editor.

First, decide if you need a developmental edit, a copy edit, or a proofreading (or a combination). For instance, it often makes the most sense to start with hiring a professional to do a developmental edit. Then, once you’ve taken their assessment notes and made plot or character or timeline revisions, you can decide if you still need to pay for a close reading (copy edit) or if you are ready to hire an editor for a proof (editing only for typos and grammar errors, not for content).

If you are looking for an editor on your own, make sure you talk to them before you sign up (you can find editorial services easily by doing an internet search). At least chat through email. What is their availability? What is their experience? How long does an edit with your word length generally take? How do they define the different types of edits (not everyone uses the same terminology)? Which style guide, and other references, will the editor be using (for example, most editors use the Chicago Manual of Style on novels, as this is what most publishing houses prefer)? How do they provide feedback? How do they charge? Are there testimonials available from previous clients? Do they edit from a hard copy (old-school) or can you send a Word doc? Do they need to see a sample first? Most importantly, do they work mostly with fiction or nonfiction? Will they be comfortable or open-minded regarding your content?

Once you have settled on an editor, and you’re happy with the time frame of the review, be sure to communicate openly about what you think are problem areas. While a good editor will be reading the manuscript with basic novel or nonfiction concepts in mind, anyway, according to the type of review you've ordered, it’s good to let him or her know you are particularly concerned with theme, or a minor character’s voice, or a certain subplot, or scaffolding of information, etc.

Okay. You’ve just received your manuscript back, covered in red. What do you do with the professional edit?

To start, you may totally disagree with the suggested revisions but you still need to pay for the review. Remember, you are hiring for a service—a service that by its very nature is meant to tear apart your baby. When you’ve been handed back your bloody baby, you cradle it and cry and pound your chest in private, but then you sign the check. Now, if the edit is shoddy or unprofessional, by all means go back to the editor and do what you need to do. But if you take issue over their opinion, then you need to take a step back and reconsider.

Why did the editor say what he or she did? If this objective reader misread or found something needing repair, is it not then likely other readers will feel the same way? If so, consider the editor’s suggestions or come up with your own revisions. Assuming your bottom line is to actually sell the book, will the general public agree with your editor or with you?

Once you receive the review, it is totally appropriate to email or call if you do not understand a comment or revision. However, it is not appropriate to make suggested changes and then go back to the editor and expect them to re-assess portions of your manuscript, not unless you’ve contracted them for their time. It’s not that the editor is heartless or doesn’t care about your project, but they do have other edits scheduled and need to move on.

A common response from authors is to want to explain their point of view or what they “meant” to the editor. This is totally not necessary. The editor’s job is done the minute they tell you a scene or a phrase didn’t make sense to them. The editor knows you will either see how it could be confusing and fix it, or you will choose to ignore their suggestion. Either option is up to you—the editor has moved on.

When you find a good editor, learn to appreciate their work, even if it’s emotionally hard to read his or her notes. The majority of us take our role as editor seriously, recognizing how vulnerable most writers are when it comes to having their project critiqued. That’s as it should be. I offer criticism from the point of view of someone who honestly just wants to help authors produce their best work, never to be condescending or argumentative. I believe this is how most professional editors operate, from an innate desire to teach, to be supportive, and to be part of a book’s journey to a bookshelf.

How do I know what type of #editor I need? via@HollyLorincz (Click to Tweet.)

@Holly Lorincz advises us to do our homework before hiring an #editor. (Click to Tweet.) 

Holly Lorincz is the owner of Lorincz Literary Services, an editing and publishing consultation service that can be found at  She is also a literary agent with the prestigious MacGregory Literary, Inc.

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