Hiring an Editor

A big problem I had was hiring editors. How does one go about it, who to hire, how much to pay, etc. This is how I do it now.

First, I rely on some people I’ve used before. If you click on the credits link up top, all the people who edited any of my books are listed. All of them are fine. For content editing, I try not to stick exclusively to that list, as other, varied opinions might be useful. Copyediting is a bit different, as Wordy has a rotating slate of copyeditors and they bid on and accept jobs among them. Wordy’s a little expensive, but I’ve been generally pretty happy with the results.

I want to say each of the content edits of Mara was about a thousand, a little lower or a little higher. Copyediting was significantly more, and proofreading was less (around half). Mara was about 65k words, and in published form, it’s ~280 pages.

Secondly, looking for people I haven’t used before, I turn first to EFA (Editorial Freelance Association). That works like this:


Have the thing done Do not use this as a deadline to force yourself to finish the book. The book is done. It’s ready. I’ve stared at it until my eyes bleed, and as far as I can tell, I’m ready to publish the stupid thing right now.

Make a style sheet. This cannot be overstated. It’s important, I hate doing it, it’s critical, it takes forever, I never do it right, and it’s absolutely vital. Write down all of the weird little things you want kept intact. Mara’s worldview is very small, so locations in her house (the House) are proper nouns. The Kitchen is a proper noun. Editors need to know that.

The style sheet also forces me to be sure I’m spelling everything the same way, so I ctrl+F a lot and make sure everyone’s name is spelled one way, I hyphenate consistently, etc. My readers all talk about this. If there’s an inconsistency in name or room spelling, it’s one of the first things they mention.

Make a sample. For content editing, I put up about ten pages of fairly typical stuff, usually a recent orphan. Copyediting or proofreading gets a few pages (~500 words). (Wordy does it a little differently, so read their rules carefully.) Content should be provided in MS Word and pdf. MS Word is the standard, but the next time I do this, I’m going to have someone look at the actual final product in pdf to be printed, what’s known as a galley. Many editors only do MS Word, so that’s something to be aware of. The orphan is always one I turned my hand to recently, within the last few months or during the writing of the live work. Style naturally changes with time, so it helps both of us if the applicants are seeing material indicative of what I want them to edit.

EFA and Wordy both have sample length requirements, so read those carefully. I have never had a problem when someone limits the sample length, but the above numbers are my defaults.

1) Go to the-efa.org
1a) Create a login in necessary
1b) Read their rules for new authors and regarding samples

I always require samples. Always. Unless I’ve worked with someone before, I want to see an example of their work. Some editors don’t do that, and it’s fine. I just won’t hire them. EFA is big on not asking for a sample of ‘live work’ including the MS in question. That’s why I use segments of orphans from my hard drive.

2) Write up the bid request or RFQ
2a) Make sure request a price and turn-around estimate. A good timeframe for turn around is a month or two. Less might incur rush charges, more is a little slow. I do use someone who gives turn-around in months though, and she often requires scheduling four or five months out. I aim for a month or two, but anything below six months is pretty reasonable for me.
2b) Put the sample online somewhere.
2c) In the RFQ, ask for a sample edit. This can go here, or in a reply letter to the quotes that pass the first filter. It takes longer to put it here, but filtering becomes easier. Be sure to include link to sample.

3) Read everything. Everything. It takes weeks. A job post might well get hundreds of replies, and I read all of them.
3a) Especially read credits and references.
3b) Send nice, single-sentence emails to people I’m declining. “Thank you for your interest, but I’ve decided to work with another professional.” I hate this part, but when I’m applying for jobs, I hate the silence more.
3c) Hopefully narrow it down to one person.

4) Send them the document. Pay any deposit.
4a) Deposits of $100 or 50% are common. The rest is due on completion.
4b) The pity here is that freelancers do get burned, so some are particular about their pay schedule. My goal is a deposit of no more than $100, and that’s my opening offer. EFA and Wordy both have some measure of protection for the hirer (me), so I’m flexible.

Cost isn’t the only factor, but it is a factor. Experience, credits, and the format of their reply also count. If someone doesn’t provide a turnaround estimate, they’re eliminated, and an estimate that’s too foggy (‘I can get it done soon’) is also a DQ. What does ‘soon’ mean? I don’t know.

Reply: “This should take me two weeks, and I’ll start at the beginning of March.” (say I get this reply in January)
Great answer. It’s an estimate, so I slot that mentally as ‘send follow up email March 15th, but don’t really expect something until later in March.’ Something always comes up.

Costs vary, but if I get 50-100 replies or more, I should get a sense of the land. These are estimates, so they go up or down. I plan for a 10% slide.

Some people do lower final charges vs estimates, so it does happen. But some people say some bits took longer than they expected. 10% up or down reasonable. Especially with content edits, I want the editor to do the best job. If they need to go back a few pages and check something to make sure they’re reading it right, I want them to do that, and I also want them to tell me they had to do that. But that’s hard to plan for on their end, so I’m flexible.

Some people don’t really change their style to suit my needs. Returning to Mara’s worldview and capitalization, I want that and intend to keep it. A few sample edits corrected all of her proper nouns to common, because to an adult (us), kitchen is a common noun. That’s fine, but it’s not what I’m looking for, so I don’t hire someone who does that. This is why a style sheet is so vital.

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