Words, Words, Words (Part 2)

The Latest Edition

When my husband and I were doing some home remodeling a few years ago, we were advised to obtain three bids before we chose a contractor. We did not need to take the lowest bid nor the highest, but the bidding process, the quality and thoroughness of the submission, and the questions each contractor asked (if they asked anything) would give us clues as to which contractor might be best for us. Thus far, the process has worked beautifully (we’ve done several home improvement projects over the years), so I decided I would use the same approach with an editor. Now that I knew a little bit more about what an editor could do for me, I had to find that right one.

My self-published friend had a recommendation. I don’t know about you, but I like personal recommendations the best – in my business, for my business, and in everyday life. In my contracts business, all of my work comes from word-of-mouth recommendations. There is something comforting in having someone you know (and hopefully whose judgment you trust) present you with the name of a person who did a good job for them and could for you as well. Editor #1 was such a person.

My friend Megan contacted some of her editor colleagues from the days she was in publishing. However, as with many of us, they had moved onward and upward: they were now CEOs and book publishers and were no longer in the business as word smiths. She did, however, know of someone with whom her co-workers worked: “very nice” and “very nice to work with” were the descriptions used. I will call this person Editor #2.

I did a bit of web searching (again) and came up with one other possibility (not that there weren’t thousands to choose from, but I narrowed it down), to be called Editor #3. This man worked extensively as an editor in New York, had a wonderful bio on the web which was linked to several articles he had written about editing and what authors can expect from their editor. I liked his style and he seemed straightforward, so I thought I would include him in my editor-interview process.

When I contacted Editor #1, he suggested that I send him my first two chapters. He would look them over, determine the effort it would take, and give me a quote. Editor #2 asked for three or four pages which he would mark up (so that I could see his feedback style) after which time he would provide me with a rate sheet and I could choose the level of editing I wanted him to do for me. Editor #3 asked for a hardcopy of the entire manuscript from which he could develop a quote.

Sound familiar? Just as with the agents, each of these editors had a unique set of requirements for submission!

So, just as with the agents, I complied.

I will say that all of them were responsive – in less than a week, I had the “deliverable” they had promised.

Let me start with Editor #3. I don’t know how much of the manuscript he read, but he did say he “got quite pulled in actually, which is always a good sign.” He would be “delighted to work with me” and that his services would cost $XXXX. We exchanged some emails where I asked questions so that I could determine exactly what those services would entail (line, copy or developmental?) and what kind of feedback I could expect throughout the process. Editor #3 replied that his process was to read the book from page one to the end twice before beginning the actual editing. He would mark up the hardcopy manuscript and provide an editorial report. I interpreted that to mean that I would see line, copy AND developmental all in one. Cool. However, I saw no opportunity for determining if he and I were on the same page, so to speak. How could I be assured that he wasn’t taking the plot or characters off in a direction I did not intend (by his interpretation of the text) and whether I would understand his editorial report to the extent required to make appropriate changes? To put it bluntly, $XXXX was a lot of money to shell out when I saw no opportunity to pull the plug mid-stream if I wasn’t feeling good about this relationship. I liked his style and his work process (reading twice before editing! Wow!), but was it right for me? When I discussed Editor #3 with Megan, she commented that “this guy walks the walk,” but agreed with me that more personal exchange and an opportunity to stop somewhere during the process seemed a reasonable request for the price.

Editor #2 was a straightforward guy, too. However, ultimately he was not going to tell me if I needed line, copy and/or development editing – I would have to make that decision on my own. Since I didn’t know what I needed, that was scary. And his price tag was in the ballpark of Editor #3.

Editor #1, the personal recommendation, was well versed in technical, non-fiction editing. But could he handle a work of fiction by a rookie? That was my dilemma with #1. His process was that he would read two chapters at a time, make suggested changes (in electronic format) and insert his editorial comments right into the text (with Word Comments). We would be in constant touch during the process and he would charge by the chapter rather than by the entire work – so if something wasn’t working mid-stream, either of us could say “thanks but no thanks” and I would not be out a ton of money. I really liked this process and I liked that he would use the electronic features of Word. But could he handle a work of fiction by a rookie? (Oh, I asked that already).

As it turns out, he could.

About Lori Hart Beninger

Lori Hart Beninger is a native California writer with three critically acclaimed historical novels (Embracing the Elephant, A Veil of Fog and Flames, and A Peculiar Peace) that follow two 19th century young adults as they struggle with survival and acceptance in the pivotal era of the California Gold Rush up to the American Civil War. Please visit www.ontrackpublishing.com for synopses, availability, reviews, and more.
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