Monday, September 08, 2008

Hiring an Editor

I’ve been asked to give advice on hiring editors. As many of you know, there are a number of fabulous manuscript editors out there, many of them former editors at major publishing houses. For any of you who have ever done research into editors, you know that it is an incredibly costly venture, but is it worth it and do I have any warnings?

While I have had a few fiction authors use editors, most of the time I do that editing myself (if necessary). However, I have occasionally recommended editors to my nonfiction authors. Now, before everyone gets all riled up and reports me to Ann and Victoria, let me explain that I don’t recommend any one editor or editing service. Instead, I have a list of editors I know and trust and let the author make the decision about whether or not that would be the right path for her. Frequently, when representing nonfiction, you come across an author with an absolutely brilliant idea and incredible credentials, but not the time, ability, or inclination to write the book. In these cases an editor (or ghostwriter) can often be the author’s best bet. The two can work together to create a proposal that will sell.

One of the cautions I have given to authors using editors is that you might need to be prepared to pay that editor not only for helping you with this book but also for helping with your next books. An editor’s job is to polish and perfect your book. In a recent case where a client of mine used an editor to make her proposal shine, and sell at auction, she later talked to her new editor (the one at the publishing house) to ask the editor’s opinion on her raw material and whether or not she should consider continuing with the original editor. In this case the editor at the publishing house felt that they would work well together and the original editor would not be necessary. That’s not always the case though. In many cases, the publishing house editor will expect the entire manuscript to be delivered in the same shape as the proposal was, requiring that the editor continue to be hired.

In fiction things work a little differently. Your career is only as good as your last book, and if your hired editor was able to take your first book to a level that you aren’t sure you can do on your own, it’s very likely you’ll need to consider hiring that editor for each subsequent book. Hopefully not, but it's certainly possible. Now many of you will say that’s a small price to pay for publication, but is it really if it means paying out most of your advance to an editor? Certainly something you’ll probably need to consider.

I think my readers might have better advice on hiring editors than I do. My biggest piece of advice is do your research and make sure that the editor you’re hiring fully understands not only what you are looking for but also what the market might be looking for. And make sure it’s a reputable editor with good experience in the business.