Professional editors are a wonderful resource for writers who are looking to both traditional and self-publish and nowadays there's a lot of them out there.
But the question is, how do you find a good one?
Since you're here, the first place would be to go to the Steamy Puddings Professional Editor page to check out a few of the lovely editors I can personally recommend or who've been highly recommended to me.
The next place would be asking your writing friends, checking out the websites of professional organizations and maybe resorting to good ol' Google.
However you locate your editor, it's important that you find someone who gets your writing, is familiar with your genre and clicks with you as a person. This is especially vital if you're looking for a big-assed structural edit because no matter how tough you are, you're gonna end up feeling a little singed in the tail feather region and you really want a nice person holding the flame thrower.
So with all that in mind, here are a few guidelines/steps I've devised from my own stumbles:
· The first thing is that you never, ever use an anonymous editing service. Even if it's through a professional organization. Anonymity means that whoever reads your work can say a whole lot of horrible things that may not even be valid or true and we writers are fragile flowers enough without all that to worry us.
· Secondly, you want to work out what version of English you're working with, be it UK/Australian, American or Pigin and make a list of about three to five editors that fit your requirements.
· Next, email all of these lovely people, enquiring about their qualifications, professional organizations they belong to (if not visible on their websites), going rates and their familiarity with your genre. It's also important to establish the time frame they work in.
· Usually they'll ask for a sample of your work before giving you a quote and will edit it to give you an indication of their style and how much work you may need.
· You should get that sample returned to you edited in a reasonable amount of time and can now make your choice. This is also where gut feeling comes in to play a little.
· Have any of the editors replaced words you've used or changed entire sentences/paragraphs without telling you why? Are they particularly harsh (please remember that any criticism, even nice criticism can seem harsh) and/or making you uncomfortable with their comments? Do they show even a hint of disdain for your genre or for your writing in particular? If so, strike them off the list, making sure you send very polite emails back thanking them for the time they took to give you the sample and the quote.
· If you're super lucky enough to find a good match with every editor you've contacted, you're in the position of being able to chose who you want to work with based on finances, time or whether or not you like the color they used on their website. As before though, I always find a polite email to the others explaining that you won't be going through them this time but would definitely consider them in the future goes a very long way.
· The next step is to send off your manuscript and wait patiently for the editor to work through it and get back to you in the agreed time frame. When you finally get it back, there's a few things I'd recommend you do:
1. Before you read through the manuscript at all, email back your professional editor to let them know you have it, thank them and tell them you'll be getting back to them once you've read everything through. It's important you do this now instead of after. Don't be tempted to peek.
2. Go through your manuscript for the first time looking for all the positive feedback. (I've always chosen editors who've left me positive feedback in comments on my MS in between the slash and burn for this purpose) Highlight that in a bright color.
3. Go have a cup of tea and a biscuit.
4. Come back and read through the manuscript in its entirety, going through each comment and recommended change, let yourself get a little offended, or truly pissed off, have a rant to the cat, drink a glass of wine but don't change anything and whatever you do, don't email or call your editor. (No, not even Facebook or tweeting is advisable at this stage.)
5. Spend a day or two, maybe a week if you're not in a rush, doing other things and then come back to the manuscript. Read through it again, this time making a point of noticing the highlighted positive feedback along with the constructive criticism.
6. Now note down any queries and questions you have for your editor, make a list, draft an email and if possible sit on it for a couple of hours or a day. Redraft it and send it.
7. In the interim begin making the suggested changes you agree with. Once you have a (polite) conversation with your editor about why they've recommended the bits and pieces you've had questions or problems with, make those changes as well. There's usually a damn good chance that the editor was right but if you've got a really, really strong gut feeling they're not, go with it. It's your work after all.
And that's about it. The only other thing I can add from a rather arse-first experience of my own is that your professional editor can't rewrite your work to be something your readers and New York literary agents swoon over, they can only work with what you've given them.
But of course your writing is amazing. I know it is, you know it is, so get it out there and share the love!