After many long months (involving inspiration, creation, and perspiration) the creative genius of the writer has taken the manuscript as far as allowed...now it is time to find an editor. How, though, does a person who has never before tried to get a work ready for publication go about this necessary step? This guide will introduce basic information for those who have not yet built up a network of fellow writers, editors, and publishers.
The practice of using another person to edit written work increases the probability of a submission being accepted by an agent and/or publisher. There have been occasions of success achieved through self-editing but, in general, almost every writer benefits from a fresh perspective. Editing can be done by any person with knowledge of writing, grammar, structure, etc...the important thing is that it is being done by a new set of eyes! Even those with a very solid command of proper writing tend to get "too close" to their work; objectivity often becomes lost in numerous re-readings of the creation. An editor is more likely to discover changes that should be made to logical sequence, undefined meanings or terms, or find unnoticed breaks in continuity. It is not that the writer is incapable of discovering these on his own; rather, some inconsistencies exist purely because they are so well understood in the writer's mind that it is second nature to them, and not written down. It does not follow, though, that what the writer understands, so will the reader. A mind detached from the work is better able to notice these details.
Finding an Editor
A beginning writer can find an editor through many sources: professional editing companies, online resources, a local writers group, teachers, friends, and even social networking websites. The best piece of advice on finding an editor is to take some time, decide in advance what needs to be done, and decide on who can best accomplish the task.
Those you know personally: There is no rule that states editing cannot be performed by a person falling into this category. If the writer knows a person who understands language, writing structure and style, and can read - that person is certainly qualified to go over the written work and give feedback and constructive criticism. Friends and family may be hesitant, though, to criticize something as dear to a writer as the product born of their mind. An author-in-waiting also needs to decide if criticism from the source will be accepted, or if harsh feelings may stem from the collaboration. Teachers are the best suited in this group: evaluating and critiquing are routine for them.
Professional Editing Companies: Many businesses exist for the sole purpose of editing books, manuscripts, plays, and other written pieces. Regardless of the size of the business, a large corporation or a small one person home-office, many provide professional and very high quality editing services. Problems can arise, though, when doing a "cold-search" of these businesses. Without negating the large amount of valid and reputable companies, there are also many "editing" sites (as with all other businesses) that are manufactured by people who don't pay attention to the differences in "their, there, and they're". If this is the chosen route, it is best to (initially) ignore incredible deals and prices or guarantees of publication and focus, instead, on ensuring they can do what needs to be done. It is a good practice to carefully read each word of the website and email correspondence: frequent errors in spelling, grammar, and syntax (whether glaringly obvious or subtle and easy to miss) are all indicators of how well they will accomplish the work. Common sense dictates that if an editor pays scant attention to their own work, they will pay even less attention to the work of others.
Freelance Websites:Specific websites have been developed for the sole purpose of hiring a freelancer. A person looking for (in this case) an editor would place a job posting describing what type of editing they want done, the approximate number of pages to be edited, the budget they can afford (this can be left open though, if you want to base the cost according to the received bids), and any other pertinent information about the written work. Once the bids roll in (and they will!) the writer will need to carefully look at each one to determine the best match for the job. These sites are teeming with incredibly talented editors but, as with professional companies, some of the people who place bids are undeniably unqualified for the postings they bid on; some place generic bids on every posting they come across without reading the requirements or job description. Despite these bidders, however, freelance websites - such as iFreelance or Elance - can be a valuable resource for finding competent and qualified editors at rates (often) more affordable than professional companies charge. The best advice in utilizing these sites for finding an editor is to focus on the text of the bid before the bid amount and eliminate those bids that do not refer specifically to your job or those that are ill-written. Once the unsuitable bids are removed the writer can then do a comparison between what the editor will charge versus the quality and detail of their bid or proposal. Keep in mind that a low bid does not necessarily indicate low quality - it could be a person with excellent skills who is just breaking into the freelance business (or is new to that particular site) and trying to build a reputation by (initially) offering their services at lower than standard pricing. Again, this is best determined by scrutinizing their response. If there are questions about a particular person's skill or abilities, do not hesitate to ask. If a buyer is truly interested in the offered service, most of the service providers will be happy to give additional information.
Social Networking Sites: Websites such as Facebook have many groups for a large variety of interests and professions, including editing. A browse through the discussions in any of the groups for those with an interest in editing can help a writer find (or get pointers on how to find) an editor best suited for the job.
Local Resources: Checking with local bookstores, universities, or libraries can be useful in finding groups for writers. These writers can often direct you to an editor or, very likely, invite you to participate in the group if they have shared sessions to help dissect and edit each other's work. These critique groups or sessions are wonderful for receiving feedback from others in the field of writing.
It is not difficult to find an editor - the work, though, lies in finding a good editor. A good editor will respect that they are about to perform work on the writer's "baby" and will gladly answer any questions or concerns...so never hesitate to ask. After the amount of sweat equity already involved, a quality editing job is well worth the (small) investment of time spent in interviewing, questioning, and researching the editor who will work best for you!