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The essential questions an author should ask a copyeditor

28 March, 2024

My previous blog was about how to find an editor who is experienced, qualified, and a good fit for you. Now you have found an editor you like – their website is professional, they you like their client testimonials, their emails are friendly and professional – what questions do you need to ask them before you trust them with your book?

  • What experience do you have of working on books in the genre I write in? This is essential. A fiction editor must be familiar with any genre they are offering to edit. There’s no point sending me your sci-fi masterpiece, for example, as I don’t read sci-fi books, but if you’ve written a crime novel, a thriller or a romance, then yes please! I know the rules around these genres and what’s required.
  • What do you think my manuscript needs? Does it need a development edit or a copyedit? You and the editor should agree on what your MS needs. If you’d like the editor to focus on something specific, e.g. setting, story arc, or how to build tension between your two main characters, then say this.
  • What is included in a copyedit? It’s important to agree the scope of the job, so that you know exactly what to expect. For example, a copyedit won’t usually deal with ‘bigger picture’ issues such as story arc or plot. The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading has a handy definition of copyediting.
  • When can you edit my book? Agree when you will send the MS to the editor, and when they will return it.
  • How will you work? If your MS is in Word, the usual way is for an editor to use tracked changes and comments. Are you familiar with tracked changes? If not, you might get a bit of a shock when your MS comes back to you… I suggest you check out a Microsoft tutorial to find out how to work with tracked changes.
  • And the million-dollar question (sadly, editors don’t get paid this much, although we’re worth it): how much will the edit cost? Find out when the editor would like to be paid, and how they would like to be paid. Many editors ask for 50% of a job fee up front. This is to protect them against authors who refuse to pay. It also helps to weed out flaky authors from those who are serious about having their work edited.
  • What else will you send me along with my edited MS? A good editor will always send you a style sheet along with the edited MS. A style sheet is essential: it shows the decisions an editor has made for consistency during an edit, relating to spelling, grammar, punctuation, hyphenation, how to treat numbers, and so on.
  • Would you like me to sign a contract? An editor may send you a contract to sign. This is to protect them as well as you. Alternatively, an email in which you agree terms is also legally binding. (Caveat: I am not a lawyer! Seek legal advice for your jurisdiction if necessary.)

Now you have discussed all these essential issues, you can agree the terms and scope of the job and you both know where you stand. The copyedit should go smoothly, and you can look forward to receiving your edited file from the copyeditor on time.

Happy International Women’s Day

6 March, 2024

Women are history makers, mums, teachers, activists, sisters, guides, friends, mentors, rule-makers (and rule-breakers), suffragettes, protestors, role models…

‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’

Unfortunately, globally, women still have a long way to go to reach parity with men. Here are some important – and sobering – facts:

  • ‘Globally, over 2.7 billion women are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. Of 189 economies assessed in 2018, 104 economies still have laws preventing women from working in specific jobs, 59 economies have no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, and in 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.
  • Globally, women are paid less than men. The gender wage gap is estimated to be 23 per cent… Women also face the motherhood wage penalty, which increases as the number of children a woman has increases.
  • Women tend to spend around 2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men.
  • It is estimated that if women’s unpaid work were assigned a monetary value, it would constitute between 10 per cent and 39 per cent of GDP.
  • Despite gender inequalities in the labour market and gender wage gaps globally, women migrant workers were responsible for sending half of the estimated $601 billion in remittances worldwide in 2016.’

All facts taken from https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures

But there are some things we can do at an individual level to help women reach equity. Here are some suggestions:

Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing, inspiring women I know, including my editorial friends and colleagues, fellow tutors and my wonderful clients!
#iwd #internationalwomensday #investinwomen #unitednations

My values as an editor

1 March, 2024

This week I put all my author testimonals into a word cloud, and this is the result!

I’m delighted to see that my values – being trusted, friendly, knowledgeable, reliable and helpful – are represented so clearly.

If you’re an editor or proofreader, why don’t you try doing the same thing? Find out what your testimonials say about you. Do they say what you expected, or are there any surprises? Is there anything you could work on?

Thanks to all my wonderful authors for their kind words!

(Thanks to Emma Cossey for the advice!)

How to choose an experienced, qualified copyeditor or proofreader who’s a good fit for you

14 February, 2024

Welcome to my first blog post! This week, I discuss a topic that puzzles many authors…

On Facebook and other social media, I see lots of posts by authors who don’t know how to choose an editor, or who are worried that their editor might scam them. So if you’re looking for an editor or a proofreader, here are some ways you can ensure that you’re hiring someone who’s trained, qualified, and the right fit for you.

Do your homework…

Authors have to do some research to find the editor that will suit them best. If you’ve spent months, or even years, writing a book, why trust it to the first person who says they can edit it?

Editing and proofreading are completely unregulated. This means that anyone can say they are an editor or a proofreader, but they may have no qualifications, no training – and no idea what they’re doing. You only have to look at Facebook groups for authors – and editors – to see that plenty of people are offering editing when they don’t have the first clue about grammar or punctuation, never mind about all the skills and tasks involved.

What if an editor runs off with your money?

Some authors report that their editor has ghosted them or has done a poor job – or has not sent in a finished edit at all. But there are ways that an author can minimise the risk of this happening. Read on to find out how!

So, what should you do before you hire an editor? There are several things to check:

  • What training does the editor have? This should be listed on their website.
  • What experience does the editor have? This should also be described on their website.
  • Does the editor have a website? (They should. It’s the best way to show off their credentials to the world.) What does it look like? Does it show some projects that the editor has worked on? Does it contain testimonials from satisfied authors? Is the website clear, well written and free of errors? These are all good signs!
  • Is the editor a member of an editing organisation, e.g. the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) (my professional organisation), AFEPI Ireland, the EFA, ACES or IPEd? Although not all professional editors belong to an editing organisation, membership is a good sign, as it shows that they’re serious about their career. The next thing to consider: what level of member are they? Some organisations have various levels of membership: CIEP membership levels go from Entry Level (for someone with no editing/proofreading experience) to Advanced Professional (for someone with considerable experience and training).
  • There’s another good reason to choose an editor who is a member of the CIEP: they have to abide by the CIEP’s Membership codes, which means that they must act professionally and ethically at all times. If you have a problem with an editor who belongs to the CIEP, you can contact the CIEP and they will investigate. This helps to give authors peace of mind.
  • Does the editor appear in an editing directory? The CIEP has a Directory of Editorial Services. Only Advanced Professional Members and Professional Members can appear in this Directory. (Here’s my Directory entry.) You can search the Directory using relevant key words (e.g. ‘fiction’, ‘romance’, ‘development editing’) to find qualified, experienced editors.
  • Does the editor belong to an authors’ organisation, such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)? If so, do they appear in ALLi’s Partner Member Directory? This shows commitment and professionalism.
  • And importantly: are all the editor’s communications with you clear, polite, professional and grammatically correct?

So if you have found an editor you’d like to contact, read the list above. If you can tick off most of the items on this list, you can be sure that the editor is trained, experienced, and knows what they’re doing!

But what should you do next? Read my next blog post to find out the best questions to ask an editor, so that things go smoothly and you can start to build a great working relationship.