Last time, we discussed Alpha Readers and Beta Readers. I promised that there would be more. So, let’s get started.
For a short story, you may only send it to one editor, but for our purposes, let’s assume that it is a novel. Your first stop is a Structural Editor.
The Structural Editor: A Structural Editor (sometimes called a Substantive Editor) will read your story with an eye towards the story and its strengths and weaknesses. He or she, is your first paid professional to look at your work.
As they read, your structural editor will ask themselves questions such as, does the story flow well, is it accessible (not overwritten or high blown, nor too simplistic), does it make sense, do I connect to the characters, are the characters well developed and believable, does their role fit their personality? They will look at your point of view. Do you use too many or too few? Is the voice consistent? They will look at the pace of your story. Does the tension build at an appropriate pace? Should this action happen sooner or later? Is your dialog appropriate and authentic? Does it flow smoothly and is it something which that particular character would say? They will look to see if your back story is overwhelming your plot. They will look to see if there is too much exposition or too much dialog. They will seek to identify your theme and see that it remains constant throughout your story. Everything that they do, is with an eye on the big picture. Their feedback may come in one or more forms. They may, and probably will, annotate your manuscript with notes, pointing out plot holes. They may cut large portions or rearrange chapters. They will likely send one or more emails detailing what changes they feel are needed. Phone calls are not uncommon between writers and their structural editor, but often are limited by number or time in the contract between the parties.
Yes, I said contract. Your structural editor is likely to send you a contract detailing what they will and won’t do with your manuscript and when you can expect the work to commence and when to expect it to be completed. Don’t be alarmed. This contract or sometimes a letter of understanding is to protect both parties and prevent or resolve any misunderstandings. It will also spell out how your editor expects to be paid. For short stories, they will generally expect to be paid up front. For novels, there is often an up-front portion of their total fee which is paid prior to any work being started. After that, there are likely benchmark payments to be made. An example would be a contract or letter of understanding stipulating that the editing fee will be divided into four equal parts. Assuming that your novel is in the normal 80,000 word range, that would work out to approximately 320 manuscript pages. An editor might ask for progress payments of 25% of their fee up-front, and after each 80 pages of completed work.
So, how much should you pay for structural editing? This will depend on both the editor and the condition of your work. The better you have self-edited prior to sending your work to the editor, the lower your fees should be. For more on editorial fees see http://the-efa.org/res/rates.php and https://jaefiction.wordpress.com/…/…/what-does-editing-cost/.
When your manuscript comes back from your structural editor and you have made or rejected any changes they suggest, you need to send it out to a line editor. A line editor is much more than a professional Grammar Nazi. Yes, he/she will fix your grammar issues. They will also fix usage, missing or extra words, clarify areas which are ambiguous in meaning, substitute synonyms to prevent repetition, eliminate over use of run-on sentences, and let you know if there are areas in your work which might have legal consequences such as song lyrics or extensive quotes.
When your work comes back from the line editor it is a polished manuscript and should be ready for typesetting. You should read over the edits, accepting most and rejecting possibly a few to retain the author’s voice and the speech patterns of your characters.
Finally, you are ready for a proofreader. Your proofreader, unlike the Alphas, Betas and editors, does not get the manuscript in a .doc, .docx or .rtf file format. You should be sending them a PDF format of the final proof you will be sending to the printer. This is because your proofreader won’t be looking for grammar, plot holes and all the other mistakes and inconsistency which your editors should have already fixed. Your proofreader will be looking at how the actual book will look. They will check for consistent page numbering, hanging sentences (where you start a paragraph on one page, but the remainder is missing on the next), unintentional changes in font size or typeface, correct margins, and all of the visual aspects of your finished product. You can find typical proofreading rates in the articles I suggested above, but I would look for one who charges one cent per word or less and has excellent references.
When they return your polished manuscript, you will read their notes, make any necessary changes and you are ready to send it to the printer.
Is this a long and expensive process? Yes, but if you want to build a professional reputation and maximize sales of your work, there simply is no short-cut. What do I do if I can’t afford to have my novel professionally edited? Writers ask this a lot. The answer is painful. The correct answer is “find the money”. Maybe you will need to cut out soda pop or alcohol (God forbid). Maybe you will have to stick to the short story market until your sales can pay for the proper editing and printing of your book. We all make sacrifices to do what we love. And, if we truly love it, then we don’t want to put anything but our very best out there.
I hope that you have found this article helpful and that you will come back to visit my author page and website in the future. If it was helpful, please leave me a like.
#writing, #editing, #proofreading