Tag Archives: Finding the right editor for your book

EDITING: Basic to the Sublime


It is astonishing to me how I can still find things to edit in my manuscript after 2 years of what I call the “final draft” and multiple editors. Through this process I’ve learned there are different editors for different things.  

Ten years ago, I hired an editor who lived in California.  We corresponded via email and telephone. Beth Leiberman was very helpful pointing out the flaws in the story and encouraging my writing.  Then my sister-in-law, Jeanne Bertke, was enormously helpful in shaping and tightening the story. I felt in good hands with her as she had a long career as a successful magazine editor and did wonders for the manuscript. When I decided to self-publish, my dog-walking friend Liz suggested her mother as an editor.  Frances had been a school teacher and was a stickler for details, as was my own (now deceased) mother. Frances scoured the book for grammar and accuracy, checking all my facts and challenging me on a few. That was great and, according to a published friend, very hard to find someone who will fact check.   

Right now, as I give the chapters a final polish before sending them onto the book designer,  I wanted a proof editor to double-check my finished work, as it’s so easy to miss the most obvious of things when re-reading it again and again. So I asked my published friend, Diana, if she would read it through.  She’s English and I know she’d be very thorough. But she couldn’t because she was leaving for a trip.  However, she suggested our mutual dog-walking friend, Gerry, who had been a newspaper copy editor for a long time, at the WSJ I believe.  So I asked Gerry and he said he’d take a look at the first chapter (which I’d combed through 9 times in preparation for the final final version.)  

Honestly, I didn’t see how he’d find anything to change (cheeky girl that I can be) but he returned the first chapter with red marks right from the git go.

Red marks can be frightening.  The stomach plunges, the heart cringes, the mind protests. Despite those feelings, I scrolled down and saw, on the whole, the edits were minor. But when I looked closer I saw how major they were!  Gerry had made really fine edits in word choice, removal of a dash, addition of an exclamation point, pointing out confusing and conflicting bits and pieces – which all brought crispness to the copy.  I was very, very pleased and felt I’d struck pay dirt.

I tried to copy and paste a sample of his sublime edits but the color didn’t translate. But here are a few of his word edits:

Mine: the crescent shaped rock–          Gerry’s: the crescent of rock —

Mine: Gamma’s jaw opened.                    Gerry’s: Gamma’s jaw dropped.

Mine: “I’ll not have it mar her chance -” Gerry’s “I’ll not have it rob her chance -”

Simple changes with big impact and I’m excited to have Gerry on my side, with his finesse.

How to pay him?  Well, I’ve not a lot of money so I offered $10 per chapter or wine.  He chose wine.  I think that’s a fair swap.  Here’s what he had to say about the barter:

Hi Laura.
I’m glad and relieved that you liked my edits. I was afraid you’d see the red marks (in the first sentence, no less!) and balk. It really was very minor stuff; your writing is so strong and engaging. Still, I think such little edits are the difference between a very good product an an excellent one.
I want to do this project. For several reasons. First and foremost the aforementioned: Your writing is very, very good, and I have just enough ego to think I could add that infinitesimal nudge that tips it over into excellence. Second, I’ve always believed my editing skills, honed in the quotidian world of newspapers, are really best suited for “literature,” where finesse is as important as precision, yet I’ve never edited a book. So when yours becomes a huge hit, I can claim it on my editing resume, and who knows where that might lead? Third, I’m hoping to learn a thing or three from you about the process of e-publishing, as I have a half-finished book of my own and a book I’m editing (more like rewriting than copy editing, actually), for an old friend who is a newspaper photographer, and I think digital is the way to go for us both.   
That said, let’s get it on!

And on we are getting. Looks like a wine-win for all and I’m mighty happy about that!

How about you?

  • Have you had a lot of editors look at your project?
  • Are you hungry for a good editor?
  • Have you had difficulty finding a perfect editor for your work?
  • Where have you looked for an editor and what did you find?

xo Laura



Filed under EDITING