Every writer has seen it and heard it many times—be sure to have your book edited by a qualified editor if you want your book to look professional and be taken seriously. I will always be grateful that I took this advice before self-publishing my first book, The Edge of Memory. I was lucky enough to find the name of Susan Hughes, of My Independent Editor, when I did my search. I can honestly say that I learned more about writing from working with Susan than I learned in all my creative writing courses. It was an invaluable experience.
I’m delighted to be able to interview Susan for this blog and ask her to share her knowledge with us. She generously agreed to take time from her busy schedule to answer my questions.
Susan, what is your background and what made you want to become an editor?
First, let me say how grateful I am for this opportunity, Maureen. It means more than you can imagine. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and taught high school for 29 years. I’ve always loved to write, and I’m fortunate to be good at the mechanics of it. For that reason, I’ve been the go-to proofreader for friends and family for as long as I can remember. I also have an eye for catching little mistakes, and since “sweating the small stuff” is something all writers do, I manage to stay busy.
I didn’t dream of becoming an editor. After I retired, a family friend published a book, and I felt compelled to read it. Upon finding a ton of mechanical and grammatical errors, I offered to proofread it. He was impressed by my work and suggested I could make some money editing for others. It sounded pretty farfetched to me, but I threw myself out there . . . and here I am!
As I mentioned above, we authors have heard this numerous times, but would you explain why indie authors need an editor?
Yes! It’s so important, and it’s often a step that indies tend to bypass. The problem is, anyone can be a “published author” today, regardless of the quality of the work. This gives indie authors a bad name from the get-go. So if writers want to be taken seriously, they need to put only their best work out there, and that can’t be done without professional editing.
One of my fears when I first looked for an editor was that I might not find a qualified one. How can an author be sure they are hiring someone who has the necessary training and experience to successfully edit books?
Great question, Maureen. There are so many scammers out there. I believe the best referrals come from other writers. If you’ve read a well-written book that has few errors, find out who did the editing work on it. Ask other writers you know or have connected with on social media or in writing groups. A reputable editor should have a website. Check it out and read the testimonials. Also, look for an editor who is a member of at least one professional organization. Most editors offer a free sample edit to show you what they can do with your work. You want to feel comfortable with the person, so communication is important too.
Susan, I know many others may be as confused as I am about the different types of editing. What are they, what does each type accomplish, and when do you recommend one over the other?
Many of the types of editing you might hear about are similar, and their definitions and functions often overlap. Writers in search of an editor will find freelancers claiming to be one or more of the following: developmental editor, content editor, substantive editor, line editor, copy editor, and/or proofreader. They differ a bit, depending on who you talk to. That’s what causes the confusion.
I highly recommend that writers take a look at this guide offered by the Editorial Freelancers Association. It gives good descriptions of the types of editing and offers other helpful suggestions: https://www.the-efa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Guidebook-for-new-authors-2020.pdf
Do you have any pet peeves, those things you see that make you think, “Oh, no, not this again?”
I can only think of two pet peeves. It definitely bothers me when I’ve edited for someone several times and they keep making the same mistakes over and over. I try hard to explain and teach when I edit, hoping that the client will be interested in actually improving their writing ability. It doesn’t always work out that way, however.
I also get frustrated when someone comes to me for editing after they’ve set a publishing date or an Amazon presale or something else that puts a time limit on my work. I never know exactly how long the edit is going to take or how many revisions might be required by the writer. When a writer has preset book release deadlines or other such dates set before even beginning the editing process, it tells me the writer is more interested in the publication part of the process than in actually honing their writing skills.
Do you have any advice for authors who are interested in strengthening their writing and want their manuscript to be in the best possible condition for their editor?
There are several important steps in the writing/editing process that many writers overlook in the rush to get their book published. It is so important to slow down and get it right. Before a manuscript is sent to an editor, the writer should have completed at least one draft, if not two or three. An exception to this would be if the writer uses a developmental editor or seeks a manuscript critique to help ensure the story works. Critique groups and beta readers should be used, so that others have read and commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Editing is the next step, followed by revisions and another edit, if necessary. The final draft should be proofread by a professional before being sent to the formatter.
If you could give one piece of advice to indie authors, what would it be?
Be willing to do the work and invest the time and money needed to get the book published in its best form. Plan in advance for editing, as most reputable editors are booked weeks to months in advance.
What is your favorite genre to edit?
I don’t limit myself to a particular genre, but my favorite is editing thriller/mystery stories. I love it when I get so caught up in the story that I have to peek ahead to see what happens.
Do you ever find time to read just for pleasure? If so, what do you like to read?
When your profession involves intense reading for 6-8 hours a day, there’s just not as much time for pleasure reading. I’m always reading something, though, and these days I’ve been trying to keep it light.
Any parting words of advice for writers?
Keep writing, keep reading, and keep pushing to improve yourself.
Susan, I know you are extremely busy, so thank you very much for spending this time with us. I appreciate it, and know our readers do, too. Now, before we go, Susan, how can writers get in touch with you and find out more about your services?
I recommend taking a look at my website in order to learn more about me. I offer a free sample edit via the link on my website. Writers can contact me there or by email. My email address is: email@example.com