If you are writing a novel and figuring you will self-publish it when it’s finished, you probably know that at some point you are going to want to find an editor. This can mean a lot of different things, actually; and is the subject of some great posts out there. There are also a lot of articles on the web about what questions to ask an editor before hiring them for your job, but not too many about what questions an editor should ask you after your initial contact and before taking you on as a client. So, in this post, I’m just going to share a bit of what I ask a writer to think about when they reach out to me about my editorial services.
When I receive an inquiry from a writer, I start my response to them by asking a few questions, and then providing a little basic info. There are a lot of factors that go into whether I take on a client but that’s going to be the subject for another post. Stay tuned!
There are 6 questions an editor will likely ask you when you first initiate contact with them.
1. How many words is the manuscript you are seeking to have edited?
2. What software are you using to write it? Google Doc? MS Word?
3. Has it been read or edited by anyone else?
4. What genre is it? Do you read much in your genre? Who are your favorite writers?
5. What is your end goal?
6. Do you have a budget?
A lot of people reach out to editors simply to get an idea of the cost. But the price of editing is based on the scope of the project, and the scope of your project is based on a number of factors. An editor will ask questions to help them determine this scope.
If your manuscript is 100,000 words long, it will take longer to edit than one that is only 65,000 words. This is why the length of your manuscript matters to an editor.
If you are using a software that the editor is unfamiliar with, it may take the editor longer to edit your manuscript.
If the manuscript is still in its early draft stages and hasn’t been read or edited by anyone else, then it is likely to be rougher and take longer to edit.
When I’m doing a preliminary evaluation of the scope of the project, your answer to the genre question is super important. (If you don’t quite understand what genre is, Wikipedia has a comprehensive definition.) An editor may ask you if you read a lot in your genre to get a sense of how well your book will fit into the catalogue and how well it will work for the readers you’re trying to reach. Have you had an opportunity to organically absorb some understanding of how to write in this genre? This will tie back into the editor’s figuring out the scope of your project before they even see a sample of your writing.
Also, not all editors work with all genres. For instance, I don’t read fantasy, so I don’t edit it.
Depending on your goal:
If your goal is to be a writer and write a book, and you are a reader of the genre and believe you are writing a story that fits well in the catalogue for other readers who like this kind of fiction, you may want to keep writing towards finishing a first draft, share with beta-readers, make revisions based on their feedback, and then bring in a substantive copyeditor who can make sure it is fit for publishing.
If your goal is to write a best seller, then you may want to bring in a developmental editor in the genre right away and develop a book together based on your story and their knowledge of what makes a book in this genre sell. Still no guarantee of it becoming a best seller, but at least you’d know you are on the right track.
I won’t ever take on a client who can’t afford editing or who doesn’t understand the costs involved with self-publishing. This is why I ask the budget question.
Despite being “free” to self-publish on Amazon’s KDP, there are a lot of costs involved with becoming a self-publisher, and no guarantee of success or return on investment.
If you haven’t yet put together a rough business plan for what will essentially be your publishing business, I suggest you do this. Here’s a basic (general) idea of what you’re looking at as far as numbers: Editing often costs upwards of $10 per 250 words, depending on what is needed. Book cover design can cost $500 or more. Interior formatting depends on the length of the book, but $1000 might be considered an average. Marketing is a whole other thing and often folks who help with book marketing charge more than $75 per hour for their expertise.
Self-publishing is an awesome opportunity for writers to become publishers. But in order to become successful, you need to go into it with your eyes open and good information in your hands.