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Five Tips for Finding the Right Editor for Your Business Book

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A book is the ultimate business card... but only if you do it right.

Unfortunately, many self-publishers don't. Though most recognize the importance of good cover design and printing quality, many don't budget for editing.

That's a big mistake. Readers pick up on typos and other mistakes that spellcheck missed. They notice when a sentence just doesn't make sense. And when readers can't figure out your point, they stop reading altogether.

Your self-published business book needs to be so good that it reads as if it was professionally published. How? By following these five tips so you find the right editor for it.

1. Find an editor

Often, entrepreneurs, marketers, and other authors of business books think an editor is an expense they can do without. After all, you wrote your website, you've started blogging, and you've also got a friend who's an English teacher who can check your book. Plus, there's always spellcheck...

But think about it: Your cover design makes a good first impression; good-quality paper creates weight and credibility (not to mention... the simple act of handing a book to someone is pretty impressive); but all of that can be destroyed by a single typo on the first page.

Any typos, repetition, rambling, and gaps in reasoning will become part of the lasting impression you readers have of your business.

In the end, you need a second set of eyes to check your work. An experienced editor is best placed to provide specific, actionable feedback on your book's structure and content.

2. Find the right service for your book

There are so many editors out there, and their services can vary greatly. Some simply offer a human spellchecking service, while others will completely overhaul your book, creating a new structure, removing repetition, and recommending new content in addition to looking at the language details.

If all you need is a human spell-check, then this isn't such a big deal. But if you know you need a more in-depth service, then a spelling checker won't give you the feedback you need to feel confident that your book is a true representation of your business and your services.

So what are your options?

Editing services can fall into three groups:

  1. Structural/developmental editing: The editor looks at your book as a whole, restructures your content, removes irrelevant and repetitive content, and suggests new content.
  2. Copyediting: The copyeditor focuses on readability, reorganizes paragraphs, and looks at sentence structure.
  3. Proofreading: The proofreader looks at the language—spelling, grammar, punctuation, and typos.

3. Focus on quality over cost

If you go to three editors and ask for editing quotes, you would likely get three different price estimates and three different timeframes for the completion of the work. The reason is that your three editors are probably giving you quotes for three different services.

Going with the cheapest editor might well mean you don't get the type of service you need, and in the best-case scenario you simply publish a mediocre book. In the worst-case scenario, you need to get your book edited again by someone else, which means spending more money and time that could have been spent marketing your book instead.

Instead, ensure you're clear on the services being quoted:

  • Will they be looking at your structure and content, or just the language?
  • Will they provide feedback on the changes they make and suggestions for next steps?
  • Are they available to discuss your book?
  • Is it a single round of edits, or can they do multiple rounds at a discounted rate?

Once you determine an editor can offer you what you need, then look at the cost.

4. Schedule early

You finished your book last week and you want it to go to print next month; if you book an editor for next week, everything should work out perfectly. Right?

Wrong. Good editors are often popular editors, and that means they can book out weeks or months in advance.

If you wait till the last minute, you'll struggle to find a good editor and you could potentially set back your self-publishing plan. If an editor does take you on at the last minute, she'll be juggling your book with other projects and won't be able to give it the attention it deserves; you won't get the result you want.

Instead, start planning your publishing timeframe during the writing process:

  • Time for writing your book: 6-8 weeks (often, longer)
  • Time for editing: 2-3 weeks for each round of edits
  • Time for cover design: 1-4 weeks
  • Time for layout: 2-3 weeks
  • Time for printing: 1-2 weeks

5. Get a sample edit

You've asked your editors about their experience, the type of editing they do, and their prices and turnaround times. So how do you choose?

Get a sample edit.

It's hard to know what you're getting based on a description and a price. Editors use varying terminology to describe their work, and many have varying degrees of understanding about what's expected of them.

If you don't get a sample edit, you might not be getting the level of service you need, which can lead to tensions during the editing process—and potentially result in additional edits subsequently.

A sample edit ensures that...

  • Your editor can recommend the type of editing you need. He might provide structural editing and copyediting services, but he won't know which one your book needs until he's seen it.
  • You can compare editors. One person's "edit" might be a human spell-check, whereas another's might involve rewriting your content.
  • You know how your editor works, including the types of changes she makes and feedback she gives, and whether her personality and method are a match for you.

* * *

By following the five tips I've outlined, you'll find the right editor for your publishing team and be well on your way to writing an amazing business book.

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Jacqui Pretty is the author of Book Blueprint: How Any Entrepreneur Can Write an Awesome Book and the founder of Grammar Factory, an editing and publishing company.

Twitter: @jacquipretty

Linkedin: Jacqui Pretty

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  • by Leah Good Thu Mar 24, 2016 via web

    There are organizations out there promising to simply interview you and create a book for you, but they do not do the kind of editing most business writers need. I'm simply stunned at some of the nonsense they put out using speech-to-text technology and call it a "book." To me it demonstrates an unprofessional approach that would make me suspect the credentials of the author.

    An editor is a professional and has (or should have) a background in communication, especially technical communication. A good editor will help you structure your book into meaningful parts for your audience's understanding and will be able to explain to you why she makes the recommendations she does in terms of your goal and reaching readers. She will be fabulously well-grounded, too, in the kind of grammar knowledge most people don't have (although a good editor will point out your errors, she will also understand when you might want them for communicative effect, such as using a fragment to emphasize a point).

    Ask what kinds of projects she's completed and about her general background. In addition, don't be afraid to ask for client recommendations. A credible editor should be able to provide you with testimonials or references. It's helpful to know, in addition, the longevity of her clients. For instance, if a client has stayed with a contract editor over the course of a decade, it's likely she knows what she's doing!

    Full disclaimer: I am an editor, as well as a writer, so I have a pony in this race. For instance, I wouldn't do a sample edit for free, although I might skim through a document and talk for a few minutes about what I think it needs. A good editor might do this and then provide you with a quote (full bid or per page) based on that evaluation, should you decide there's a good fit between you.

  • by Cate Hogan Thu Jul 27, 2017 via web

    A very helpful article, thanks! I've been trialing editors for my current romance WIP, including industry stalwarts from The Big Four, to freelancers and hobbyists, *budget* options and the gurus who cost a pretty penny. From 9 to 5 I'm an editor myself, so it's been great experiencing the process from a writer's perspective. I've documented some tips below on what to look for in an editor (and what should send you running), which you might find interesting.

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