Hens Lay Eggs

food for thought

How to Choose an Editor

The challenge of finding an editor for your manuscript comes up in every writing and authors group I have ever seen. In reality, it’s both simple and difficult.

First, the author has to find editors. They may be suprised to discover that we’re lurking everywhere. Various online platforms aggregate freelance services to make finding a ghostwriter, editor, proofreader, book designer, illustrator, or whatever quick and easy. Getting a list of freelancers who offer the service you need is easy; culling them to a short list of viable candidates is not.

Those platforms range from low-bid sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer to sites where you’re more likely to find skilled professionals, such as the Editorial Freelancers Association, ACES (The American Copy Editors Society), LinkedIn, and Reedsy. You will also find writers, editors, and the like lurking in and participating in various Facebook groups, such as I Need a Book Editor and Authors Seeking Editors/Proofreaders.

On any of these platforms, a request for proposals (RFP) generally results in myriad responses, many from low-bid, unskilled vendors and scammers. This is unfortunate, because it makes your job to find a skilled editor who’s a good match for your project more difficult.

To find the right editor, include some basic information in your RFP to avoid wasting your time or wasting a professional editor’s time:

  1. Fiction or nonfiction. Editors specialize. Some only work in fiction and others in nonfiction. If your book is nonfiction, a fiction-only editor will not waste his time submitting a proposal, which means you won’t waste your time reading a proposal from an unsuitable editor.
  2. Genre. Again, editors specialize. Some only work with certain material; others specialize by what they don’t work with. I don’t accept scholarly manuscript or horror manuscripts. By stating the genre of your manuscript, you you won’t waste your time reading a proposal from an unsuitable editor, and an editor won’t waste her time submitting a proposal for work she doesn’t want.
  3. Document length. This refers to word count. Page count means nothing, unless you’re referring to standard manuscript pages (which most authors do not). Word count allows the editor to roughly calculate how long the manuscript will take to edit.
  4. Deadline. Popular editors are usually booked months out. An editor whose schedule is packed may not be able to work in a project on a near deadline. The stated deadline also indicates whether the author has unreasonable expectations for the completion of the project. Having the deadline for completion enables the editor to avoid wasting time submitting a proposal when it won’t fit into his schedule. This means the author won’t waste time reading a proposal from a author who can’t accommodate the project.
  5. Budget. Many authors don’t know how much editing costs or even that different levels of editing command different rates. I steer authors to the EFA’s rates guide for a reasonably current overview of professional writing and editing rates. A lot of authors, upong viewing what professional editors charge, are struck by sticker shock. Yes, Virginia, professional editing and writing get expensive. This means an author may need to save up for the expense, negotiate a payment plan with the editor, accept reduced service to accommodate a tight budget, or do without professional editing (not a good decision). The author’s stated budget indicates whether the author truly values the editor’s work or has unreasonable expectations. If the budget is lower than what the editor will accept, the editor must decide whether to attempt to educate the author, offer an alternative (payment plan or reduced service), or not waste time submitting a proposal.

Once you have a short list of editors from which to choose, you should evaluate their skill and compatibility with your work. This calls for a sample edit.

Some editors will perform a sample edit for free; others require payment. For sentence-level editing, a sample is just that: a small excerpt of the manuscript usually not exceeding 1,000 words. The sample edit demonstrates how the editor will treat your work. The author then decides whether the editor’s treatment of the work is acceptable. The sample edit also informs the editor as to how much work the manuscript really needs, which translates into an adjustment of the editor’s fees for the project. Let’s be candid: a hot mess of a manuscript requires a lot more time, skill, and effort to whip in to shape than does a clean, well-written manuscript.

If you want to serve your book’s best interests, it behooves you to follow the tried and true publishing process and invest in the quality of the product: your book. Your readers expect a high level of professionalism and deserve nothing less.

#henhousepublishing #ghostwriting #editing #proofreading #bookdesign

The ups and downs of freelancing

There’s a lot of good to be said about freelancing, but in a “work at will” world where anyone can fire you for any reason, freelancing becomes just a little more risky. You see, there’s no protection against the usual EEOC culprits when you’re a contractor. That means depositing all your working hours in one client’s basket is a bad, bad decision. A general rule of exit planning for businesses is not to have any one client responsible for more than 20 percent of your income. If you break that rule, then losing that client means you take a big financial hit.

I try to observe that rule; however, 2023 was a tough year. Work was, overall, slow and paying projects few and far between. In years like 2023 and what appears to be the new norm for 2024, I double down on looking for steady, agency-related work. I was fortunate to secure a steady gig with a marketing company editing blogs, Facebook posts, and the like. Overall I find it interesting because of the diversity clients ranging from manufacturers of compostable, single-use eating utensils to blockchain software companies. What’s interesting is when marketing companies hire other marketing companies. Hmm …

That said, my biggest client will no longer be a client within a few weeks due to several reasons, the main one being the client has decided to discontinue to pay for editing. That’s a financial hit that really hurts. I’ve been diligent in submitting proposals and contacting potential clients for work, but the competition is stiff.

The COVID-19 pandemic started the downward spiral. Tech company layoffs and other industry slowdowns created a plethora of freelance writers and editors who jumped on the gig worker bandwagon in the misbelief that writing and editing are easy and either is a good way to make a quick buck. While editing software has been whittling down editing work for human editors, ChatGPT has decimated the availability of good writing gigs.

Freelance writers now often find themselves being recruited to train AI with their writing, thereby earning an income now while working themselves out of future work. It’s a dismal endgame these companies are playing. I don’t apply for those gigs. There are ethical boundaries I refuse to cross, and that’s one of them.

There do still remain companies that value human writers over AI-generation of content. They realize the value and creativity humans bring to the table that AI cannot replicate. The same goes for human editors. AI-powered editing has yet to effectively replace human editors.

With the deluge of new freelance writers and editors plus the double-whammy of AI, many writers and editors are seeing budgets for writing and editing driven downward, except for those coveted clients who remember the value of people and human skill. More often than not, I see writing projects with budgets of less than a penny per word and specifying unlimited revisions.

That’s just unreasonable. I won’t bid on projects like that.

The allure of AI is undeniable: there’s always someone who wants something for nothing or almost nothing. This brings to mind the old adage that everyone wants fast, good, and cheap, but realistically, you can only get two.

Fast + Good ≠ Cheap

Good + Cheap ≠ Fast

Cheap + Fast ≠ Good

AI promises all three, but can only realistically deliver two: Fast + Cheap. It is not good. It’s usually banal and may be incorrect. (AI has been known to life.) However, it may be adequate—and sometimes that’s all a client wants.

For those folks who prioritize quality, a human writer and human editor will always be necessary. That doesn’t mean any human will do. Quality requires experience and skill which one only acquires through instruction and a lot of practice.

Where do your priorities lie?

Double whammy

Nature loves to trip me up. Last week we had glorious weather for February: sunny skies, mild temperatures. And I had the flu.

Not only did I have the flu, but my husband got it, too. Eight days later, I’m still coughing, still exhausted, still careful about what I even consider eating.

This season’s flu virus is no joke, folks. It’s ugly.

So, while I continue to slowly recuperate, I’m also dealing with more bad news which will mean a substantial cut to my income.

How do I cheer myself up?

Periodically, I hop on Author Central to check for book reviews. This typically isn’t a good method for cheering myself up. I call it my regular dose of humility because it keeps me humble.

Like every author, I’m a needy little soul who craves validation and praise, glowing, gushing praise. Like every author, I don’t necessarily get what I want. I did, however, see several new reviews, most for the Triune Brides Alliance series. One of the books received both a 5-star and a 2-star review … for the same reason. One reader disliked that harsh touch of reality; the other reader found it poignant.

I will say that, overall, reviews of that book show readers either love it or hate it. There is no in-between, no neutrality, no “meh” responses.

Actually, I think most of my books strike readers that way.

While I’ve been languishing in an influenza-induced stupor, I have not been writing. I’ve done quite a bit of reading, though. I’ve deleted more books from my Kindle than I’ve completed while languishing on the sofa. One of those books was simply atrocious from the first paragraph. By the end of the first page, I was ready to set fire to my Kindle and pummel the author who thought that horrible, terrible, no good, awful manuscript was worthy of public consumption.

I seldom have such a strong reaction to a book, but that book was truly a spectacular failure of the craft and a sterling example as to why editing matters.

I encounter a lot of hostility toward editors from authors demanding editors justify the cost of their service through ROI in book sales. Those authors do not understand that the value of editing manifests after the book is sold. Competent editing doesn’t sell books; it retains readers.

Cover design, an intriguing cover blurb, social media marketing, advertising: these are oriented toward selling the book. This is marketing. Marketing, by the way, does not guarantee book sales; it increases the likelihood that books will be sold. No one can guarantee book sales.

Editing is not marketing, although good marketing copy is well-edited. Editing contributes to the reader’s experience while he or she is reading the book. Absent or poor editing is glaring and makes content unpleasant to navigate; good editing is invisible and removes the obstacles to reading. Good editing shows the reader that the author cares about the reader and values his or her work.

Here’s another analogy.

Remember the old BASF commercial: “We don’t make the things you buy; we make the things you buy better.” That’s what editing does. It makes your content better.

If you’re writing a book and you care about your readers, then hire a professional editor.

Let’s talk.


Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.


Karen (Holly)

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