MF 234 : Finding a great editor for your book
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
On this episode, I share some qualities to look for in an editor for your book. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
Part 1: A kick to the gut
Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything seems to go wrong? Like a rainstorm, it starts as a few drizzles before it turns into a downpour.
First, a startup project I’ve been a part of for two years came to its untimely end. A friend of mine brought an idea to me in 2017 and I was captivated by his vision. We put together an amazing team and a proposal for government funding that we assembled at breakneck speed in October. We got positive initial feedback, was invited to do a presentation in February, and was given the green light to complete the final version of the proposal, which we submitted in March. Last Wednesday, we got the letter stating that they were passing on the project.
Second, we had to deal with renewal and tax paperwork for the C-corp. Despite the fact that the company is not yet funded, you still have to keep up with a lot of paperwork and fees. It was a stark reminder that housekeeping is a big part of being an entrepreneur. It’s not all fun and glamour.
Third, we had our first customer complaint on Poshmark. We sold a really good product at a favorable discount and yet, the customer wasn’t pleased. We’re in the midst of navigating a resolution within the Poshmark ecosystem.
Finally, dating continues to be a dry spell with more people flaking and ghosting.
Last week put me through the wringer. However, now that I look back on it, I see the calm after the storm. Everything is wet, damp, and overcast but I survived. I’m still here and I have a lot to look forward to. I also have so much to be grateful for. Although these pills were not easy to swallow, they’re a part of life, and I’m doing my best to roll with the punches. How about you? Have you weathered any storms lately? If so, how do you deal with them and maintain your perspective?
Part 2: Finding a great editor
[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode are out of print. For more, check out episode 388.]
Today, we’re going to take a look at finding a great editor. Last week, a friend of mine told me he was inspired to write his book after listening to this mini-series. He’s knee deep in the ideation stage and I’m excited for him. Though it’s early, he wanted to know if I could cover editors.
That got me thinking that now might be a good time to cover this topic as we’ve been talking about working on your manuscript over the past several weeks.
Megan Prikhodko served as my editor for my book. We met several years ago as classmates in business school. If you’ve ever gone to business school or taken a business course, you’ll know it’s a lot of group work and papers.
I worked with Megan on several group projects and I immediately noticed her innate talent for editing. Like a master chef, Megan sliced, diced and reformatted the jumble that occurs when you have 5 or 7 writers putting their thoughts together, to create a coherent, succinct and punchy document.
After finishing one of our group papers, I half-jokingly said to Megan that if I ever write a book, I’d love for her to be my editor. We ended up in a sideways discussion where I learned that Megan was an English major in college; she used to write a lot of poetry. She also let me know that editing a book was on her “bucket list.”
Flash forward to this time last year. Andy and I are knee-deep in the second draft of our manuscript. I reached out to Megan to see if editing was still on her “bucket list.” We got together for lunch, followed by a first conference call to introduce her to Andy and talk about our book.
Megan asked some really smart questions, which let me know she was the perfect person for the job. She asked us what our story was, the vision, and why we were writing this book. Moreover, she let us know that she had no familiarity with Star Trek and asked if she should study up on the lore. Since the book is aimed at a general audience, not just Trek fans, this worked in our favor. I told her it would be better if she went in not knowing anything about Trek, which served to test our hypothesis that this book and this story could appeal to a wide demographic.
We worked throughout the fall into spring, all the way up to the week of publication.
Looking back, here are some of the qualities that made Megan an ideal editor that you may want to keep in mind when you decide it's time to work with one:
1) Detail oriented: A good editor is in many ways a project manager. You want someone who can direct, organize, set expectations, establish deadlines and goals. This is especially true if you’re co-writing a book.
2) Hands-on: One of the most positive aspects of working with Megan was how involved she was in helping me get my book ready for publication. She didn’t just read the manuscript and send me notes. She established a color coding system, marking up the document with a variety of colors, and notes. She scheduled weekly calls to debrief us and keep us on task. I’ve spoken to a couple of authors who have hired and worked with expensive editors with big credentials on their resumes, and it surprises me how hands-off some of them are in the editing process.
3) Line editing: One thing to keep in mind is that your book will probably need two types of editing. Line editing covers the technical aspects: grammar, structure, flow, and narrative. Megan is a natural wordsmith and based on my experience working with her in b-school, I knew she would be fantastic at line editing. Megan helped us cut down on the bloat, pointing out what worked and what didn’t; giving us pointers on how we could tell our story in a clearer, more succinct way.
4) Content editing: This is about the big picture. Content editing relates to the story, the arcs, and making sure the overall direction makes sense. We were lucky that Megan agreed to do both line and content editing for us. Often, a writer will have to work with two or more different editors. Megan gave us brilliant direction to help shape and focus the story we needed to tell.
5) Someone who cares: When it comes down to it, this is the most important factor. You need someone who is invested in the success of your book. Not just getting it done and released on time, but someone who is your champion for telling your story in the best way possible.
So where do you find a great editor? If you’re hiring freelance, you can use a service like Fiverr or Upwork. Be specific about what you’re looking for. You can look within your network. Don’t just go for someone who has a fancy resume filled with credentials working in publishing houses. Sometimes, the best editors are the ones who have a “bucket list” dream combined with the talent and sheer gumption to help you craft your book in the best way possible.
As you’re working on your manuscript, start thinking about what kind of editor you need for your book. Think about line and content editing. For many books, one editor can handle both. However, if you’re writing a technical or highly niche book, you may need a subject matter expert to do the content editing and someone else to do your line editing. Start asking around. Look within your circle, reach out to people you know who have written books. You can also start posting on freelance websites if you’re looking to hire someone.
[NOTE: the books mentioned in this episode and in the book writing series are out of print. I am leaving these episodes mostly as is and strictly for informational and instructional purposes only. I have retracted my story from the book discussed in this episode and its sequel with full reservation of my copyright. For more, check out episode 388.]
Part 3: Book recommendations / reviews
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (****): I couldn’t remember if I read this book in high school or only skimmed it so I decided to give it a thorough read. I was pleasantly surprised by how much adventure and intrigue is contained within the story, which is part wanderlust indulgence, part murder mystery, and part social commentary. Twain’s rich language and dry humor are what you read a book like this for. I also enjoyed the parables about entrepreneurship, ethics, morality, love and more. A fun, fast read.
Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.
Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.
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