You might be ‘judgmental in a good way’, but what do I need an editor for anyway?
‘Why would a writer need editing? Isn’t that like telling a writer they’re wrong?’
‘No, editing is about asking, “couldn’t that be better?”’
Nicola Shindler, in conversation with BBC presenter Roger Philips
As a TV producer and script editor with eleven BAFTA awards to her name, Nicola Shindler knows what she’s talking about.
She is known as ‘the writer’s friend’, acting as a confidant to such luminaries as Jimmy McGovern (Hillsborough), Russell T Davies (Queer as Folk), Sally Wainwright (Last Tango in Halifax) and Danny Brocklehurst (Safe).
Basically, everyone and everything needs editing. It’s not just a question of genre, or what level you are at in your writing career. It’s not even a matter of spelling and grammar, although of course they count for a lot. There’s much to consider, and so we thought we’d put a quick blog together to outline the benefits of a second pair of well-trained eyes.
Here are the top four questions that writers have about editing.
1. Do I really need an editor for my self-published book?
Yes, or your customers will have their revenge. They will either stop reading or leave poor reviews if they’ve had to wade through garbled grammar, typos, plot holes, character inconsistences and poor formatting. It’s all about reputation, believe me. We’ve seen it happen to unedited books. It might stumble along with praise from family and friends, but it will never breakthrough to what it could be. Additionally, Kindle Direct Publishing now warns readers if ebooks are deemed sub-standard. Under guidelines, this includes ‘content that does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.’
2. If I get an agent or publisher, won’t they do that for me?
An agent’s expertise is in finding the right home for your book, and they expect to receive polished manuscripts. Sara Megibow of the Nelson Literary Agency puts it perfectly: In general, too many submissions come through our slush pile that aren’t ready. In my opinion, an editor could have helped many of these books get to the next level.
3. I don’t need the expense of paying an editor. Some of my family friends are teachers, reader, writers, and they think it’s good.
Your friends can support and advise, but they’re not going to approach the text with the kind of eye for detail that an editor brings. The editor’s primary relationship is with the book, and so they will put that first, ahead of your feelings. Pointing out basic spelling and grammar can be easy enough for friends and family, but it is unlikely that they would be able to dissect a plot or provide the level of analysis required to make your work the best it could be. Such arrangements often lead to awkward conversations, too. Save those for your editor. You’re paying us to challenge you.
4. How did you set your prices?
We are members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and use their standard rates as a guide. Our package deals come out slightly cheaper, as we are keen to work with writers from diverse economic backgrounds.
Rates: £24.30 per hour. Most editors average 3,000 words per hour at a basic proofreading level.
The average price per 1,000 words is £8. We charge £5.
Collaborative editing (listed as substantial editing, rewriting, development editing)
Rates: £32.60 per hour. Most editors average 2,000 words per hour at a substantial editing level.
The average price per 1,000 is £16. We charge £10.