Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Anyone can call themselves an editor.

During my years as an editor I've run into a number of clients who've had their work already "edited" by someone else, but they've found themselves discouraged and wanting to give up. Some have even said they feel like their story is no longer their own. When they've shown me what the person did to their work, I've been astonished to find their voice completely mutilated.

Just because a person has a degree in English does not mean they'd make a good editor—or shall I say, book doctor. Believe it or not, even published authors don't necessarily make good book doctors.

Personally, I think the term "editor" should belong to the copyeditors, and "book doctor" should belong to those that understand voice, dialogue, attributions, characterization, plot, etc. Of course, we check for spelling, grammar and punctuation, but in the end, that's the job of a copyeditor. Copyeditors are usually found in publishing houses. Your manuscript will end up on their desk after it's passed the test of "story" (i.e. plot, characterization, dialogue, etc). See the link to The Book Deal under my list of recommended links. There, Alan Rinzler talks about what makes a good editor/book doctor. Instead of the term "book doctor," he uses "developmental editor" and describes what that means. You may find it helpful.

Anyway, it bothers me to see "editors" taking advantage of writers. Some folks are only in it for the money and aren't interested in really helping authors. And other folks, simply don't know what they're doing.

Always be extra careful before you hand out large sums of money. Do your research, talk to previous clients, ask for references. A good editor will be happy to offer these things to you, and they will be willing to answer questions after the edit and/or speak to you on the phone. Be leery of any editor who isn't willing to do these things. Here are some links that would be good to read before you hire an editor: Warnings and Cautions for Writers and Preditors & Editors. If some of you have more, please send them my way, and I'll put them on the site.

My biggest advice on selecting a high quality editor is to ask to speak to (or email) previous clients. The clients already paid their dues, and they got a full edit. They're the ones who can tell you if the editor is worth their price.

Keep in mind, while I can't analyze every detail of the work of every editor here, the ones I put on this site are, in my opinion, the most trustworthy. Check 'em out, and if you're so inclined, hire one of them. :-) Side note: I'm not taking on any clients at this time.

One of the goals of this site is to teach writers how to recognize good editing. The biggest mistake I've seen editors make is to change a person's voice, therefore, killing their story. How can a writer know if someone is destroying their voice? Hang around here for a while, and hopefully you'll learn.

Got questions about what makes a good editor (book doctor)? Send them in: TheBookDoctor.bd@gmail.com.


  1. Hi Sandi
    I have worked with five different editors, both for fiction and academic books. You are right that there is a wide variety of ability and talent from those who bill themselves as editors. When the editing is good, it can be daunting because of the great feedback and then the challenge of trying to bring my writing up another step on the ladder of writing skills.
    Thanks for offering your knowledge and skills to your fellow journeywomen on the path to publication. I truly believe God will bless you for it.
    Now, you need to get back to your writing. I'm eagerly waiting for the next novel in the IRON AND THE STONE series. &:>)
    A J

  2. Thanks, Sandi!

    I'm looking at possibly hiring John Jarrold to look at my ms. If I do, I'll let you know how it turns out.

  3. I've never hired an editor before. I only write MG and PBs. I've posted my PBs on the SCBWI forum for feedback and of course my writing group helps me tremendously.

  4. Thanks for your comments, AJ.

    Victoria, John Jarrold looks great! Let us know how it goes.

    Janet, I also write PBs (picture books, for those that don't know), and I'd be happy to help with your MG (middle grade) fiction if you're willing to take the plunge and have several critiques of your opening paragraphs. Give or take 500 words is what I do on the blog. :-)

  5. Hi again Sandi, I sent you an email.

  6. Just found your blog recently. Love it! I have you blogrolled and will be back !