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Authors and editors: Collaborate for discoverability

I met today’s guest blogger, Ricardo Fayet, in a Facebook group where he impressed me with his contributions. He’s a co-founder of Reedsy, an online marketplace that lets authors directly access the wealth of editing and design talent that has started leaving major publishers over the past few years. A technology and startup enthusiast, Fayet likes to imagine how small players will build the future of publishing. He also blogs about book marketing and conducts weekly author interviews on the Reedsy blog.

Authors and editors: Collaborate for discoverability

By Ricardo Fayet

Discoverability — aka, reaching readers — isn’t just about finding them; it’s about producing work that stands out from the crowded content market and inspires readers to leave a review or recommend your book. Working with a professional freelance developmental editor increases your chances of making just such an impression.

Think of your manuscript as a ship on the vast ocean of digital content, and think of great editing as a lighthouse: a beacon shining a light on craft and conventions, and consequently increasing your discoverability by ensuring your manuscript reaches or exceeds the highest standards.

What a good content editor can do for your book

The explosion of self-publishing has made room for top-quality editors — even some from big publishing companies — to work independently and directly with authors. These “content,” “developmental,” or “structural” editors are helping fiction and nonfiction authors successfully self-publish and/or polish their work for querying agents. They focus on big-picture story elements like plot development, characterization, continuity, and product-market fit; because this work is far more in-depth than straightforward proofreading, choosing the right editor is critical.

Look for a content editor with specialized knowledge of your book’s genre and target market. More importantly, choose someone who pairs intrinsic talent and experience with a communication style you like and understand. You and your editor should share a common vision for what your work can become and how you can grow into that vision as an author.

Tips for finding the right editor

So how do you find this dream editor who will help turn your rough draft into a well-crafted novel without squelching your personal style and voice? How do you differentiate the professional you need from the many non-professional glorified beta-readers who lack the aforementioned skills, experience and finesse?

  • Don’t follow ads or “discounts.” Since “real” editors aren’t as concerned with discoverability as authors, they frequently don’t advertise heavily, yet often get book projects far in advance. They also never publicly offer discounts.
  • Recommendations or curated marketplaces are the way to go. The latter can be particularly helpful as they offer authors an inside track to discover, query, and hire freelance editors and other book industry professionals. At Reedsy, for example, authors can compare samples and quotes from up to five freelancers. Because you are dealing with busy professionals, it’s important that you ensure you make a good first impression and provide enough details to receive comprehensive proposals.
  • Communicate openly and honestly with potential editors from the get-go. Ask for a face-to-face Skype call with the most likely candidates before making a decision. Everyone benefits when an author finds her perfect-fit editor, and communication is a huge part of what makes a good match.

Nurture the relationship

It took best-selling author Joanna Penn six years and several editors to finally find one she was comfortable with. Though that’s a somewhat extreme scenario, it illustrates how critical the author-editor relationship is, and how fruitful the right collaboration can become.

Ricardo Fayet, Reedsy co-founderSo once you find your perfect editor, how do you keep him?

  • First and foremost, understand that professionals get compensated at professional rates.
  • Next, respect your editor’s time by booking in advance when possible.
  • Finally, thank your editor in your acknowledgments and don’t hesitate to spread the word about your great experience. When you contribute to your editor’s discoverability, you’re letting the world know how much the collaboration has improved your own.

How did you find your book editor? Are you happy with your choice? Please tell us in a comment.

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  1. Hey Ricardo! What kinds of things can authors ask an editor during their face to face call to evaluate the quality of the editing work prior to investing the money? I like lots of people, but that doesn’t mean I’d ask them to edit me. 🙂

    1. Hi Alexis,

      I think the best thing to discuss with the editor is your book 🙂
      Usually, these face-to-face calls happen once the editor has read the author’s sample and/or performed a sample edit on it. That way you can discuss the changes the editors suggest, how they suggest them, etc.

      It’s basically all about doing a trial run as if you were working with that editor, and see how comfortable you are with each one. It’s important that you get the feeling that the editor really likes your book. Even a seasoned professional will do a better job on a manuscript they like than on one they don’t empathize with.

    1. Thanks for the excellent advice, Edith.

      Do you use “book doctor” interchangeably with “editor?”


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