The first step in getting my first novel self-published was to find an editor to knock it into shape and make it half-readable and, hopefully, sellable.
But how? I’ve never done this sort of thing.
I searched the internet and got a kinda confused mess of all sorts, eventually narrowing it down to 3 really good starting points;
- Mediabistro – GalleyCat’s Freelance Editor Directory
- CreativePenn – list of editors
- SfEP – Society of Editors and Proofreaders
From this list I set myself a few criteria of ‘must haves’;
- Sci-fi – my first novel is a near-future dystopian story (or so I thought, more on that in another post) so obviously I didn’t want a children’s editor, but I also wanted one who had actively listed sci-fi as an interest.
- British – my book is set in England, has British humour, British references, etc. I didn’t want to complicate the whole process by having a foreign editor come back with ‘I don’t understand bollocks’. Neither do I mate.
- Reasonably priced – not cheap, but I have a budget.
- A Developmental/Big Picture/Critique edit – there’s different types of editing. I wanted a critique of the whole novel and copy-editing, not necessarily by the same person though.
- SfEP Qualified – after some searching and learning more, I thought an editor with this qualification would guarantee some level of professionalism. It wasn’t essential but as a total stranger in this world, it did give me a little more confidence.
So from the 3 sources above, I made a list of the editors that fitted my criteria. From that list I wrote a simple email to 8 editors introducing myself, spelling out what I wanted and also a link to the first chapter of the novel I’d put on this blog so they could get a taster of whether they wanted to work on it and with me.
From those 8 emails, I got 8 replies! I couldn’t believe it. I’m so conditioned to getting ignored or rejected by agents and publishers, this was a new experience in the literary landscape…obviously I know why.
Some said they were too busy or words to that effect, a couple seemed to me to be too big and impersonal which I didn’t feel comfortable with, others were OK but one came back with a really welcoming reply, had a good website and was the only person to say she’d read that first chapter…so I went with her!
Playle Editorial Services – Sophie explained the whole process going forward with the added bonus of being able to do both a critique and a copy-edit. Sophie’s also written a blog post on finding an editor, ‘How to Find a Freelance Book Editor‘, with some good tips.
All that was a few weeks ago. I received the critique last week and have had time to digest it and start the rewriting process.
I can now see the power a good editor can have on a book and, indeed, the writer. You hear about it from published writers on Twitter and in the acknowledgement pages of their books, but until you get that level of detailed, critical, constructive, encouraging, independent feedback, you’re always going to be in your own bubble to some degree.
How many novels have been abandoned because they’ve lacked a good critique? So close to being something worthwhile, yet so far. I wish I’d done this sooner, getting an editor not necessarily the whole self-publishing bit. It would be interesting to get 2 or 3 editors to critique your book, another time maybe. Moving forward, I’m definitely getting a professional editor to look at my third novel, ‘Blindsided’, even before the whole submission process. I realise now the advantage you’d have over your fellow slushpilers.
The feedback is critical enough for me to know why it got rejected and where the holes are but constructive enough for me to feel that in just another draft or two or three, and it could turn into a compelling, well-structured and interesting novel. What more does a writer need?
I feel re-invigorated about this novel, I know it can be a lot better and I’m confident that I can create a good piece of work.
Hmmmm…I’ll keep you updated.
What an insightful post! I’m so pleased you found my service useful, Ben – thank you for your kind words.
I am really excited to see what you do with the novel over the next revision or two. You’re just the kind of writer I love to work with – enthusiastic, driven, and very sensible and organised when it comes to understanding the level of work involved in creating an exceptional book. Keep up the fantastic work!
‘Very sensible’ – I’m going to show my Mum that quote!