What to Do Before Hiring an Editor

If you’re self-publishing, finding the right editor is crucial. But even writers looking to be traditionally published should consider getting someone to take a look at their manuscript. With so much competition, publishers want manuscripts that are as developed as possible, so they can save time and money on the titles they do choose. Getting a good edit can give your manuscript a huge advantage when it comes to submitting.

However, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into and what you should expect. Edits can cost a large amount of money, so it’s important to make sure that the editor you choose is right for you and your manuscript.

Finish & Understand Your Manuscript

The first step is to finish your manuscript as much as possible. Editors quote based on time required, so the more polished your manuscript is, the more money you will save. Leonardo da Vinci stated, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” This is true, of course, but write until you have confidence in your manuscript.

You also need to know your manuscript from a marketing perspective. What is the genre? Where would it sit in a bookstore? Who is the target audience? Which parts of the writing style or structure are non-negotiable? Which parts of the novel are you happy with, and which parts need work?

Write a synopsis—this is useful for you as a writer to ensure that you understand your manuscript, and it’s also great to pass on to a prospective so that they can see your vision for the novel.

Understand Different Kinds of Edits

Not all edits are created equal, and not all manuscripts need all kinds of editing before submission. There are three key kinds of edits:

  • structural or substantive edit is an edit that looks at your novel from a big-picture, structural point of view. This means looking at plot, character, voice, style, theme and each chapter/section to make sure they work in the book. This can include moving paragraphs or chapters around or making other changes to the structure of the book.
  • copy or line edit is a sentence-by-sentence edit that makes sure the writing flows. This is an edit for style and voice, as well as basic grammar and spelling.
  • proofread looks only at spelling, grammar and punctuation.

While all of these can be useful to do before submission, remember that if your work does get published by a traditional publisher, it will usually go through all of these stages again.

Other forms of editing include a continuity edit, which is when someone checks for continuity errors, to make sure that the sword mentioned in Chapter 3 doesn’t disappear. You can also look at getting a manuscript assessment, which is when a writing professional looks at your work and gives you a written feedback report, and is usually cheaper than an edit.

Know Your Budget

It’s usually good to have an idea of your budget before you approach an editor, and if you’re going through an organisation such as a writers centre to find an editor, this is going to be one of the first questions they ask.

The cost of an edit completely depends on the manuscript itself as well as the editor, and it’s difficult to give a ballpark number. An editor can charge anywhere from $60-200 an hour, but even that is up for debate.

  • What have they edited before? What is their experience?
  • How have they calculated their quote?
  • Will you be involved at all in the process? Can you meet the editor for coffee/chat on the phone before moving forward?

Find The Right Person

Now’s the time to think about the kind of editor that would be right for your manuscript and your budget. Editors have all different kinds of backgrounds; some work or have worked in commercial publishing houses or with other professional publications, some have lots of experience in academia, educational or corporate writing, and some are freelancers with a background in editing.

The best thing for your manuscript is to find an editor that is experience in the same kind of writing, whether that be in genre, form or market (or all three). Literary fiction editors may not approach a gory thriller in the way that you want them to, and someone who usually edits speculative fiction may not have the experience to edit a verse novel.

Of course, editors with commercial publishing experience may be more expensive than a local freelancer. This is the stage where you need to weigh your budget and your manuscript’s needs to determine what you’re after. If you’re unsure, you can always contact your state writers centre to see if they know someone who might be right for your manuscript.

Do Your Research & Understand The Process

Before you commit to an editor or hand any money over, ask about their past projects, or contact a writer they have worked with before to get an idea of the process and the quality of their work. Get in touch with your state society of editors or writers centre to find out if they’ve heard of or worked with the editor before.

Unless the editor has a set rate per word, it can be a red flag if they do not ask to see the full manuscript before quoting. Most editors need to see the full work to understand exactly how much time and work it will take. Take note on whether the quote is final or subject to change, and request that they consult with you before spending extra billable time on the manuscript.

You can totally ask the editor if they’d be willing to have a coffee with you or a chat over the phone during the quoting stage to get an idea of how they’d approach the manuscript, and to see whether you’d click together. Ask them whether they are likely to consult you during the process, how they envision the manuscript to look like in the end, and their timeline.

Finally, understand the mechanics of the process. When will you need to pay? When will you receive the manuscript? Will there be discussions throughout the process? (Note that it is not necessarily a bad thing if the answer is no here). Is there a third party like a writers centre handling the money to protect you? Does the editor have public liability insurance? These questions both protect you and the editor—and make sure that you’ll be prepared for the whole process.

FAQs For Writers: How To Find & Apply For Grants

While white picket fences and a family car might be the American Dream, the Writerly Dream is just making enough of an income from your writing for it to be able to support itself. The average Australian writer makes $12,900 a year, which confirms just how unattainable this dream can be. It can be frustrating to think of all the awesome things we could do if we just had enough money to get started.

One often forgotten way that writers can be supported while creating projects and building their career is by applying for grants. Here’s everything you need to know about finding the right grants to apply for and the application process.

What is a grant, anyway?

Grants are when an organisation, often related to a government, offer money for a specific purpose. Most arts organisations are funded by government grants, but there are is also project and out-of-round funding that individuals can apply for, including writers.

Project funding is granted on a single project basis, for anything from writing a novel to starting a small publisher. Out-of-round funding is usually offered by state/territory arts departments, and can offer artists money to travel to interstate development opportunities in certain circumstances. Note that for out-of-round funding, the application process may not be available online, and you may need to contact the funding body directly.

If you’re not sure whether what you’re doing is suitable for the grant you’re applying for, you should be able to find past recipients online to see how the money has been used previously.

Where Can I Find a Grant?

Writers are usually looking for writing or arts-based grants, unless it has a specific purpose. For example, a travel, health or environmental writer may be able to look towards government departments, charities and other major organisations that work within these fields.

In Australia, the key places are the Australia Council for the Arts, and then each state/territory’s arts department. The Copyright Agency also has a Career Fund for both emerging and established individuals. These grants usually run on a calendar basis, and it’s useful to jot down the due dates for each one.

There are also occasionally one-off grants from organisations, as well as other opportunities such as fellowships, subsidised opportunities and residencies. The best way to keep on top of everything that you can apply for is to get in touch with your state writers centre and other relevant writing organisations.

How Do I Apply?

Take a look at the website of the grant you’ll be applying for to see the application process. Often it is some kind of online form, but this can differ from organisation to organisation. Again, it’s also a good idea to take a look at the people who have received funding previously.

Regardless of the grant, you’ll need to include how much money you will be asking for, a proposal of what you will do with the money, a short history of the project, any ‘in-kind’ support you’ll be providing for the project, and a breakdown of your budget. Letters of support from trusted organisations or individuals can also help to set your application apart.

It’s best to be as realistic as possible, to pay people (including yourself) fairly for their involvement, and to already have some experience in the field you’re requesting money for. If it’s an individual writing-based project, you may also need to include some sample writing.

Remember that this is a professional application. The tone should be vibrant and optimistic, to excite the reader. Take a look at the official documents produced by the organisation administering the grant to get an idea of their preferred style, but be sure to include a bit of your personality and branding as well.

What Are My Responsibilities?

If you receive a grant, you’ll sign a contract or agreement about the terms of the grant, and you will be expected to follow them. This means that you’ll need to use the grant for what you originally stated the grant would be used for within the time frame, acknowledge the funding body when appropriate, and complete the acquittal process, as well as any other requested reporting.

The acquittal process isn’t as scary as it sounds. Basically, you’ll need to show how the grant was used, detail your successes, and give the final budget breakdown. If any events were held (such as a book launch, workshop or festival), it’s great to include some photos or feedback. If you can’t get the acquittal in on time, contact the funding body immediately to request an extension.

What About Other Opportunities?

While grants are the most structured form of support, there are other opportunities that writers can apply for as well. These pop up throughout the year, and it’s good to look out for them and add them to your writing calendar.

Writing residencies are a great example, where a writer can have access to a space to just write. Often a stipend is provided by the venue to cover the writer’s daily expenses. If you can get away from work for a week or two, these are definitely worth applying for. There are also fellowships, and other subsidised opportunities.