Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Independent Editor: My Not-So-Secret Weapon

Editing Paper With Red Pen

You've passed on dinner with friends, avoided the gym and skipped out on family events but it's all been worth it cause now you're finally done! You type those two little words "the end" and sit back to admire your pièce de ré least for a minute.  Then you press send and forward it to your beta readers and writing group for feedback.
A few weeks later, the responses trickle in. 

Mother's friend's daughter: "Fantastic! Wouldn't change a word!"

Your bestie Director of HR: "I think chapter four should be chapter one and chapter six should be chapter twelve and chapter two should be at the end."

Writing group friend extraordinaire: Love your protagonist but I'm having trouble believing your antagonist and losing interest in the second third of your manuscript.
Woman at computer
You scan the replies and scratch your head (maybe even pull out a hair or ten).  What does this all mean? Where do you start? Who do you listen to?

At times like this, you wish you had someone to lean on, someone who really knew the business and the minds of the editors and agents alike.  Someone who's like an editor but will give you the detailed feedback you need to make your book that much better.

Well, there is, and you do.

Cue *angels singing from heaven*

These fine folks are known as independent editors.  Individuals who are not publishers or agents but who've worked in the business for years as publishers, editors and/or writers and who are in tune with the ins and outs of the industry.  Be it a synopsis, outline or full manuscript, you can hire these editors to review your work and provide feedback.

Wait...hold on.  I know what you're thinking.  You want me to shell out my hard earned money to get another person to read my book and give me notes? 

The answer: yes, and here's why.

Your manuscript is your baby and you've spent countless hours caring for and nurturing your story.  If time is money, then you've already invested at least the equivalent of a down payment on a country home.  An indie editor will help you take your manuscript to the next level.  They will identify those areas that don't work not because they "feel" it doesn't work but because they know the reasons why it doesn't work.  They will ask the hard questions (you know, the ones that your husband/child/sister wouldn't dare ask) and provide the guidance you need to improve not just your manuscript but also your writing skills.

Jackie Garlick-Pynaert of Blah Blah Blah Blogger provides a great analogy.  Behind every great athlete is a fantastic coach.  Athletes don't become great without someone pushing them to be better.  Think of your indie-editor as your coach, helping you to hone your craft and make your manuscript the best that it can be for the markets of today.

Over the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with Free Expression's Lorin Oberweger on my manuscript. Since I am one who outlines, Lorin's feedback has helped guide my story development and steer me away from storylines and tangents that may have resulted in many wasted hours (something I definitely can't afford).   
Glasses on Book

But how do you know the good editors from the bad?  The best thing to do is research.  Check out your editor's background.  What have they done in the industry, whom have they worked for and who are their clients?  Conferences and workshops are great places to meet indie editors where they often provide their services specific to the event at rates that are very affordable for attendees.  This is a cost effective way for you to test out potential indie editors and see if they are a right fit for you. 

While hiring an indie editor won't guarantee a publisher will present you with a six figure book deal, it will help you to create a better manuscript.  After all, your manuscript is a reflection of you and wouldn't you want an agent or publisher to see you at your best?  

For more information on independent editors, check out:

Lorin Oberweger and Brenda Windberg at Free Expressions
Emma Dryden at Drydenbks 


  1. This is wonderful advice and to anyone out there reading this, I was at the last Free Expressions workshop with Jennifer, and it was well worth every hard earned penny I spent on it!! Look for one in your neck of the woods and figure out some way to get there!

  2. Thanks Linda! I'm glad you enjoyed it. And triple ditto on Free Expressions "Your Best Book" Workshop. Learned a lot and made great friends!

  3. So, LInda already beat me to saying "Amen" to this post. Loren & Brenda are the best. SUper-helpful. Great blog, Jen. HOpe your writing is coming along!

  4. Thanks Jackie/Carol! I'm chugging along and setting goals for the new year :). Hope things are well with you too!