You’ve completed your manuscript and found an editor. Now what? While you might have an idea of what kind of help you need from an editor, frankly, most editors don’t expect the author to know. Often, they’ll receive a manuscript from an author who is sure the writing is fine and just needs a quick “once over,” only to find that much more is needed.
This doesn’t mean the work was poorly written. But the author is usually too close to the work to be objective, and doesn’t see where changes are needed to correct or improve it. The author might stumble over a problem, not know how to handle it, get used to it after a few readings, and decide it’s fine. Usually, the best way to find out what kind of editing your manuscript needs is to ask the editor.
Once you connect with an editor you’d like to work with, you’ll likely be asked to send a sample of your manuscript. This allows the editor to get an idea of a) what type(s) of editing is/are needed and b) how much work will be involved. You’ll also be asked about the length of your manuscript. Based on this information, the editor should send you a written quote with the fee and time line.
You may be asked to sign a contract or agreement, though not every editor does this. If you don’t have a contract, ask the editor to outline the details in an email, so you both have them in writing. Minimally, this includes what the editor will do, when you can expect the edited manuscript, how many edits you can expect, how it will be delivered, the fee, and what happens if one of you decides to terminate the project before it’s completed.
Almost all editing is done on-screen. This means you can expect to exchange versions of your manuscript by email. Usually, the editor’s suggested changes and any specific comments will be directly on your manuscript, often using the Track Changes feature in MS Word®. If you find it difficult to read the marked-up text, you can also request a clean copy with the changes incorporated, for ease of reading. If you agree on a hard-copy edit instead of an on-screen one, the editor’s suggested changes will be written directly on your manuscript or on sticky notes attached to it.
With either method, you’ll likely also receive a note outlining any general comments or suggestions that apply to the whole manuscript. Once you receive the edited manuscript, you’ll need to decide which corrections you agree with, and accept them, and which ones you disagree with, and reject them. If something isn’t clear, make sure to ask for an explanation.
It’s common practice to include a second, lighter edit after you’ve had a chance to incorporate the changes, but this and any other details must be negotiated ahead of time. Editors’ fees vary greatly, depending on the number and type of tasks the editor is expected to carry out. There are various ways of quoting: by the word, page, hour, or project. Regardless of the type of quote, most editors will have an hourly rate in mind as a basis on which to calculate the fee, and this can vary anywhere from $30 to $100 or more.
After your manuscript has been edited, the next steps differ depending on what you plan to do with it. If your manuscript is accepted by an agent or publisher, it will go through another round of editing, though publishers usually look for manuscripts that don’t require a lot of work. If you are planning to self-publish, the editor you hire is usually the last person to have a crack at it, though you’ll still need a designer to ready the manuscript for publishing, and a proofreader to check all the elements of the page. Then it’s time to start thinking about the sequel!