Here are 10 tips to help you prepare the way for editing and proofreading fiction for independent authors and self-publishers.
If your editorial business is relatively new and you’re keen to specialize in fiction editing, there are some core issues that are worth considering. Some of these certainly apply to other specialisms, but fiction does bring its own joys and challenges.
1. Untangle the terminology
You'll need to be sensitive to the fact that your clients may not be familiar with conventional editorial workflows or the terms we use to describe them!
Clarify what the client expects, especially when using terms like ‘proofreading’ and 'editing'.
2. Discuss the revision extent
Clarify the extent of revision required before you agree a price.
3. Manage expectations
Find out how many stages of professional editing the file has already been through.
4. Put the client first – it’s all about the author
What’s required according to the editorial pro and what’s desired by the client (owing to budget or some other factor) could well be two very different things.
5. Be a champion of solutions
The authors we’re working with are at different stages of writing-craft development.
Some are complete beginners, some are emerging, others are developing and yet others are seasoned artists. If they’re in discussion with us, it’s because they think we can help.
6. Be prepared to walk away
Sometimes the author and the editor are simply not a good fit for each other. In the case of fiction, this can be because the editor's can't emotionally connect with the story.
7. Decide whether fiction's a good fit for you
There are challenges and benefits to fiction editing and proofreading.
8. Do a short sample edit before you commit
Unless you’ve previously worked with the author, work on a short sample so that you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
9. Query like a superhero!
All querying requires diplomacy, but fiction needs a particularly gentle touch.
10. Keep your clients' mistakes to yourself
Some of our self-publishing clients are pulled a thousand-and-one ways every day. And, yet, they’ve found the time and energy to write a book. We must salute them.
Some are right at the beginning of the journey. There’s still a lot to learn and they’re on a budget; they’ve not taken their book through all the levels of professional editing that they might have liked to if things had been different.
Some haven't attended writer workshops and taken courses, and they probably never will – there’s barely enough time in the day to deal with living a normal life, never mind writing classes. They’re doing the best they can.
With that in mind, respect the journey.
We must always, always respect the writer and their writing, and acknowledge the privilege of having been selected to edit for them.
Those are my 10 tips for working with indie fiction writers! I hope you find them useful as you begin your own fiction-editing journey!
And drop me a note in the comments if you think I've missed anything out!
Louise Harnby is a fiction line editor, copyeditor and proofreader who specializes in supporting self-publishing authors, particularly crime writers. She is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) and an Author Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader & Copyeditor, say hello on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or connect via Facebook and LinkedIn.
'Louise uses her expertise to hone a story until it's razor sharp, while still allowing the author’s voice to remain dominant.'
'I wholeheartedly recommend her services ... Just don’t hire her when I need her.'
J B Turner
'Sincere thanks for a beautiful and elegant piece of work. First class.'
'What makes her stand out and shine is her ability to immerse herself in your story.'
'A million thanks – your mark-up is perfect, as always.'
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© Louise Harnby 2011/20
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