Book editing can be a big investment, and you’ll be working closely with your book editor, so a good working relationship is critical. One way to ensure a comfortable and solid relationship is to ask questions before you hire someone to make sure you’re on the same page (see what I did there?). I’ve written about this topic before but am back with some new questions this time around.
Remember, too, that there are different types of book editors. These questions are specifically for copy editors.
Book editing can be a big investment, and you’ll be working closely with your book editor, so a good working relationship is critical. - @jodibrandon
Does my manuscript need to be finished?
Some copy editors will work with an incomplete manuscript. In a perfect world, you’ll submit a finished manuscript for copy editing. I’ll accept a manuscript that has, say, a couple resources missing (a book title that needs to be looked up, for example, or an issue date of a magazine you’re quoting from), but anything more than that, and we’ll need to regroup.
I know, I know, that might be a total pain in the neck, but there’s a method to my madness: My copy editing package consists of two full editing passes. If I’m not seeing the complete text, it’s difficult to evaluate it in context.
Do you provide an editing sample?
This, too, will depend on the editor. Some editors will provide a full sample for a fee that gets deducted from your bill. Some will edit a few sample pages for free so you can get a sense of their style and any potential issues in your manuscript. Others will look at your text and provide an overview of the types of edits required and/or any potential issues in your manuscript.
If having an editing sample is important to you, you’ll want to ask this early in the process so you can rule out potential editors who don’t provide this.
When in the publishing process does editing happen?
Copy editing occurs after the manuscript is complete and before the interior of the book is formatted.
What style guide do you use?
If you are writing an adult trade nonfiction book (meaning a book that’s intended for general readership, versus an academic text or a technical/reference book), your editor should know and use The Chicago Manual of Style. In publishing we refer to this as the bible. It’s THAT important to our trade.
What will I get back from you when you’re finished editing?
Surprise, surprise: This will depend on the editor. It will also depend on how many editing passes your editor provides. Some editors return the manuscript with instructions for using Track Changes in Microsoft Word. Some offer a follow-up call to ensure that everything was clear and you are ready to move forward. I offer an edit review call between the first- and second-pass edits to make sure the author can see what I’ve done (and why) and we can make sure questions are answered before the manuscript lands back on my desk. I provide my clients with a heading hierarchy, for two reasons:
To make sure that I’m understanding the hierarchy as they’ve intended.
To provide to their book formatter.
I also provide a style sheet, if there is one. Some books don’t require one, but sometimes there are terms/phrases, abbreviations, and the like that are good to have in one place for the author, editor, and proofreader.
Copy editing occurs after the manuscript is complete and before the interior of the book is formatted. - @jodibrandon
What other questions would you have for a potential editor? Let me know in the comments below so I can answer them for you!