5 Things I Learned While Searching for an Editor: Guest Post by Eleora Han, PhD

Please join me in welcoming Eleora Han, PhD, whose book Grieving the Loss of a Love is now available. When I invited her to share some of her story, she was kind enough to write about looking for and finding her editor.

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I just published a book about working through grief after loss. Surprisingly, I found that one of the most difficult parts of the process was finding the right editor.

Writing a Book Isn’t Like Other Writing

As a psychologist I’ve written or co-authored many scientific articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. Though I felt confident in my writing abilities, I soon realized that writing a book was different. How best should the material be organized and structured, I wondered. Is this writing too academic, or is it appropriate for general audiences? Is any of this any good?

I decided that I needed a partner of sorts—someone supportive who knew the ropes and the lay of the land—someone to bounce ideas off. I soon learned that in the land of publishing, this partner is sometimes known as an editor.

Searching for My Perfect Editor

Once I had my rough draft in hand, I began my search. I didn’t know much about how to search for an editor, but some sources said to look on Upwork, so I began my search there. I posted a job ad and soon received responses from thirty or so applicants, all with dramatically different qualifications and pricing bids. I reviewed their work samples and asked those who were willing to provide sample edits of the first three pages of my manuscript.

Many of the applicants were nice and provided great feedback, but reviewing their work made me realize several critical things:

  1. Anyone can call themselves an editor.

I received applications from teachers, psychologists, college students, hospitalists, pastors, the unemployed, creative writing instructors with literary magazine publications, and newspaper reporters. The variety surprised me! I wanted to work with an editor with prior experience working at a publishing company, but unfortunately none of them did.

  1. Being an editor means different things to different people.

For most of the people on Upwork, editing seemed to mean sending them my draft and then they would email it back to me with their edits … but I wanted someone who was more of a collaborator of sorts, someone I could exchange ideas with and learn from, someone I could turn to for support and help in understanding how the world of publishing works.

  1. There are a million different ways to edit a passage.

Each editor edited the same three pages of my manuscript in dramatically different ways. While one edited in a way that clarified and strengthened my voice and writing (I liked this editor!), one editor made errors while editing my passage. Another editor completely rewrote the passage.

There are a million different ways to edit a passage. Make sure an editor's work strengthens your writing. Click To Tweet
  1. There are different types of editing: developmental editing, structural editing, copy editing, and proofreading.

Some editors just suggested light proofreading edits, while others provided edits to standardize grammar, spelling, and punctuation (copy editing), but my favorite editors were the ones that made comments on the draft—comments that raised issues for my consideration, points to consider to improve content organization, flow, and consistency. Which brings me to the last point:

  1. Editors have very different ways of providing feedback.

Some did not have much to say (perhaps they did not see the issues?). Others said way too much in a very critical manner. Though their criticism was true and helpful, after reading their comments, I couldn’t help but feel as if the entire exercise in writing and publishing was hopeless. I realized that I wanted to work with someone who could shape my work in critical ways while also being supportive.

I didn’t find what I was looking for on Upwork, but nevertheless the experience helped me understand the range of options of what was out there.

An editor should help shape your work while also being supportive. Click To Tweet

I Kept Searching …

The next place I looked was the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). This website is a great resource with a very helpful directory of freelance editors who have a range of specialties and skills. I spent hours on this site, contacting each editor who seemed promising, and again found many of the above five points to be true. Eventually, I came across Candace.

After my hours of searching, I know how difficult it is to find an editor who feels like a partner—someone to turn to for help and guidance, who supports and can see what you are trying to do and believes in it. Candace is this person, and so when I found her, I knew I had to work with her.

Look for an editor who understands what you are trying to do and believes in it. Click To Tweet

When I first presented my manuscript to Candace, she very kindly suggested adding subheadings. Naively, in this first manuscript, I hadn’t really considered those, but their effect was impactful. I also had advice for grief coping skills listed by numbered points, but Candace suggested bullet points instead to improve flow. Along the way, Candace also taught me about the wonders of the em dash, and she stressed the importance of consistency throughout the manuscript. (I know it might sound like I am a terrible writer at this point, but I promise you I am not! This was just Candace working her magic). She also introduced Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to me, encouraging me to apply to gain free publicity to build my author platform and to raise the profile of my book. Although it can be hard to pitch HARO successfully, I was lucky enough to be featured in two articles out of the three HARO requests that I responded to based on the advice that Candace provided me.

In sum, delving into the world of indie publishing has been a great adventure. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, from writing and editing to learning about marketing and the business side of writing. Based on my experience, one of the most critical parts of writing a book is finding a strong editor—one who not only supports you, but also challenges you to grow, and one who not only has technical know-how, but also has insight and experience in the industry.

One of the most critical parts of writing a book is finding a strong editor. Click To Tweet

I’m pleased to say that my book, Grieving the Loss of a Love: How to Embrace Grief to Find True Hope and Healing After a Divorce, Breakup, and Death is coming out today, and is available for a free download. Check it out and see the work that Candace and I did together!

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Eleora Han, PhD, has written and published extensively on depression, stress, parenting, and maternal and early childhood mental health in leading peer-reviewed psychology and psychiatry journals. Her recent work focuses on issues relating to grief and loss, meaning and purpose in life, mindfulness, and acceptance. Connect with her online at www.EleoraHan.com, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, and for free book extras.

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Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, and writing coach for fiction and nonfiction. She works with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. Learn more at her website http://changeitupediting.com, and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

4 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned While Searching for an Editor: Guest Post by Eleora Han, PhD”

  1. This was interesting, given my exact opposite (read: lightning fast) approach to finding an editor. Candace edited The Undefeated Mind, by Alex Lickerman — who happens to be a friend. A few delightful exchanges later (which included the sample edits you mentioned), we were in business. Thanks for the reminder of how lucky I am, not that I’ll ever forget!

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