Evaluating Your Editors

1 Comment

All editors are not created equal.

     It is virtually impossible to find professional-level editing for bargain-basement prices. This handy checklist will help you determine if you’re looking at an experienced editor or a green freelancer. You may not have the funds, desire, or need to hire a top-notch editor, but this checklist will help you avoid untrained and unqualified individuals.

These guidelines are for editors who work on a sentence-by-sentence basis. They may call themselves line editors, copy-editors, or even proofreaders.


     Look for experience specific to editing. Degrees in English and published books are nice, but they do not constitute copy-editing training.

     Writing and editing are related skills, but not interchangeable, kind of like being good at running and being good at soccer. If you are a fast runner, that will help you in playing soccer. However, you can’t simply run around the field and expect to spontaneously learn the rules of the game. Editing is the same.

     Check to make sure that your potential editor has training or formal experience in editing and he’s not just running around the field. An English degree is not enough. Look for education directly related to editing as well as in-the-field experience, such as editing for a book publisher or newspaper.


     Editors may charge by the hour, by the page, by the word, or by the project. Low hourly rates start at $15/h. The average rate is around $45/h, while high hourly rates reach $80/h or more. The lowest per-page rates start at $1, with an average of $6 and a high of $12. Per-word rates range from half a penny per word to ten cents per word.

Here’s the basic philosophical difference:
     Inexperienced editors try to compete on price in order to gain clients, especially when their skills are lacking. Established professionals know the fair market value of their work

One more warning:
     Beware of decimal points! I’ve seen more than one editor with rates of .005 cents per word. That’s 200 words for a penny, or $3.75 for a document of 75,000 words. Fork over a few dollars for fun, but otherwise avoid editors with such egregious mistakes on their own websites.


     Experienced, established editors tend to stick to their rates. They may offer discounts in rare cases, like if you’re offering multiple long-term projects.

     Willingness to compromise on any assignment is a hallmark of inexperienced freelancers. They’ll offer discounts, samples, refunds, free work, and more. Beware: this new breed of editors often thinks of your document as practice, not work. They’ll exchange cheap work for the ability to count your manuscript as ‘experience’. To return to the soccer analogy, this may work for backyard soccer, but it won’t help you reach the writing big leagues.


     Publishers should make their money from the sales of books, and editors should derive their income from editing. Watch out for editors who also offer marketing services, website development, cover design, ebook formatting, and their own books for sale. Multiple services shouldn’t necessarily deter you, but it’s a warning sign of an editor spread too thin. If you want a top-notch editor, look for one who only edits.


     A business website is expected to have a certain amount of style and an intentional design. Look for personalized URLs (like popularsoda.com, not popularsoda.blogspot.com).

     With an editor’s website, the focus should be on the text, and the text should be easy to read. You should easily be able to find out the editor’s rates, experience, and contact information. Watch out for websites that are image-heavy and rely on animations, slideshows, and multimedia elements. Ask yourself if the site is selling the strength of its services or a flashy image. That’s a good rule of thumb for evaluating any company, not just editors.


     Is it ever appropriate to hire a new, inexperienced, or untrained editor? Of course. If you’re having a hard time finding beta readers, need someone to commit to your full novel, or you simply don’t have the funds for professional editing, a less-experienced editor may suit your needs just fine.

     However, you should be aware that hobbyist editors do not provide the same level of service as professional editors. You are getting what you pay for. It’s your money, but you should go into negotiations with your eyes open.


Superheroes and Landmines: How (Not) to Respond to Critiques


     There are dozens of articles on finding a critique partner and loads of suggestions on how to critique, but there isn’t much information about responding to critiques of your writing. In this post, we’ll outline the most common bad behaviors and personality types of critique receivers and show you how to gracefully handle both compliments and criticism.

The Playground Superhero

     Did you ever pretend to be a superhero when you were little? There always seemed to be one kid who didn’t understand how to play the game. If he picked super strength and you hit him with lightning, he decided he was also invisible. If you tried to freeze him, then he could teleport even when frozen.
     The writing equivalent is an author who apparently already knows his own mistakes, but doesn’t bother to fix them. If you point out an inconsistency in character names, he says it’s just a typo. If you comment on a major plot hole, he says he was going to rewrite that part anyway. If you wonder when the main character got a talking dog, he says he already plans to put something about that in the beginning.
     The playground superhero usually ended up playing by himself. If you copy his bad behaviors with your critique partners, you might end up alone, too.

Avoid Being A Playground Superhero:

  • Fix all mistakes and problem areas before submitting your work for critiquing.
  • Let critiquers know about any major problems before they review (“I know I need to introduce the talking dog in the beginning. Right now, I’m looking for suggestions on making the dog a likable character.”).
  • Say “Thank you!” if someone points out an obvious typo.

The Invisible Author

     This writer is most commonly seen on forums, message boards, and anywhere online where posts can be deleted. The author doesn’t start as invisible. She posts a large text sample for critique and asks for helpful hints. All feedback is welcome! She is really looking forward to improving her writing.
     However, when she actually gets useful suggestions and reasoned criticism, she deletes her post and often vanishes from the forum. She might resurface later, claiming she was driven away by grammar nazis, elitist editors, or trolls. The real reason? She didn’t want concrete criticism, just soft-focus praise.
      Let’s be clear here: there is a difference between abusive messages (“Your writing makes me want to stab my eyes out”) and helpful– yet non-praising– messages (“The imagery in the first paragraph is contradictory and jarring”). Harassment should be reported, and legitimate help should be rewarded.

Avoid Being an Invisible Author:

  • Identify what you really want. It is absolutely okay to simply want praise, but critique circles are not the place for it.
  • Postpone posting your work in a public forum if you don’t feel comfortable opening yourself up to specific, potentially painful feedback.
  • Do not delete your post! Bookmark it and come back in a few months (or few years) to see if maybe those trolls were right.


Editing, Explained


      Everyone needs an editor. But what kind of editor? Many first-time or self-published authors acknowledge the value of editing, but remain confused about the nature of editing. Online, it’s an unorganized world. Posters mix up proofreading, editing, and copy editing with abandon. This post will outline the most popular forms of editing to help you choose the right type of editor for your work.


     Proofreading is the most basic form of editing. It’s debatable that proofreading even is a form of editing.

     Proofreading comes from the term “galley proof” (sometimes just called “proof”). Proofreaders read proofs. Easy enough.

      Historically, galley proofs have been one of the last steps in the publishing process. Proofreaders would check galley proofs against the previous version of the text in order to catch any errors introduced in the publishing process. Proofreaders concerned themselves solely with basic errors such as incorrect punctuation, misspellings, random capitalization, and, more recently, blocks of garbled text introduced by computer error (“</P > < P>&nbsp;< /P> <P >”, anyone?).

     With the dawn of word processors, self-publishing, ebooks, and independent authors, proofreading has come to take on a different meaning. For self-publishers, it’s uncommon to perform traditional proofreading with multiple copies of the same document. Now, when people talk informally about proofreading, they usually mean the process of checking a single text file for basic technical errors. A proofreader will change “suPine” to “supine”, but a proofreader will not replace “supine” if you really mean “prone”. That falls under the category of…


Five Ways to Recognize Bad Editors


      With the recent ebook explosion, dozens of freelance editors have popped up, self-promoting, taking payment, and supposedly editing ebooks. How can you tell if you’re getting a good deal from a reputable freelancer or about to be screwed over by a misguided (potentially malicious) hack? Here are our five signs of bad editors.

1. They accept anything.

      On the surface, this seems fine. Why wouldn’t an editor accept anything that comes his way? Well, much like a chef might specialize in French cuisine, an editor might specialize in romance. Or sci-fi. Or YA. It doesn’t mean the editor can’t edit another genre, and it doesn’t mean the chef can’t cook something else. It’s just not going to be their best work. If you’re a serious mystery writer gunning for high sales and book prizes, doesn’t it make sense to find an experienced mystery editor instead of a chick lit editor who wants to try something new?

      There’s another question which springs to mind when editors accept anything: why do they have so much free time? Editing is a long, involved process. Are these misguided editors really devoting their full focus to the work, or are they cranking out submissions to make some extra money on the side? Groucho Marx didn’t want to belong to a club that would have him as a member; self-publishing writers should be wary of enthusiastic editors who seem too eager to take submissions and payment.

Good Editors Will…

  • Explain to you if they’re not the right person to edit your work.
  • Have a clear work schedule and know when (or if) they can fit you in.
  • Articulate their strengths (and more importantly, their limitations).

2. They quote a price without seeing the work.

      Out of context, this makes no sense. No contractor would give an estimate on construction work without seeing the blueprints and all relevant information. It’s equally important for an editor to see the document before deciding on his approach.

      Now, we’re not advocating for baseless and confusing pricing, either. But between the flat per-page fees of misguided wannabes and the pulled-from-thin-air numbers of the intentionally malicious are clear, public, and comprehensive pricing structures.

      Pricing should take into account the experience of the editor, the length of the work, the author’s deadline, and the amount of editing required. Many editors will charge extra for a quick turnaround time or discount their services for long-term clients. There’s nothing wrong with charging extra money for extra work (or less money for steady work). But that’s the point: pricing shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.

Good Editors Will…

  • Give you an estimated cost and timeframe for editing your work.
  • Provide a schedule of fees or pricing structure which allow for shades of gray.
  • Advise you in advance of any additional fees or potential discounts.

3. They’re going it alone.

      Any reputable freelance editor should have some industry ties. Whether it’s editing-focused education, relevant job experience, or membership in professional societies, freelancers should have friends. A so-called editor who refuses to provide his legal name, background, or contact information should send you scrambling for the back button.

Good Editors Will…

  • Offer a detailed resume with current contact information.
  • Supply references from both clients and colleagues.
  • Provide proof of current membership status in professional societies.

4. They can’t explain their changes.

      It’s easy to say that a sentence doesn’t flow. It’s harder to explain the grammatical reasoning behind the problem. Be wary of any editor who tells you that you need changes without explaining why the sentence needs to change. Freelance editors work with words all day long. Experienced editors should be able to identify, explain, and fix grammatical errors without looking up every single mistake. You should feel comfortable to question your editor’s comments; however, questioning each individual remark will slow down the editing process, contribute to higher pricing fees, and potentially alienate your editor.

Good Editors Will…

  • Note your most common mistakes and explain how to avoid them in the future.
  • Provide answers with sources for your grammatical questions (within reason).

5. They seem too good to be true.

      So you have a first draft of half a million words and you need it professionally edited by the end of the week for less than $100? No problem! says the misguided editor. He doesn’t realize what he’s gotten himself into. He’s just happy to have a client! When the end of the week rolls around, you might find yourself out the $100 with nothing to show for it.

      Every author wants more readers, increased sales, better reviews, publishing contracts, and prize-winning stories. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee these things, even editors. This goes back to the first point: good editors know their limitations. Save yourself money, time, and headaches by choosing an editor with realistic goals for your story.

Good Editors Will…

  • Acknowledge their limitations.
  • Explain what is realistic and possible for your project.
  • Behave professionally.

Write with your heart. Publish with your head.

Got an ebook or self-publishing question? Ask us on Twitter @popular_soda or email admin@popularsoda.com

Don’t Pay for Someone Else’s Mistake: When Typos Can Cost You

Leave a comment

There are famous stories of typos which ended up costing millions of dollars for the offending party. The Mizuho Securities stock sale of 2005 cost the Japanese company $225M because of transposed numbers.

Losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on a typing error, however tragic, is also rare. Money-based typos are more frequent and widespread on smaller scales, such as inaccurate (and sometimes ridiculous) pricing on menus of local restaurants. You’ve probably come across the common but inelegant solution of handwritten price stickers slapped on the plastic sheath of the menu.

Online, marketing errors are a bit more complicated to fix, especially since the company must both correct the typo and deal with potentially widespread and anonymous customer backlash.

Here’s a real-world pricing error we came across while looking for online storage services.

This cloud storage service advertised 10GB of online storage for only a dollar per month.

The offending advertisement

This is the ad with the company name removed.

However, when it was time to pay, there was a little problem