How to Properly Vet an Editing Company
Your book will be an extension of your professional credibility and your reputation, so you want to make sure that you hire top-notch editing staff to help you make your book the best that it can be.
I’ve written this article to help you go through the process of vetting candidate editing companies and make sure that you find the best possible match for your book project.
10 Vetting Questions to Ask
To ensure you get the best fit for your working style and your personality, I’ve compiled the following ten vetting questions to ask your candidates.
Question 1: What Are the Qualifications of Your Nonfiction Editors?
In this time of low-cost Internet self-promotion, anybody can claim that they have an editing company. Beautiful websites are easy to come by and their lower fees will be very tempting.
But since your professional reputation and your credibility will be directly linked to the quality of your book, it’s imperative that the editing company you hire employs experienced editors.
Ask for a list of qualifications of the editor or editors on staff that specialize in nonfiction and ensure that they have no less than 5-7 years of experience in the field or longer.
Question 2: What Titles Has Your Company Edited? Can I See Samples?
Next, ask to see samples of their work. Not just a few pages, but nonfiction book titles that are out in the market so that you can get them.
Ideally, you’ll want books in your niche, but if that’s not available, then any type of problem-solving nonfiction book will do. Begin by looking at the first few pages on Amazon using their Look Inside feature.
You’ll be able to read up to the book’s first chapter, or at least the book’s introduction. If you’re impressed by the editing quality and are considering hiring the company, buy a copy of the book and read it.
Makes notes about what you liked most about the writing. Was the book a page-turner? Was it compelling? Did it connect with you right away? Was the message laid out effectively? Did it prompt you to take action?
Question 3: How Do You Work with Authors?
Now, you need to find out how the company works with their clients and you want to make sure that they can adapt to your needs. For example, some authors prefer to rely on email communications. They need time to think things through before they communicate their ideas.
Some others need the immediacy of a phone conversation to trigger ideas in a brainstorming style. Some prefer to see a face in front of them so they feel more comfortable using video-calling apps.
The editing company should be able to adapt to you and not the other way around. In contrast, freelance editors can be much more restrictive and may demand a single mode of communication, which can be limiting for many authors.
Editing companies are more expensive because they have higher overheads, but they’re also much more flexible to work with.
Question 4: What Level of Editing Will My Manuscript Require?
As part of your outreach process, the editing company will ask you submit your manuscript draft so they can assess it. Experienced outfits can do this very quickly. Their goal is to find out what levels of editing your work will need.
At a minimum, you’ll need one or more copy-editing passes to correct spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. But more likely than not, you’ll first need a developmental editor to go through your manuscript.
Their job is to ensure that your ideas flow well, that the language is clear and that your book is structured in the best possible way to deliver your message to your target audience.
The final level of editing you’ll require is proofreading, to ensure that all T’s are crossed and all I’s dotted. The proofreading pass is the fine-tooth comb that not only catches typos but also verifies all your facts, figures and references for accuracy.
Question 5: What’s the Editing Timeline?
Editing companies work concurrently with a large number of authors, so you want to establish how long it’ll take them to fully edit your nonfiction book based on their current commitments.
You want to make sure that their timeline aligns with your plans, and you also want to set clear expectations from the beginning to ensure that there are no surprises later on.
Question 6: Do You Provide A Sample Edit at No Charge?
Next, make sure to ask for a sample edit of your manuscript. This could range from a couple of paragraphs to up to a page, or approximately 250 words.
This sample edit will give you a good idea of the general quality of their work, and also allow you to assess if they understand your niche and your target audience.
Question 7: What Are Your Fees and Terms?
Now it’s time to ask for editing fees and their payment terms.
You want full transparency on the issue of money, because requirements can change throughout the project and you want to make sure that the editing company is very clear on how they handle deviations from the original plan.
This is no different from contractors doing renovations on your home. Often times the change fees on home projects can as much as double your original estimate, and you want to make sure that you fully understand how they handle these situations so they can be managed appropriately.
Here’s a tip that’ll save you money: whenever you get feedback from your editor, revise your manuscript multiple times and don’t hand it back immediately after a single revision. Every time your manuscript goes back and forth, your costs increase.
Question 8: Can I See a Sample Editorial Contract?
Next, you need to ask them to give you a sample of their editorial contract. Established firms should have no problem fulfilling this request. You just want to make sure that you read all the fine print ahead of time.
Specifically, look out for the wording of the termination clause to ensure that you have a way out if things don’t go the way you expected.
Reputable companies will provide clients with clear ways to end your contract if you’re not satisfied with the work (provided they get paid for all the work performed prior to the termination) because they’ll want all client relationships to remain amiable.
Question 9: Can I Get 2 or 3 Nonfiction Author References?
As with any contract work, you’ll want two or three references from nonfiction authors that you can talk to. You want them to relate their full experience, from initial contact to the finished product.
You also want to read copies of their books in full or at least in part to ensure their comments match the end result, since you don’t get to pick who you talk to.
Question 10: How’s Your Rapport?
Finally, there are the non-tangibles. How’s your overall rapport with the staff of the editing company? Writing a book is a very personal affair and it requires that you become vulnerable in front of your editor.
You want to make sure that you feel very comfortable with them and that your relationship doesn’t trigger any defense mechanisms. Creative relationships require respect and compassion, especially on the part of the editor, so make sure you listen to your hunches before you make a hiring decision.
You now have a good foundation for vetting editing companies. The editor-author relationship is a very special one and it requires that you invest some extra time in the vetting process to ensure you both have a great fit.
Good luck in your search!
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.