Before You Find an Editor:
Peer Reviews and Beta Readers

A completed second draft of a manuscript needs professional editing and opinions from peers in the field. To start, you might want to try services such as Now Novel, a website which can pair you and your work with a mentor and provide group opinions of your work through the Critique option.

Another resource new writers use is beta readers, professional readers who focus on finding plot holes or inconsistencies such as characters and character motivation, missing parts or loose ties in the text. Even if you plan to publish through a publishing house you should use at least two beta readers. Watch these two videos by published writers who used beta readers in their writing process:

How To Prepare Your Manuscript For Beta Readers by Kristen Martin
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Beta Readers by Jenna Moreci

Professional Editing

Authors will go through at least one major revision of the manuscripts with beta readers. By the manuscript’s third or fourth draft a substantive edit is needed. This edit will professionally identify and correct grammar errors and improve the readability of the draft by recommending sections to add, reduce or delete. Best of all they identify clarity and organizational,  accuracy, and consistency issues for the writer to improve on as they work on future drafts.

Editors have various approaches substantive editing. Many will rewrite whole sections, and generally the more expensive the editor, the more likely that willoccur. Other editors (including myself) believe in the integrity of the manuscript and tend to merely recommend that parts be rewritten, added or subtracted. Such editors take on more of a mentoring role as the writer makes such changes. Rob Bignell, professional editor and author

Compare prices for professional editing with the Editorial Freelancers Association‘s page for editorial rates. A substantive edit can be expensive, so try to have the draft as polished as possible. To save money you could pay for a substantive edit done of major scenes and chapters rather than the entire draft. But I would recommend looking at other services too. Checking around I’ve found companies that provide manuscript evaluations, or a substantive edit charged by the word count rather than time spent. Inventing Reality Editing for instance charges $800 for 120,000 words (a typical YA manuscript) for a substantive edit. So spend a good amount of time price checking and comparing before you submit to an editing.

After working with a substantive or professional edit, submit the next draft to your beta readers and your very first reader from Part 1. After you get their opinions, contemplate whether your work needs another revision. If the manuscript is of fiction genre, you need only consider if the organization of the story is well written and how consistent the story’s tone and voice is.

If the story is non-fiction, you’ll need to consider finding a copy editor. Copy editing is an additional editing done to ensure the following:

  • Ensuring the text is clear and understandable (which may involve minor rewriting)
  • Checking for potential copyright violations
  • Cross-checking for consistent use of formatting, references and sources

When you’ve done all you can to a manuscript, submit it to a literary agent an publishing house. The publishing house will pair you and your manuscript to one of their editors, and then you’ll only need to do a few more revisions before it’s being sold. Remember to keep the old drafts because this editor might like a scrapped chapter more than the proposed one.