The term “self-publishing” has become a bit of a misnomer. Paul Hanson, general manager of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, says that he’s seen local authors “move toward ‘indie-publishing’ rather than ‘self-publishing.’ ” The difference is that self-published authors do all the work themselves, while indie publishers, he says, “know when to hire professionals to help them do the work that the authors can’t (or shouldn’t) do themselves.”
But before searching for an editor, authors will want to evaluate their own needs. Does the work require a developmental, collaborative or copy edit? What’s the budget? A smaller budget doesn’t necessarily mean that a quality edit is out of reach. One strategy may be to farm out the work to willing and able friends, dust off your copy of The Elements of Style, join a writers’ workshop and revise until the book feels completely polished before hiring a vetted editor.
Of course, hiring a qualified professional can be tricky. Start by asking candidates the right questions. Has the prospective editor worked as a full-time editor? Where? For how long? What style is he or she most familiar with? Many magazine and newspaper editors use AP style (as does Kirkus Reviews), but book editors tend to use Chicago Manual of Style (as does Kirkus Editorial, the book editing division of Kirkus Media).
Consider several candidates and ask them take a short edit test. The test will not only reveal if the editor has the chops, but how well you might work together. (Some editors might not take an edit test. In this case, ask to talk with previous clients.) Feel free to check the rates of Kirkus Editorial online to get a sense of what’s reasonable. –Karen Schechner
Karen Schechner is the senior indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.