Editor: The First Hire for Your Dream Team

As a self-published author, you likely already know that bringing your book to fruition requires assembling a “dream team” to assist with making your book a book. So which team member you should hire first? Does it even matter? Without question, the first person you should hire is an editor.

Working with a quality editor is critical. Your editor will serve many functions, including molding your manuscript into a world-class book on par with big publishing houses, and creating the vision, direction and tone. This grounding work will set the stage for other decisions along the way, from design to marketing.

Editorial function is the platform of your book’s success. Editing can take time. Be patient and systematic, as omitting due diligence here will result in future work.

I’ve had the privilege to work with an amazing editor, Jean Borger, who lent me invaluable expertise, guidance and coaching.

Jean provides start-to-finish editing, coaching, and support services for self-publishers, and helps authors create well-crafted, publication-ready books in genres ranging from self-help to business to memoir. She also advises authors on design, illustration, and web presence.

I’m honored that Jean agreed to offer her wisdom for this article by answering a few questions:

Q. What do you like most about your job?
[JB] Helping writers bring their story to the page. Working with an author to realize the full potential of a manuscript is incredibly gratifying.

Q. What is a book editor’s role?
[JB] Everyone expects their editor to correct grammar and usage, but editors often help shape a book in its entirety. For your book Fantastical, for example, we worked together to evaluate your initial stories and select the ones that were most promising. We then determined that you had more to say which led to new writing. Throughout the editing process, there was a lot of back and forth on how best to frame and organize the book and the tone it would have. These decisions made the book what it is today.

Q. What is the best way to find a good editor?
[JB] Most of my clients come through word of mouth. If you know an author who’s worked with an editor and gotten good results (and especially if you like the book that came out of their collaboration), that’s one way to find someone. I’m a firm believer that the proof is in the pudding, so I think it’s very important that you like the editor’s work. I offer authors a “sample edit” option — I do an initial revision of a portion of their manuscript so they can begin to see what their book might look like if they decide to work with me. This can be very helpful.

Q. How is the editor compensated?
[JB] By the project or by the hour. Either way, rates typically range from $30-$60 an hour, with more substantive editing falling toward the higher end of the scale.

Q. What is the recommended length of engagement for a book editor?
[JB] Anywhere from a month to several years. Regardless of your initial plan, know that the editing process may take longer than you think if you’re concerned with creating an exceptional product. The following are some questions that affect length of engagement. How long is your manuscript? Is it relatively complete or are you still actively writing and revising? Are you turning your manuscript over to your editor, or do you envision a more collaborative process? Is your editor working on multiple projects, or will they be giving your book their full attention?

Q. What advice would you give self-publishing authors?
[JB] My clients range from people who are very hands-off during the editing process to those who are very hands-on. It’s good to think about what you might be looking for, but realize that your perspective may change as the editing process unfolds. It’s important to find someone who’s excited about your project but who will also challenge you to create the best possible product. What really sets books apart, regardless of topic, is quality, and quality takes time. Effective editing is ultimately a creative and organic process, so be prepared for growth and give and take as your manuscript evolves.

Marija Bulatovic 2014

Marija Bulatovic 2014

Born in Yugoslavia in the 1970s, Marija Bulatovic, along with her parents, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s just ahead of the 1990s Yugoslav wars and the breakup of the country. An accomplished business professional with years of experience driving enterprise business with Fortune 500 companies, Bulatovic graduated from Colgate University. Marija Bulatovic lives in Seattle with her husband and son.