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Whether it's fiction or nonfiction, a dissertation or thesis, if you've just finished writing, you may be looking for a qualified editor--and if so, CONGRATULATIONS! You're already on the right track. Professional editing is a smart move before submitting your manuscript. But how do you choose the right editor? As you prepare to navigate the world of online editors, perhaps it would help to see them as fitting into one of three main categories: aggregators, independents, and teams. In brief, aggregators are companies that aggregate a number of freelance editors in one website, but with little supervision or coordination of efforts--a kind of clearinghouse; independents are freelance editors who operate completely on their own; and teams are companies that utilize the services of multiple editors, but with supervision, review of their work, and coordination of their efforts. For some of the key pros and cons of working with each of these groups, read on.


Freelancer Aggregators

If you do a Google search for "book editor," "dissertation editor," or any of a hundred related keywords, you'll get dozens and dozens of pages of results. The ones that will almost always come out on top of the organic search results will be the freelancer aggregators. That's because they tend to be bigger companies, and these companies tend to be owned not by editors, but by entrepreneurs who are focused on maintaining successful websites where freelance editors can offer their services. Typically, these sites allow freelance editors to post their bios, and you pick the editor you want based on what you see.

PROs

  • They're easy to find, since they tend to be large, generate a lot of traffic, and do well in search engine results.
  • They tend to have client reviews, which may not indicate if a given editor is right for your project but will at least give you a sense of whether previous clients had a good experience.
  • Their editors have typically had to pass a screening for at least some minimum level of qualifications in order to be included on the site.
  • They give you maximum freedom in choosing the editor you want, based on the information available on the website.
  • If you're not happy with the final product, there's usually someone at the administrative level to whom you can appeal.

CONs

  • Beyond the brief bio on the website, there's no way to know if a particular editor is really best suited to your project, and usually no one who helps you to make the right choice.
  • You must choose between editors. It's not usually possible to combine the skills of several editors on one project, regardless of the project's specific needs.
  • Editors on these sites tend to work across genres--fiction, nonfiction, academic, business. But no one can be qualified in editing all those types of writing. As a rule, you're better off with an editor who only works in the genre in which s/he is genuinely an expert.
  • There is usually very little communication between you and the editor, since the company has to be sure that its editors don't try to make private deals with clients. There's also usually very little communication with the company, since the company is simply a venue for finding editors, and company administrators may not necessarily be experts in editing.
  • There is usually little or no oversight of editors' work, beyond some basic operating rules and procedures, and someone to handle customer complaints; the details of the project are handled by the individual editor as s/he thinks best, and that work is not usually reviewed before it is returned to you.

Independent Freelancers

In the same Google search for online editors, the individual freelancers will often come up toward the bottom of the list--if they show up at all. That's mainly because one editor with his or her individual projects will draw far less web traffic than a site that offers the service of 50 editors. And these independent websites are usually maintained by editors, not business people, so they tend to focus on their editorial work more than on their business activities--which may mean good editing, but not such good search results. However, less traffic does not mean lower quality; it just means that these editors are harder to find online. More often than not, you'll find them in a database, like that of the Editorial Freelancers Association, or by word of mouth. The good news is that, if you've found someone by word of mouth, you probably already know that this editor is good! The bad news is that anyone can advertise him-/herself as an editor online, regardless of qualifications (or lack thereof).

PROs

  • As with the aggregator sites, you have the freedom to choose--though in this case, you're moving between websites to make that choice. And since each editor probably has a whole website dedicated to his or her own work, you will probably have much more information about an individual editor than you would get through a bio on an aggregator site.
  • There tends to be a high level of communication with these editors, since they work for themselves; they have to make clients comfortable enough to hire them, and they have to make them happy enough to come back in the future and to spread the word to their colleagues and friends.
  • Because they work for themselves and have low overhead expenses, independent freelancers are usually in the best position to negotiate prices, if you find the price of a project to be beyond your reach.

CONs

  • They can be hard to find. Unless you're searching a database dedicated to freelance editors, finding independent freelancers online means bouncing from one website to the next, often at the lower end of the search engine results.
  • Although some independent freelancers will only accept projects in their own areas of editorial expertise, many will try to edit across genre lines--and again, no one can be an expert in all genres! You will need to rely on your communication with the editor to determine if this person is really best suited to your work. Caveat emptor!
  • Unlike aggregator sites and editorial teams, there are no qualifications that need to be met in order to advertise yourself online as an independent freelance editor. While some editors hold a certification in editing (which at least shows a minimum of knowledge and skill), most editors--even really great editors--are not certified. And an academic degree (even a doctorate) in English or Writing or some other field does not, in itself, guarantee that a person possesses specifically editorial skill. When dealing with independent freelancers, be especially careful to ask a lot of questions, seek samples, and request references.
  • There is no oversight. Since the editor works for him-/herself, you can't expect someone to review that work before it is returned to you. And if you have a problem with the finished product, you don't have a supervisor or even company administrator to whom you can appeal.

Editorial Teams

Like aggregator sites, editorial teams offer the services of multiple editors. And like aggregator sites, the editors on these teams are usually independent contractors (i.e., not full-time employees) who have proven their qualifications to the company's satisfaction. But unlike aggregator sites, editorial teams are comprised of editors who work under supervisors or managing editors, whose job it is to ensure that each project is placed with the editor whose expertise best fits the project needs. In fact, if a particular project would benefit from multiple editors each working on a different aspect of the manuscript, that can usually be arranged, since the editors are not just independent freelancers; they are part of a team, and that team has a captain who draws on all the resources available to him/her in order to ensure the quality of the finished product. Usually, editors are limited to working in their own areas of expertise, and each project is reviewed by a supervisor before being returned to the client. In the event that the client has questions or concerns, there is someone to whom s/he can turn for help.

PROs

  • Editors in these companies have usually had to pass a screening process and prove their qualifications to edit in their specific genres. They also have their work reviewed regularly, so editors who don't pass muster are weeded out.
  • Editors typically work only in their own fields of expertise, which means you're likely to get an editor who is well suited to your project.
  • A managing editor or supervisor, who knows the members of the editorial team, chooses the editor(s) with just the right expertise for your project.
  • If your project requires the talents of several editors, that can usually be arranged.
  • Projects are reviewed by a supervisor before being returned to you, guaranteeing the quality of the finished product.
  • In the event that you have questions or are not satisfied, the managing editor or supervisor can ensure your questions get answered and your concerns addressed.
  • Although some companies have better communication than others, in general companies that follow the editorial team model tend to offer more open lines of communication than aggregators do, since there is a point of contact for the team and editors are usually allowed to communicate directly with clients.
  • Because editorial teams tend to draw more clients to their websites than independent freelancers do, and because they tend to have more professional websites, there is a better chance that their websites will offer client reviews.
  • Because the team is made up of multiple editors, each with his/her own area of expertise, you have a better chance of finding someone genuinely suited to your project, even when you return with future projects that may have different needs. That, in turn, means it's easier to build a long-term relationship with companies following the editorial team model.

CONs

  • Unlike aggregator companies, you have less freedom to choose your own editor, though you almost always have significant input into that decision. In the end, though, this may not really be a negative, since the choice of editor will be made by someone with much better insight into the specific skills of each person on the editorial team.
  • Editorial team companies are often (though not always) smaller than aggregator-style companies, with fewer editors working for them. This often means they don't come up at the top of organic results from online searches, so finding them may take more effort.

Edits Made Easy

Edits Made Easy follows the Editorial Team approach. We have carefully recruited and screened editors in various genres and allow each editor to work only in his/her own field of expertise. Each project has a supervisor, who can draw on the talents of several editors, if that's what your project requires. And that supervisor reviews your project before it's ever returned to you. Edits Made Easy boasts some of the most open communication in the industry. Clients are given access to our project management system so they can track our progress in real time, and they're encouraged to contact us by email or phone, whether it's to raise questions or concerns or even just to check on the status of their projects. That high level of personal contact is precisely why Edits Made Easy has chosen as its motto, "Professional Editing with a Personal Touch."


Ask Questions!

Your writing matters to you. So in the end, it's important that you feel comfortable that your project is in the hands of just the right editor. Check back next week, when we'll suggest some questions you can ask your prospective editor before you contract for any services.

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