Here's how I worked with a professional book editor

Book one and two in my Africa’s Billionaire Heirs Series are with proofreaders. Instead of a party to celebrate my achievement, I felt more energetic and moved to my next writing task. I have choices. I could write Book three in the Series, or, complete two draft books that I wrote in 2017.  

Unlike many authors who have a plan on when to write which book, I sometimes type out a first draft whenever I am inspired: by something I see while on travel, reading a book, watching a movie, chatting with groups of people. I go to my writing desk and type forty thousand words in five days. After, I will be relieved and go back to my usual work tasks. 

An idea popped up in my head, while I searched for the two draft books from among the many files in my computer. Better to analyze and document what I learned from my book editing process. That way, I will take care of some of the issues raised by the editor, as I edit the next book.

Process to editing

I am one of those who believe that there are enough book editors out there. All a writer needs to do is pick one, give them their book to edit.

No!

It took me five months to give my book to an editor.

  Excerpt from my edited novel

Excerpt from my edited novel

My search started with contacting professional editors listed by other writers, especially indie authors. I read their bios and liked what they had written, how they would refine the language, so my readers would enjoy the story without slowing down to ponder on language.

The next thing I did was contact some of the editors. I did quick calculations on what they charged to edit and realized it was way beyond my budget, as a new writer without a book budget. I went online, to social media and asked for suggestions. I received a few, that too turned out to be beyond my budget.  

During the editor searching task, I traveled to Kenya, eight thousand plus miles away. I spent the next two months editing my books, for the 9th or 11th time. In my editing, I changed words, sentences, paragraphs, and sometimes scene structure.

The editing process felt like I was just rotating, confirmed to a small space. I started the editor search, again. This time locally. I wrote to some, called few recommendations, but all in vain. The competitive editors were busy with their job tasks or consulting, though that was not what they said. 

Finally, I contacted a friend editor with 20+ years of editing non-fiction books and magazines.  I also contacted one editor who was highly recommended.  

We moved to the next stage. I gave a chapter from my novel to the two editors and asked for sample edits and a quotation. I settled on the editor who had more red markings on my chapter. The markings were a result of their three levels of editing. I chose to have the second level of editing, to save on costs. I also feared that level three would take long and could introduce many changes to my completed novel – which some friends had read and liked.

The editor emailed me a draft contract with details on editorial issues they would focus on in level two editing. The contract spelt out the start and finish dates, process of editing, and the payment schedule, spread out. We held a face-to-face meeting, signed the contract, and editing work started.

The editor divided the novel into sections, each made up of four chapters. The agreement was that they would edit a section, forward to me to review (accept/reject edits) the tracked changes and comments. The editor had made it clear in the contact that they would only go ahead to the next section after they received my reviewed copy. The reason, my review of their edits would inform them on how to approach editing in the next section.

The section-based editing kept me on my toes. I woke up early, or slept late, to review a newly arrive section. I liked the editing markings on what I had assumed was a finished copy of my book.

By this time, I had traveled back to my usual work station. Time differences made the editing process more interesting. On some days, my editor emailed a section at the end of their day, which is the start of my day. Depending on what tasks I had for the day, I would review the edits and email the document back, at the end of my day – as my editor started their next day. 

What steps do you go through to find and work with an editor. What procedures are similar or different to my experience?  

(To be continued)

  1. Process – how I found an editor and the editing procedure
  2. Lessons from the editing process
  3. My approach on next and future books