You written your novel or short story and now you want to get it published. First thing is to look for publisher — right?
The first thing you do is edit and re-edit your work. One never submits a first-pass manuscript for publication. After you've done that particular act at least three to four or more times, THEN it is ready to consider a real editor. In fact, if you wish, you could also have a couple of readers go through and see what they find before sending the manuscript off to a professional editor.
Why readers? It depends upon what type of editor you are wanting to hire. The term "editor" encompasses a large group of people who actually perform different aspects of the clean up process. Back to readers — they will read your story and if something doesn't make logical sense, they (the readers) will notify you of what the problem could be. An editor will address your creative content which involves story line, character development, and language used. A copyeditor handles the more complex aspects of style, grammar, spelling and punctuation. These are two separate creatures and some actually delve into specializations with in those two categories. I know one editor who deals strictly with making sure the character has depth and purpose while another editor assures you the story accuracy is point-on. Some copyeditors will only handle spelling and punctuation while others deal strictly with grammar and style. By using a reader, some errors can be caught early on.
So, know what you want when you begin your search for an editor. To find an editor who does it all — be extremely leery.
I'm an editor and have worked on several novels for different clients. It has been said that only a editor who has worked for a major book publisher can perform professional edits. I disagree. I spent five (5) years with an online e-zine, helping to publish the monthly editions. I learned several tricks of the trade and by the time the company decided to fold, I'd learned what to correct to make the article or short story worth the read. I was not the editor, per se, but one who assisted and backed-up the editor, catching errors that had slipped through the checkpoints. I saw the original and the final versions.
So, what are the questions to ask to find this "perfect" editor?
Here comes the worst part of having somebody edit your work. This is your baby, your precious. This is the greatest book ever written by anyone and it is perfect in just too many ways.
What you will receive from the editor, depending upon your decision for an editor or copyeditor is not what you're expecting. The editor will delete text, add text, change sentence structure, add/delete punctuation, suggest word choices and/or even story line changes.
What you will NOT (aka SHOULD NOT) receive is a glorifying letter about how fantastic this particular manuscript is and what a wonder you are. You didn't pay BIG bucks (even if only $20) to be told how great the work is. You wanted it edited. If you are looking for hollow praise, let your mother, another family member or friend read the manuscript. Let them be your pep rally.
If you want the truth, allow an editor to perform what I call "bleeding all over the manuscript." I'm friends with a few of my editor's clients and we jokingly claim she has a fifty-five gallon barrel of blood she uses to edit our work. My first submission was returned with more red marks than there was black text. Actually, I do believe the only line that didn't get edited was "by Bob Nailor" — although there might have been a formatting issue she notified me about.