Preparing Your Manuscript For An Editor
Now that you've completed your manuscript and are ready for an editor, you might be wondering what to expect. These steps will help you get the maximum benefit out of working with an editor.
1. Edit On Your Own
You shouldn't send your first draft to an editor. The editor's job is to find all the mistakes that you missed during your revisions. If your manuscript is riddled with typos or grammatical errors, your editor will have to spend a lot of time just getting it the manuscript in good enough shape to evaluate the flow of the sentences and the structure of the book. Another reason you want to send the best version possible is to save yourself some money. Some editors charge an hourly rate. You don't want to pay for several hours of work that you could have completed on your own. The third reason you should do a quick edit is to create a style sheet for your editor.
2. Create A Style Sheet
Your editor will likely create a style sheet while she edits. You can save her (and yourself) a lot of time by starting the process while you perform your self-edit. A style sheet is like a mini-dictionary that is unique to your book. If you are a science-fiction author, your style sheet will likely be very long, and will contain the names of any characters, fictional places, scientific methods, or other words that you want to make sure are used consistently and spelled correctly. If your book is about business topics, the style sheet will include technical terms and proper spellings of important people's names. By starting the style sheet on your own, you will save your editor the trouble of querying you every time she comes across a new term or word.
The purpose of the style sheet is to guarantee consistency. If you have a character named Zathirrak, your editor can refer to the style sheet each time the name comes up to make sure it's not spelled Zathirak. The style sheet also creates consistency as you move from a developmental editor to a copyeditor, and eventually to a proofreader.
3. Set Clear Guidelines
Before you start working together, you should know what kind of an edit you want to receive. Do you want your editor to help with the concepts in your manuscript? Do you expect feedback about the composition, structure, etc.? Do you want a copyedit only? (FYI, a copyeditor will correct the grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. but not comment on the flow or clarity.) If you have already had a professional edit (or you're deciding against one), then maybe you just want a proofread. Keep in mind, if you hire an editor for a proofread, and they realize it's not ready for one, they might either require you to hire them for a copyedit as well or refuse the project completely.
Having clear expectations at the start is crucial because it eliminates any surprises once you get the manuscript back. If you hired your editor for a line edit and are expecting comments about the flow and improvements in the sentence structure, you'd be right to push back upon receiving a manuscript that was merely proofread. The same cannot be said for the opposite scenario.
4. Specify the Timeline
You and your editor should agree upon a deadline before the project starts. If you need the finished product by the 15th of the month, the actual deadline might be the 6th or 7th to allow you time to review the finished product and make any recommended changes. You also want to leave some time in case something unexpected comes up. Maybe halfway through your manuscript, you mention an event that your characters haven't learned about yet. You'll need time to rework this section before your editor can finish it.
5. Decide How You'd Like to Receive the Final Copy
Each editor has a method they usually follow. For instance, I convert all my files to Word and edit with Track Changes. My clients receive two copies of their manuscript. One has the markup included so they can evaluate the edits. The other copy is clean and ready to print. But before I start a project, I ask my clients if they're okay with this method or if they'd prefer something else. Most people are fine with it, but some people prefer me to upload the clean version to Google Docs, or to throw out the marked up version altogether.
The bottom line is to make sure your editor knows how you want to receive the final copy. If you have a template for them to follow, send it at the beginning of the project; don't surprise them with it after they've already finished formatting the ms.