As the owner of a small editing company, I sometimes scope out our competition to see what they are doing and to make certain we’re competitive. I’ll have to admit, I’ve gotten lazy about this during the last few years, but I recently Googled “fiction editor” and “manuscript editing” and a few other related terms to see who was appearing and what they were offering. And I was shocked. Literally, jaw-dropping, oh-my-goodness, I-can’t-believe-this shock.
The last time I did market research was during the recent recession. At that time, I was surprised at the number of pop-up editing companies. It seemed that many writers who’d lost their day jobs decided to give editing a whirl. They put up a quick website, undercut the experienced editors, and became fly-by-night “editors.” Most of these companies have since gone out of business. So, Valuable Tip Number One: Before you send your work—and definitely before you send your money—check to be sure the company is still in business.
The time before that, my shocking discovery was the number of corporations who assigned editing jobs to the lowest bidder. Unfortunately, there are still a few of these companies out there. If your edit is going to the lowest bidder, I can almost guarantee that you’re not getting a quality job. Valuable Tip Number Two: Whenever a company is more vested in the number of words an editor has edited and the speed with which this editor edits, you can be sure that quality is not the focus.
But this time, I discovered a new low, and it’s all from one “first” company. This “first” company is very aggressive in marketing. Four of the top Google placement ads led directly to their site, and a number of others did so indirectly. I am also bombarded by their pop-up ads and feature ads on just about every website that sells advertising. They must harvest emails, because immediately after I visited the site, I started receiving offers and discounts—several the first few days, and now two a day. The site itself is a bit like a used car lot. There are flashing pop-ups with live editors just waiting to “chat” with you. There are free samples—as many as you want. They promise “superior quality, incredible speed, and LOW prices.” And they GUARANTEE your satisfaction! Sounds too good to be true. Which leads us to Valuable Tip Number Three: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
A little more research on their site revealed they edit the following “genres”:
- Novel Editing
- Fiction Editing
- Non-Fiction Editing
- Book Editing Services
- First Time Author
- Christian Editing
- Black Genre Editing
Yeah. Last time I checked, a novel is fiction. And I don’t have a clue as to which category I’d select if I were a first-time author of Black-genre Christian fiction (what is, by the way, “Black Genre”?). Worse, I clicked on the sample edits provided on their website. First, they missed obvious typos and errors. Worse, they suggested changes in direct opposition to good writing practices. And, perhaps most alarming: the sample edit was done in a version of non-English Word. That’s right. It was a Swedish version of Word. Which tells me the editor was likely not a native English speaker.
Despite the annoying pop-ups, I continued to explore the site. They are aggressively searching for more editors. What are the requirements to edit for them? Well, here’s the list (and note that if you don’t meet the requirements of the first item, you just keep dropping down the list until you match one of the criteria):
- Extensive professional editing experience with solid references from previous employers
- A doctorate degree
- Advanced education - Masters, Bachelors, specific editing courses, proofreading certification, etc.
- Affiliation, membership, or participation with editing organizations, writing associations, etc.
- An international location which serves a time zone outside of the continental North American market, especially those editors located in New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, or Hawaii
If you still don’t meet their standards, don’t worry. Go ahead and apply anyway. These are just suggestions.
After wiping the dirt off my hands and continuing my research, I clicked on the next Google ad for editing services. This one looked like a decent site. It showed an actual photograph of a real person editing. But when I clicked on a few of the links, something frightening happened: I was back on the website of the “first” editing company. Yes. The one I’m wailing about above. It so happens there are several freelance editors who belong to the “first” family of editing.
By now, I was horrified. So, I followed my own Valuable Tip Number Four: When you want to know the truth about something related to writing, visit the Absolute Write Water Cooler. More specifically, I went to http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=262403. If you’re suffering from low blood pressure and need to get your blood pumping and your arteries compressing, I encourage you to visit this page about “first” editors.
The bottom line: there are still a number of independent, devoted editors out there who are traditionally published with a higher-education degree in writing, editing, or English, who charge a reasonable rate to give you a personal and professional job. Any editing company that doesn’t show photographs of the actual editors—and their individual qualifications—is most likely hiding something. Be sure to do your research, and hire an editing company that has integrity. Valuable Tip Number Five: Before hiring an editor, Google the editor by name and by company name. See how vested the editor is in the writing community. Does he/she have books available? Give writing workshops? Speak at writing conferences?
It is important to hire a professional editor to review your work before you submit it. Please do your homework and choose one who is qualified—one who will make your work better, not worse.
We are here for you. Give us a shout at IFWeditors@gmail.com.