Getting started on my journey
My desire to write a children's book came from the days when I was making up stories to tell my son at bedtime. This was roughly 3 years ago. I started by jotting down a basic outline of the book. From there, I used my free time to flesh out the story. Being very busy with my full-time work as a Technical Product Manager, I put the story down until this past winter coming out of 2020. When I picked it up again there was more there than I'd remembered. I still spent the next few months writing, editing, and re-writing the story. It was at this time that I decided I wanted to write a series of books - three to start. It was also at this time that I decided I wanted to publish traditionally. That was the only acceptable path for me then. But that changed over time. More on that later. My first book was about dealing with frustration. And because I hadn’t given book 2 and book 3 much thought yet, I assumed the next two would be on the same topic. It wasn’t until more recently that I realized how many other topics I wanted to touch on.
Back in March, when I was still in the writing phase but could see the need for editing right around the corner, I did some research and discovered that I could hire professional editors on Reedsy.com. Reedsy has been a great resource for information and also proved to be a good place (for me) to find editors and illustrators.
I hired two different editors. Why? Because I knew I wanted a high-level editorial sweep (Assessment + Developmental Edit) with enough time to work on those edits before having someone get into the nitty-gritty (Copy Editing + Proof Reading) with me. It also kept me moving at a good pace: I was able to start editing right away knowing that another person would help me fine tune shortly after. It kept me grounded to a reasonable timeline, which is something that works well to boost my motivation. It just so happened that one of the editors I liked was available more immediately for a sweep, while the other editor I liked wouldn't be available for another month. I'm sure I could have just used one editor for the whole process, but doing it the way I did worked well for me. I think going forward I would use just one editor. I’ll cross that bridge again when I’m done writing manuscript number two. I feel that I got very lucky in this editing endeavor. Both editors helped shape my manuscript beautifully with their contributions.
I know, you're probably thinking "But you said you wanted to publish traditionally - why did you hire an editor?"
The reason was because I felt my manuscript could use the critique and I wanted a fresh set of professional eyes on it. Being new to the author space, I needed the feedback. I was also keenly aware that unless your manuscript stood out in the crowd, a publishing company would toss it in the garbage.
Prior to this time, besides traditional publishing (where the publisher provides an editor and illustrator), I wasn't really clear on how a self-published author would go about finding professional editors. When I finally found Reedsy, I spent hours searching for the type of editors I needed for a children's book and researching each one. I tagged a large group of editors (using a Reedsy feature). From here I made a list of my top five editors. Once I had whittled it down, I reached out to those five for an offer. The process was quite streamlined from here. I ended up working with the second and third favorites on my list. Both editors were very helpful and I am so grateful to have found them.
I also later decided that I would change course and go the self-publish route.
If you are new to the author world or have just written your first manuscript, you might find this list helpful.
I share these experiences with budding authors to help and provide value. Reedsy happened to work well for me. It might not work for you. However you decide to proceed, I encourage you to do your homework before diving into a contract with an editor. Here are just a few things that I did before getting into a contract:
Fully read and understand the editor's bio/resume.
Look to see that the editor has real-world experience with published books.
Does the editor have any experience at a traditional publisher?
Research the books that the editor has worked on. Are they selling? Are they on any best seller's lists? this is not mandatory, but nice to know if they have worked on popular content.
Check that the editor's previous experience matches your genre. If you are writing children's books, you would want to be sure that the editor has already done plenty of children's book editing.
Google the editor.
Check the reviews. I looked for editors that had 4-5 stars before adding them to my "top 5" list.
Another thing to think about is the contract itself. If you go through Reedsy, for the cost of the fees you incur to use their platform, it you are afforded the luxury of being covered on a few aspects. Always check what you are covered for and determine if you need an NDA - assuming you don't yet have a copyright. I'll talk about copyright in a future blog.
Here are some key takeaways from this post:
Find a rhythm that keeps you motivated.
Compile a list of editors and research them carefully before you hire.
I hope this has been insightful. Have a wonderful day!