So you’ve finally finished your manuscript and you’re ready for an editor to take a look, but you have a tight budget and wonder if there is a way to keep the price tag to a minimum. Of course there are sites where you can hire freelancers for very low wages, but there are other ways to cut down on the cost of hiring a professional. Here are a few tips:
1.) Learn and follow a style guide. A style guide sets standards and rules for the creation of various documents. There are numerous style guides and manuals available; choosing the correct guide will depend on your intended audience, the purpose of your piece, and whether or not the outlet where you are submitting your piece has a specific style guide (perhaps even their own) that they follow. This list details many of the available style guides and who should use them.
In the US, most fiction and nonfiction book publishers generally follow the Chicago Manual of Style while adding on their own tweaks and preferences. You do not need to memorize or strictly follow CMoS as long as you stay consistent in your choices. For example, did you use a serial or Oxford comma in the first half of your manuscript? Then make sure you continued to do so throughout the entire piece. Consistency, above all else, is key.
2.) Clean up your manuscript. Give yourself a week or so away from your work and return to it with fresh(er) eyes. Read it through looking for inconsistencies, misspellings, awkward sentences, and incorrect or questionable grammar. Spell check and grammar check programs can be somewhat helpful, but keep in mind that they often miss things and are even sometimes incorrect. Use an online dictionary like Merriam-Webster to double check spellings of compound and hyphenated nouns or to check usage. Add your unique character’s name to Word’s dictionary to make sure you haven’t misspelled it anywhere.
The fewer errors you have in your manuscript, the less time it will take your editor to read through it and make corrections. Ensuring you are handing in a clean manuscript will save you money, especially if your editor charges by the hour. If your editor charges by the word, you will still potentially cut costs by lowering the level of editing that your manuscript will require.
3.) Find some beta readers. An additional way to save on editing is by finding interested readers to go through your manuscript and give you feedback. Good beta readers can be a great help by providing you with constructive comments about your character development and plot. If you can work out any of these big picture kinks before engaging an editor, you will likely not need a developmental edit and go straight to copyediting and/or proofreading.
When looking for an editor let them know what services you are hoping for and alert them to any budget constraints. After reviewing your manuscript, many will be able to offer you a few packages to choose from. How much you are willing and able to invest in your writing business (and yourself) is ultimately up to you. Presenting a potential editor with a clean, well-developed manuscript will go a long way in saving you time and money.