7 Questions With Editor Josiah Davis
In today’s interview, Editor Josiah Davis takes us through the benefits of working with a professional editor, what you should do before handing over your manuscript and the importance of compatibility between an author and an editor.
We’ll learn what dictates the price authors pay a professional editor and how many services they can offer to make your novel shine. Editors also have their own preferences in editing different genres, so before striking a deal, you’d better make sure you’re on the same page.
Follow Josiah’s advice in the interview below and if you want to know all The How To Of Finding, Hiring and Working With A Professional Editor For Your Novel, you’re only a click away!
I’m Josiah Davis, owner and founder of JD Book Services. I’ve been working in the editing industry for the last five years, and over that time I have worked on over 200 manuscripts and have just over 60 reviews to my name. You can find all of my information on my site, including my rates, testimonials, and portfolio.
As an editor, I am not here simply to make an author’s work “correct.” I am here to help authors learn, grow, and improve in their craft. Reviews like this are what drive me, and what I believe set me apart from other editors in the industry: “I’ve had four editors before. No one has ever picked my writing apart like that. I’ve learned more from this 11,000-word edit than I’d learned from any editor or crit partner combined!”
There are thousands of editors out there, and finding the right one can be overwhelming for an author. I believe that my volume of experience, dedication to helping authors grow, and testimonials are what truly set me apart from others who are out there.
Esther Rabbit: What’s your own definition of a good editor?
So this is an incredibly subjective question, but I think it really comes down to someone who treats what they do as their true passion and livelihood, and who truly desires to help authors improve.
To elaborate on my first point there, I see so many “editors” who are really just someone who took a proofreading course and got a certificate, and work their “business” on the side.
What that means is that their life will come before their professional work. You can often spot these kind of editors because they don’t have an actual website, they try to attract clients by having incredibly low prices, and they often don’t have the volume of testimonials and portfolio that their colleagues do.
While it’s true that everyone has to get a start somewhere, I would just caution authors against those who don’t work their business full time.
Beyond that, my definition of a “good” editor would of course be someone who understands the rules of grammar and style, but that’s just the beginning.
A good editor understands genres, understands what sort of things need to be fact checked, and understands the difference between keeping an author’s voice and eliminating troublesome habits. There’s a massive difference between going through a manuscript and making it “correct” and going through and making it shine.
Esther Rabbit: What should authors do before handing you over a manuscript?
A lot of first-time authors think that as soon as they complete their first draft, it’s ready to send off to the editor, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
If an author gives me a book full of typos and errant constructions they could have caught and fixed on their own, then my efforts will be directed toward addressing those mistakes, rather than focusing on helping their voice and really making the book shine.
The cleaner a book I get from an author, the more I can really put my skillset to use. You can find a proofreader in literally any author Facebook group. If you’re working with, and paying the money for, a real editor who will help you with your voice and grow you as an author, you should strive to learn as much from their skills and knowledge as you possibly can.
Esther Rabbit: What were some major setbacks of this profession?
So I’d say the most difficult part was working with authors who didn’t understand that this was my full-time profession.
Writing is a very tricky field, for sure, and meeting a specific deadline when you’re trying to create a whole world and story, and then flesh it out into a novel, is incredibly difficult.
That being said, I did have some difficulties when authors would either cancel or postpone their project literally the day I was scheduled to start work on their manuscript.
Because of how in demand my services are, I book out 2-3 months at a time. If someone schedules in a spot, and then cancels the day of—or just completely disappears—then it’s likely I’m not working that week, because of how precisely I try to book things out.
As I said, I completely understand that it’s difficult to finish a book and revisions by a specific date, but regardless what editor you work with, realize that they may be counting on you for that week; if you’re not going to meet your deadline, let them know a minimum of a week before.
Esther Rabbit: Have you ever found authors you were not compatible with? Can you share more details on this experience?
There have only been a couple of authors I haven’t been compatible with. Two of them come to mind, both slightly different experiences.
One of the authors said that she didn’t want to work with me any more because she felt like my revisions were a homework assignment in grammar—which actually made my day.
If an author feels like I’m giving them an actual grammar lesson in my revisions, then that means I am 100% doing my job right. I’m not here to sugarcoat things or give praise where it is not merited. I’m here to improve you as an author.
Another had had a negative experience with another editor, and she brought that baggage into our interactions. Apparently she’d been burned by an editor who had taken her money and not delivered on their agreement, so she refused to pay for my services until I gave her the manuscript in its entirety.
While I understand having trepidation due to a past experience, in an editor-author interaction, the editor is the one who bears all of the risk. If I take an author’s money and don’t deliver on their manuscript, word gets out and I lose the entirety of my business.
Conversely, if I send an author their manuscript and they walk out without paying me, what recourse do I have? That was something I tried to explain, but the author wasn’t having it, so I just had to send over the manuscript and trust that it would work out. Luckily, it did, but I our relationship was a bit too damaged after that interaction to continue things further.
Esther Rabbit: Do you have preferences when it comes to editing?
For sure. I do edit all genres, but I’ve been focusing my marketing toward Fantasy/Sci-Fi and especially litRPG. Even before I started editing, those were the genres I enjoyed reading the most, which definitely helps when I edit in those categories now.
Experience in a genre is hugely important, especially when it comes to developmental editing. While I definitely can edit things like Non-Fiction and Romance, and I can certainly improve an author’s skills in that genre, they’re not what I do best, and there are certainly editors out there who do those genres better.
When it comes to something like Fantasy, or litRPG, however, my volume of experience is a huge boon and allows me to edit those better than those who aren’t as familiar in the genre.
Esther Rabbit: What dictates the price of an editor?
The biggest thing that decides the price is the editor’s volume of experience. When I got started in the industry five years ago, I was working either for free, or for an incredibly low rate.
It took about three years of that before I could start charging an amount that let me work on my business full-time. Pricing is a tricky balance.
I see people coming into the industry, basically fresh out of whatever course or degree they’ve taken, thinking that because they’re now “qualified” they can start charging the same amount an editor working for one of the Big Five makes, and they don’t actually pay attention to what the market rate is.
I try to set my rates to match my level of experience: I’m not as expensive as some of the bigger-name people in the indie author community, and I’m more expensive than the part-time/not-as-experienced editors.
One thing to note is that cheaper is not better, and in nearly every instance is usually worse. Think of it in the context of you getting a tattoo, or even an important surgery.
Would you go to the artist/doctor with the lowest rates because you’re “looking for a deal”? I sure hope not. The same goes for editing. If someone is notably cheaper than everyone else, there’s a reason for it. Either their level of experience just isn’t there, or they can’t retain clients.
In one of the editing groups I’m a part of, I recently saw an editor offering a “buy one get one free” editing package. That sort of thing does the exact opposite of its intended purpose.
That promo, which is attempting to earn the editor more clients, tells authors out there that that editor is desperate and unbooked. An editor who is desperate for work is an editor who doesn’t have projects for a reason.
Esther Rabbit: How many services can you offer authors and how do they differ? (For many authors, especially new authors it’s hard to know exactly what to pick)
There are three main things that I offer authors: developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading.
This is something that authors mix up fairly frequently, so I want to take the chance here to clarify the difference between these types of editing.
A developmental edit addresses issues with the plot, pacing, general structure, character growth and consistency, and overall flow of the book.
A line edit is for the grammar and writing itself. While I catch and address typos within line editing, the primary purpose of the line edit is to work on word choice, sentence structure, parallel constructions, repeated word uses, and sentence flow.
This is what will help you improve as a writer. Someone catching typos is important for your final draft before publication, but a line edit will grow you and push you as an author to hone your writing even further.
Proofreading is exactly as it sounds. Once I’ve done a line edit for someone, I can do a proofread for them to catch any mistakes that were introduced during the revisions.
While I do proofread for manuscripts I haven’t line edited, I am incredibly picky and have strict standards on what I take on. I have had authors contact me asking for a proofing, but the volume of issues in the writing frequently suggest they need an actual line edit but are just trying to cut corners on cost.
I only proof books that I know are up to my standards, which books I have not edited rarely meet.
Are you in the Writing Industry?
Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!
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“A new Interplanetary Alliance ambassador on an earthbound mission.
A handful of genetically altered humans to be rescued.
Meeting her changed everything.“