Handing over your manuscript to someone to edit can be a scary experience. But there is a way to test the waters before jumping in the pool (full of alligators, ahh!). It is the sample edit. There are a few editors who charge for this service but read on to learn how to benefit from sample edits without paying.
What is a Sample Edit?
A sample edit is a full copyedit on a sampling of your manuscript, rather than the whole thing. Typically, you would submit five pages of your manuscript in a separate Word file that your editor would then review. In that review, they will track the changes in your document to show you where it can be strengthened and to show you the mechanical errors that they found. They will return the sample to you with all of these changes showing, so you can see what would be required to produce a publishable work.
Note that you should only request a sample edit of serious contenders only. An editor’s time is valuable, and they want to work with those who are professional and serious about their work. Don’t waste your time or the editor’s time with frivolous samples. Remember, editors are not just providing an estimate here; they are actually performing the work on a small section of your manuscript.
Why Do You Need a Sample Edit?
There are several benefits of a sample edit. I will outline five of them here.
- The sample edit allows you to see the extent of changes that might be required to prepare your manuscript for publishing. This is an eye-opener for most authors. Many feel that they write well and that they have reviewed their document so much that “an editor couldn’t possible find much of anything.” Yikes! There was so much more here than you ever imagined! The level of copyediting required will be determined as well, and this factors into your fee estimate.
- The sample edit allows you to see the level of care that the editor takes with your words. The goal of an edit is not to have an editor change everything you are saying. We editors are here to ensure excellence in your message, not to change it. Your voice should still shine through; it will just be clearer, more accurate, and more polished.
- The sample edit will allow you to see how the editor comes across in their comments and queries. Do they belittle you and make you feel bad for writing, or do they encourage you to improve and make you feel like you will be a bestseller when they are finished? This will be a business relationship that will carry on for several weeks or manuscript after manuscript: can you see yourself working with that person that long?
- The sample edit also allows the editor to determine if your work is in line with work they want to do. Really. All editors will not want to review every manuscript that comes their way just to collect a fee. I will speak for myself here and say that I am selective in who I choose as a client. I don’t want to read manuscripts three times over that make me feel slimy or gross or give me nightmares! I also will not take on a manuscript in a genre that would be better served by another editor (like medical textbooks). I will let you know if that is the case.
- The sample edit will reveal if your manuscript is not yet ready for an editor. You may need to make changes or improvements first and may need guidance as to why. In a sample edit, I will give you great feedback that will prepare you for your edit, even if I won’t be the one editing the full manuscript.
How Do I Request a Sample Edit?
Most editors will provide directions for submitting a sample edit on their websites. If they do not mention the availability of a sample edit, ask them if they provide “free sample edits.” If so, you might prepare your edit sample as such:
- Create a new document and name the file with your name, the book title (or a few words of it if too long), and the word “sample.” Example: Brockett—New Writer Workbook Sample. Add the book title as a header in the document, then paste in a continuous flow of five (to ten) pages of text from your original manuscript.
- Select all the text and make it Times New Roman, 12-point type. Then double-space the lines and change the margins to 1” all around. (Note: appearances don’t matter here. We are focused on content, not formatting/aesthetics.) If the editor doesn’t have a submission form asking for manuscript specifics, you might add the following to the top of your sample page: Word count, Genre, Publishing Goal (traditional or independent), and Intended audience (ideal reader).
- Save the file and submit it according to instructions from the editor. At my site (www.HallagenInk.com/Services), you will find a submission form that asks a few questions about the manuscript and then provides a submission button for uploading your sample file.
Your editor will work the sample edit into their schedule and return it to you, usually within a week. At Hallagen Ink, our samples come with a short editorial report that lets you know what we found that may be overarching issues with the manuscript; the level of editing required to meet publishing standards; and an estimate of the level of investment and time required to perform the edit (given the sample, the total word count, and the current workload).
Have Sample, Now What?
When you receive your sample edit and editorial feedback, review it with an open mind and the assumption that the editor wants only the best for you and your work. As I have said for many years, “Editors are not here to find fault; we are here to ensure perfection.” So instead of feeling defeated or inferior, feel excited that the editor found enough material to make you look good! Imagine if you released your words to the world and they were riddled with errors? Now you won’t have that issue because you have found an editor who can make your words shine!
Be grateful, and be sure to ask the editor for clarification on anything you do not understand. Remember, they are looking to industry standards so that you look like a successful author. There are times, however, when standards are meant to be broken, but you and your editor can decide together when that will be.
After your review, accept the changes in the sample, and paste it into your original manuscript. That way, when you return the entire manuscript to your editor for editing, they won’t have to make those changes again.
Before you commission your next editing project, see if you can test-drive a sample of your manuscript. You now know how to benefit from sample edits without paying, so you have no excuse for sending your book out to agents or to Amazon without a full professional edit. Comment and let me know about your sample experiences. I would love to hear about them.
To Your Editing Success,
PS To request your sample edit from Hallagen Ink, click on over to www.HallagenInk.com/Services, upload your sample per this blog post, and hit submit. We will connect with you on the other side.
Tanya Brockett helps authors, experts, and entrepreneurs to write and edit a book that their readers will love while empowering them to live a life they love. She is a speaker, editor, writer, and mentor to awesome clients around the world. Connect with Tanya on LinkedIn (/TanyaBrockett), on Facebook (/HallagenInk) and through her website at www.HallagenInk.com.