Editors, Proofreaders, & Ghostwriters: How to Vet & Train Your Freelancers
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
Capturing your thoughts and communicating them as words on a page takes time and patience. When you edit your work, you’re fine-tuning the message, taking an average piece and transforming it into an excellent one. The author activates this process of editing by being the first to review and clarify their message at multiple phases in the writing process. However, there will be a need at some point to bring additional editors and proofreaders in to review the material.
Hiring editors and proofreaders may seem daunting, but it does not need to be. One way to prepare for this process is by understanding the various duties required within editing, ghostwriting, and proofreading. If you avoid this step, you may hire an editor lacking viable professional experience, and you will spend valuable time training them in areas they should’ve already known. In another example, you may hire a ghostwriter to take over certain aspects of your publication. However, you must deeply scrutinize their knowledge of the field and of your project prior to hiring. If you hire a ghostwriter who does not understand your voice or your objective in publishing the book, your message will not come across in the manner you would like or prefer. Researching and testing your freelancers before hiring them is crucial to success.
One way to test a freelancer’s ability as a ghostwriter is by having them write a test chapter to ensure the accuracy of their facts, and to see if their writing best represents your original tone and style.
One way to test a freelancer’s ability as a ghostwriter is by having them write a test chapter to ensure the accuracy of their facts, and to see if their writing best represents your original tone and style. After a test chapter is completed, provide your comments, and have the writer make changes. This should be the determining factor regarding whether the writer is qualified to handle your work in a professional manner.
Regarding editors and proofreaders, an author must decide on the guidelines from which they (or their ghostwriter) will write. With this foundation established, your editors and proofreaders will then have a sense of consistency in their suggestions and corrections. For example, will you write in American or British English? If you are working on a nonfiction book, which style will you employ: MLA, APA, or Chicago? Setting clear rules from the beginning for the style of your book will free your editors and proofreaders to do their best work because they will understand your expectations.
Accepting and implementing constructive feedback is important in any professional setting, and shows a deep respect for each side of the writing process.
Furthermore, a freedom to express opinions, correct mistakes and rewrite sections is crucial for your freelancers. There should not be any hesitancy or fear in giving necessary feedback on the content. However, they also need to remain open to receiving your (the author’s) feedback about the quality of their work. In other words, make sure the people you hire don’t have an ego, both in receiving and providing suggestions. Accepting and implementing constructive feedback is important in any professional setting, and shows a deep respect for each side of the writing process.
After receiving comments and edits from your editors and proofreaders, at what point will you know that your project is completed and ready for publication? While there is such a thing as making too few changes, it is a challenge to pinpoint whether or not there is a limit to the number of changes that can be made before publication. As editors ourselves, we are inclined to say that there is no such thing as too many edits – however, there is a point where you need to put the project down and call it done. Something important to consider is the stamina of your freelancers. With too many rereads or edits, they may start to feel that this is a never-ending project, that it will never be good enough, etc. It could result in a questioning of whether the purpose has been lost, what the direction truly is for the project, and so on.
Several ways to keep your project from becoming a never-ending, circular process is by keeping a deadline,
Several ways to keep your project from becoming a never-ending, circular process is by keeping a deadline, managing your budget, and explaining the process of publishing to your ghostwriters, editors, and proofreaders. It is crucial to be financially responsible while at the same time crafting an exemplary written work. You want input from multiple perspectives on your project, since those perspectives will act as valuable feedback. You may have the urge to edit and improve your book until the end of time, but can you afford to pay your editors and proofreaders for all the time you’re asking them to spend on the project? Having as many eyes as possible on your book is a great idea – however, stick to your budget. Sensitivity readers will cost money, as will professional proofreaders (both of which we suggest you hire). If money is tight, ask close friends to act as beta readers for free (or in return for a small gesture of thanks). Consider how much you are willing to spend, and stick to your budget and deadlines.
So, in the beginning of the editing process, one of our tasks was to maintain each author’s unique voice while also catering to our target audience...
We recently completed a project and learned the above issues from our personal experience. We began production in late 2020, drafted in early 2021, and went through the editing process during the final four months of 2021. Without a doubt, the beginning of the journey was the most invigorating. The book had three contributors, and each author had a different voice. So, in the beginning of the editing process, one of our tasks was to maintain each author’s unique voice while also catering to our target audience: young adults looking to excel in professionalism and career planning. In this way, after the work was drafted, our initial focus was to discover the glaring mistakes (miscommunications, misspellings, grammatical errors, and problems with the flow), and our editing minds were on hyperdrive. A sense of fulfillment came over us as we worked on that first draft!
The second phase then became more technical and specific, during which we looked for the use of excess words, incorrect phrasing, wrong punctuation, spacing issues, and any problem that would impede or distract readers from the message and its clarity.
The second phase then became more technical and specific, during which we looked for the use of excess words, incorrect phrasing, wrong punctuation, spacing issues, and any problem that would impede or distract readers from the message and its clarity. This phase, after a while, became a little tiring. There was an internal pressure to succeed that we both felt physically, so even though we were able to maintain motivation, we tired easily. This demonstrates how important it is to take frequent breaks away from a piece in order to refresh and temporarily take your mind off of it. It is the only way an editor can get a new perspective and look at the project again with fresh eyes. Also, reading anything repeatedly can bring a sense of familiarity that results in unintentionally overlooking mistakes. Herein is the importance of employing multiple readers. Each reader will view the material differently, which will add richness to the final product. Our last phase involved taking a mental rake and scraping over the dirt that had settled onto the manuscript in order to upturn anything we may have missed. Putting down the rake and surveying the land of completed words brought joy and satisfaction in a job well done.
What should have been simple became complicated because the changes impacted the word count and page layout ... things that had already been finalized.
Why did the project take so long? Several things kept us returning to the book and editing it again and again, but the main reason is that we (and our beta readers) kept finding new issues we hadn’t noticed before. This cycle of “hot potato” editing – passing the manuscript through the hands of editors, authors, beta readers, then back to editors again – kept us very busy. We would have been done well before December, but we ended up receiving instructions for some major changes at the last minute. They were important changes, so we were more than happy to make them. However, they were given very late, right before we were about to send the book to press. What should have been simple became complicated because the changes impacted the word count and page layout ... things that had already been finalized. Despite this speedbump, the final product became more refined and polished because of the last-minute changes that were made.
...we should have communicated with each contributor the importance of producing their best efforts in their written work at the beginning, not at the end.
Let’s walk through what we did right and what we did wrong. While in the process of editing, we kept our eyes sharp and never let our guard down when it came to potential errors, which resulted in us being able to find (and fix) lots of mistakes. Our stamina allowed us to keep our motivation and accuracy high, we invited multiple proofreaders to review the work, and we also made sure to maintain a high level of communication with all the people on the project, regardless of level or involvement. However, we could have communicated our deadline for change implementation in a stronger manner at the beginning of the project. Furthermore, we should have communicated with each contributor the importance of producing their best efforts in their written work at the beginning, not at the end. Instead of making our contributors provide their feedback in one sitting, we allowed them to slowly feed us their suggestions and desired changes over the span of multiple months. While this level of thoroughness was completely necessary, we would have saved an immense amount of time by 1) putting a hard deadline on when feedback could be given, and 2) clearly explaining how the longer one waits to give suggested changes, the more difficult those changes become to implement.
To reiterate, proofreaders / editors cannot read the minds of the author – we can only fix or try to make clearer what has already been communicated. Authors need to be on a team with their proofreaders and editors to produce the best results, while also acknowledging that suggestions for change are not a detriment to the author and their message, but rather an improvement. Just as we said at the beginning, freelancers need to be open and willing to receive feedback, and the same is true for the author(s). So, what are you waiting for? Gather your team and begin the journey! Embrace the process and remain open to the changes made by your proofreaders and editors, understanding that your final product will be the exemplary piece it deserves to be. Monitor your finances and keep to your deadlines, and you will be in a positive place at the end of the process. Together, you and your team will have communicated your thoughts and delivered your information to an audience that is eager to read what you have to say!
Alyse Mgrdichian, Senior Editor
Alyse Mgrdichian holds a B.A. from Biola University, having majored in psychology and minored in philosophy. She was a senior editor for TSE Worldwide Press, the parent company of United Yearbook Printing until Feb 2022.
Donna Ladner, Editor
Donna Ladner obtained a B.A. in Education and a minor in English from California Baptist University, and a M.S. in ESL from USC, Los Angeles. After she married Daniel, their family moved to Indonesia with a non-profit organization and live cross-culturally for 15 years before returning to the U.S in 2012. Donna has been working as a freelance editor and proofreader for TSE Worldwide Press and its subsidiary, United Yearbook since 2015.
Sarah Y. Tse, CEO of TSE Worldwide Press, Inc.
Sarah Y. Tse is the author of 7 Years on the Front Line and co-author of From Illusion to Reality: True Stories and Practical Advice on How to Prepare for Career Success Before Graduating From College. Sarah currently serves as a mentor & speaker at Biola University's Crowell School of Business, and is deeply passionate about empowering people, especially younger professionals, to explore their gifts, goals, and calling.