Editor Spotlight, by Darlene Elizabeth Williams

editor spotlight alvimannTips to Reduce Your Editor’s Fees

Thank you, Karen, for your gracious offer to guest post on your blog. It’s an honor to be part of your Editor Spotlight series.

I work primarily with Indie fiction authors (either self-published or published by small to mid-sized presses). Publishing as an Indie author is a tough row to hoe. Millions of books are uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords annually, with most lost in obscurity the moment they appear.

If Indie authors are to succeed, my philosophy is we cannot merely write novels equal in quality to that of traditionally published books, we must exceed those standards. The stigma of self-publishing is lessening, but it still remains.

An Indie author attempts to wear many hats: author; editor; proofreader; cover designer; formatter and marketer. An author can self-publish a book without engaging an editor, cover designer, and formatter. Likewise, authors don’t have to market if they are uncomfortable with the concept—but don’t expect to sell copies.

Indie authors can learn how to design covers and format their manuscripts for upload onto Amazon or Smashwords. There is a plethora of advice and instructions on the internet. Marketing? Again, there is no limit to the information available on social media for authors.

However, there is one essential category an author cannot effectively do themselves or learn by Google searches: editing.

Many authors assert they are best qualified to copy edit and proofread their work, as they are most familiar with it. In fact, this is the reason an author is least qualified. Writers often fail to catch basic typographical errors, misused word, missing text, incorrect punctuation, and awkward sentences because they are too close to their manuscript.

Editing places Indie authors in a Catch-22 position. If they hire an editor, will they sell enough copies to recoup the expense? If they don’t hire an editor, will readers pitch the book against the nearest wall and leave a one star review lamenting the lack of editing?

At the end of the day, all an Indie author has to hang their hat on is their reputation. That reputation is derived through written words; a fragile hook indeed.

These are three doable tasks Indie authors can undertake to reduce editing costs:

  • Firstly, run a spell check;
  • Secondly, self-edit a minimum of two rounds; and
  • Thirdly, ensure the manuscript is in the English version (US or UK) intended for publication.

Your bank account and editor will thank you.

After working with a number of Indie authors, I compiled a list of tips to reduce editing costs. I discovered these pointers are applicable across the board; every author—whether novice or experienced—has writing idiosyncrasies.

Word Over-Usage

A great online thesaurus resource is Wordsmyth.com. I keep it open while I write or edit. The following words and phrases are amongst the worst offenders for over-usage:

  • kid
  • with a smile, smiling, smiled
  • grin, grinned, grinning
  • small
  • large
  • old, old house, old book, etc.
  • young, young woman, young man, etc.
  • quickly
  • grabbed
  • peer, peered, peering

The kid quickly grabbed the small candy out of the large container in the old country-style corner market. The young woman behind the counter peered at him. He grinned and ran out the door. He sucked on the candy as he walked home with a smile.

That “that” May Not Be Necessary

Read sentences that include the word “that”. Reread the sentence without including the “that”. Does it make sense? Great. Delete “that”.


Modifiers create passive language and dilute prose sophistication. In rare circumstances they are necessary; otherwise, eradicate modifiers ruthlessly.

A list of commonly used follows:

  • very
  • quite
  • rather
  • somewhat
  • more
  • most
  • lessDSC02458
  • too
  • so
  • just
  • enough
  • indeed
  • still
  • almost
  • fairly
  • really
  • pretty
  • even
  • a bit
  • a little
  • a lot
  • a good deal
  • a great deal
  • kind of
  • sort of

“and” Conjunctions

The conjunction “and” is used ad nauseam. Reread your sentences with this conjunction to decide whether the “and” can be replaced with a period separating the two phrases into complete sentences or a semicolon.

Your writing becomes active and engages the reader. There will be instances where this conjunction is impossible to avoid.

Eliminating “and” conjunctions effectively removes a frequently over-used word: then.

I ate lunch with a dear author friend today, and then inspiration struck for the topic of this post while we talked about writing.


Exclamation marks are not substitutes for periods. The excitement denoted by an exclamation mark can be exhibited by the character’s choice of words or actions.

“This is the last time you pull this stunt on me.” Melanie slammed and locked the door. Thank heavens Jerry didn’t know about her move tomorrow.

If possible, avoid exclamation marks or, at least, insert them sparingly.


Our everyday conversations are filled with extraneous comments which, if included in a manuscript, bore the reader. As examples:

“Hey,” said the boy.

“Hey,” Tom replied.

“I’m Harry.”

“I’m Tom.”

—    or —

“Good morning, Susan,” said the Duchess

“Good morning, Your Grace,” said Susan.

“How are you today, Susan?” asked the Duchess

“I’m well, Ma’am. How is Your Grace today?”

“Well thank you, Susan.”

Are you asleep yet?

The colloquialisms below are littered throughout manuscripts—sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Unless this is in sync with your character’s background and/or current lifestyle, they irritate the reader:

  • Ah…
  • Hmmm…
  • Humph.
  • So,…—or—I am so excited….
  • Oh,—or—Oh…
  • Okay,…—or—…, okay?
  • yea (or yeah)
  • You know, or …., you know?
  • eh?
  • huh?
  • Well,…

Dialogue Tags

Dialogue tags should be invisible to the reader. Punctuation is always within the quotations marks. The examples in the Dialogue subsection illustrate how to punctuate dialogue.

Studies show the reader’s eye skips over the word “said” to the name of the speaker. If there is a question mark in the dialogue, this alerts readers and they once again skip over “asked”.

This keeps the reader in the story, whereas using “called, replied, yelled, screamed, exclaimed, loudly, etc.” pulls the reader out of the story world. Characters’ words and actions best demonstrate emotion.


These tips are meant to assist authors with self-edits which, in turn, reduce editing costs. They are not intended as a substitution for an editor.

If you have spent months or years writing a novel, honor your work by ensuring it earns the recognition it deserves. Hire an editor that understands your genre and your vision.

Darlene Elizabeth WilliamsDarlene’s website is Darlene Elizabeth Williams. Drop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight, Guest Writers & Bloggers

28 responses to “Editor Spotlight, by Darlene Elizabeth Williams

  1. An exceptionally helpful piece. Thank you both very much.
    Hugs Galore xxx

  2. Excellent advice. As an editor, writer, and writing instructor, I applaud how well and succinctly you wrote this post to (1) encourage a writer to use an editor and (2) help a writer do a preliminary self-edit. Both are needed. I agree with you wholeheartedly – independent authors MUST not crimp on publishing a perfect piece of work. Hire an editor!

  3. Thank you for your kind words! My goal to help Indie authors make editing affordable. I’m an Indie author. I understand the financial limitations so many are under.

  4. What a great post! And so true. I know the pitfalls of not using an editor people – I did that earlier in my career and paid the price for it.

  5. karenrsanderson

    As an editor myself, I completely agree. We all need editors. Even those of us who work as editors. I sometimes cannot believe the items my editor points out – stuff I missed. We cannot edit our own work. Also, my editor (Shawn MacKenzie) points out spots that can be stronger, where to use an image, alternate words, changes in sentence or word order, etc. I too understand the constraints of money. One of the tips I suggest is to put change or a few bucks into a jar every day while you are writing a novel, collection, whatever. Or – stop going to the coffee shop every morning and spending $4 for a gourmet coffee. Once our work is out there, we cannot take it back!

  6. Audrey Keith

    Sound advice. Several examples look familiar. Ouch.

  7. Hi Darlene!

    Grammar is my weakness as an author so I definitely look to my editors to help me polish my stories. Thanks for this reminder list of what to look out for as I revise my manuscripts and thanks, Karen, for being such a great resource for writers.

    Great post!

    Take care,

    Donna L Martin

  8. Saving this for when I am finally at the editing stage. Thanks Karen and Darlene for such a practical post 🙂

  9. Most excellent article and very helpful.
    Thank you!
    G x

  10. This post is definitely a keeper. As I writer who self-edits no less than a bazillion times before considering a book finished, I’m still forever stunned by the boo-boos that nevertheless remain intact. A book needs to be as close to perfect as possible to keep in the race and stay afloat, and without a dedicated pair of professional editing eyes *tips hat to Karen* this just isn’t happening.

    Your list is an excellent resource and reminder that handing off our MS to an editor doesn’t mean dumping a messy pile and expecting a miraculous transformation.to come sailing back. I never send out anything I haven’t edited to the best of my ability–and yet it’s never less than startling to learn just how many wordy-weeds need to be slashed and burned once my editor works her magic.

    Wonderful resourceful post! Thank you, Darlene and Karen 😀

  11. Thank you, Barbara, for your kind words. Your comments reinforce that, as authors, we are too close to our MS to catch those “boo-boos”. A fresh set of eyes and perspective are essential to producing a book able to run the race.

  12. This is a fabulous treasure trove of useful and immediately implementable advice, Darlene. I totally agree: unless we writers take responsibility for our work being as professional as possible, we will perpetuate the bias that indie books are second class. Thanks for the firm but loving reminder :-).

    • Hello Elizabeth!

      Thank you for your kind words.

      We all love to think we write for the love of it – which we do – but, unfortunately, it must also be regarded as a “business” as well. We must meet and exceed professional expectations to be successful as a business, the same as if we worked in a “traditional” occupation.

      And, just like any business, we should expect to budget for expenses to keep our writing business at professional levels. This presents difficulties for Indie authors.

      Karen started the ball rolling with her great suggestion of putting a few dollars each day into a jar. I plan to conduct a survey of methods Indie authors utilize to budget for expenses in the coming days, and will share the results.

  13. I love this practical list of tips. I’m going to bookmark this post!
    Thanks to you both 🙂

  14. LaTanya Davis

    Reblogged this on Memoir Notes.

  15. Pingback: 3 Tips How to Reduce Editing Costs | Savvy Writers & e-Books online

  16. Pingback: Blog renaissance  | Karen R. Sanderson

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