by: Wesley “Godfather” Hunter
Test reader, Proof-reader, Editor. Verily, verily, verily, I say unto you, one is NOT equal to the next. So, please, let’s break this down, so that you are never confused or duped, like so many others before.
(1) TEST READER: A test reader is just a reader. Preferably a reader who has read quite a bit and is familiar with the type of story you have written. The test reader is most often a friend or a family member. What I like to call the “YES MAN” crowd. Thumbs up or thumbs down. They may not know much about structure, dialogue, POV or the literary rules at all.
For the Test Reader, I always advise that you try to find the most direct, straight forward and critical person you can (a “hater” if you will) someone who will be bold and point out the flaws or areas of needed improvements. After all, you don’t want to be like that one standing in line, all day and night, at American Idol, who goes on stage in front of the world and makes a fool of themselves, all because some yes man was too ashamed to tell them they couldn’t sing. A yes man is your biggest hater and your worst enemy, because the end result means you no good.
(2) EDITOR: Urban editors are a breed unto themselves, as many have no degree or training what-so-ever. Many simply do a spell check and add a few ideas (as a test reader would) and call themselves editors. Basically, getting paid hundreds of dollars to read the books they’d normally buy, and, incorporating learned bad habits picked up from other urban books they’ve read.
To be sure, despite all of the tips I share, etc. I am NOT an editor. But, I know a whole lot more than some of the ones who call themselves such, and, when I read their work, it angers me to think of the author who’s been duped; paying a discounted price for a wholesale job, which adds up t,o a piss-poor product. My advice? Before paying anyone any price, ask questions: Ask if they’ve ever studied or been educated as an editor? How long have they been editing? What editing manual do they use? Do they have any references? Have they ever read/studied the rules of writing or anything outside of the lawless urban genre, etc? Then, take a moment to read a book they’ve edited. Also, ask for a 10 page sample. Any editor worth his/her salt should have no problem providing you that. Finally, if you read a book that rolls smooth for you, ask the author who their editor was.
(3) PROOF READER: A proof reader is a person who reads a piece with an eye for detail. They should have a trained eye for structure, rules, dialogue, pacing, POV and the rest of it. They are the final hurdle; the last door, who keeps you from heading out to make a fool of yourself. They are to check for how the story flows, the realness
of the dialogue, the smoothness and believability of the plot, catch any remaining errors in spelling and find whatever else they can, as the last set of eyes before the reveal.