Finding the Right Editor

It’s common for people on forums and Facebook groups that cater to writers to post here that they’re looking for an editor — and many raise their hands to offer their services. That’s great… if they are the right editor for you and your book.

There’s a saying that being badly published is worse than not being published at all. The same is true of editing. There are no industry or legal requirements that control the knowledge and experience someone must have to call themselves an editor. This means there are “editors” soliciting you who have absolutely no qualifications. None.

Therefore, the onus is on YOU to determine if the person you’re considering hiring is actually capable of doing what you’re hiring them to do. When you reach out to an editor, you need to know what you’re looking for, and you need to know the questions to ask to determine if this is the right editor for you.

Know what you’re looking for

First, know what type of editing you’re looking for — developmental (story, not writing), line (writing style/choices), or copy (mistakes, proof reading).

  • Not all editors do every type.
  • Each type costs a different amount.
  • If your book is a mess, expect to pay a lot more.
  • Expect them to want to see a chapter from the book, so they can evaluate the amount of work to be done.
  • “Bargain” prices are usually offered by people who are new to editing. Do you really want your book to be their learning experience?

Ask the right questions

Here are some questions to ask the potential editor:

  • What’s your experience editing books in THIS genre?
  • When could you start? (Good editors often have a waiting list of several months.)
  • How long do you anticipate the job will take?
  • Are you a native speaker of the language this book is written in?
  • How did you learn to edit?
  • Have you worked for any traditional publishers? If so, which ones?
  • Which stylebook do you use?

Get a spec edit and references

Ask for a “spec edit” of a couple of pages or chapter to see their style. Also, ask for references in YOUR book’s genre:

  • Published references. Check out the books on Amazon.
  • “In your genre” is critical for dev edits especially. Different genres have different requirements, and if your editor doesn’t know that, they can do more harm than good.
  • Follow up with the writers of those books. Confirm that the editor you’re considering is indeed the editor who worked on the book.
  • Can’t get in touch with those writers? Big red flag!
  • No books edited by them on Amazon? Big red flag!

All editing and all editors are NOT created equal. Do your due diligence.

My personal recommendation?

I’m pursuing traditional publishing, so I haven’t hired a freelance publisher. I did, however, pay for an editorial assessment of the novel I’m currently querying. My choice was an editor at Reedsy. They are high-end, qualified professionals, many with experience in the traditional publishing industry. 

the right editor

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