As a self-published author, the idea of finding an editor can be very daunting. Everywhere you look, there are a thousand people, with a wide range of experience, offering editing services that vary in price and level of detail. To say that making a decision on which editor is right for your project is easy would be stating a blatant lie. With so many choice… to many choices… you may be tempted to just hire the first editor you meet, but that could turn out to be the biggest mistake you could make for your manuscript.
I consider myself lucky, in that I was able to find and connect with an editor early on who I feel really “gets” my writing style and author voice. Does that mean I would never hire a different editor? No, but it means that while things are working… we’ll keep working. Writing is a very personal experience. You spend days… weeks… months… and often years planning and writing your manuscript. It is important to find an editor who not only values your project but also your individual voice and style as an author.
Considering I only published my first novel, Awaken (book 1 ~ The Blood Angel Series) back in 2012, I still think of myself as fairly new to the publishing game… publishing world. However, in that short time and with 7 novels (and a few author assistance guides) under my belt now, I have come up with a list of things that I believe are important to do/think about when picking the right editor for you.
#1. Decide what type of editing help you’re looking for
- Developmental/Substantive Editor
- Content Editor
Keep in mind that you will more than likely need more than one editor/edit pass on your book. I usually do a series of beta-reader edits and then a minimum of 3 professional rounds of edits. For more detail on the different types of edits, check out Shayla Raquel’s blog post, What Kind of Editor Do You Need?
#2. Determine your budget
It is important, before choosing an editor, to know exactly how much you have available to spend on editing. Be realistic, spend what you can afford right now, not what you think you can cover with book sales. Editing is important. In fact, it is essential to the success of your book. However, it DOES NOT SELL YOUR BOOK ON IT’S OWN!!! The book cover and the story you’ve written are what sells the book… the editing plays a huge part in the readers decision to continue reading, what kind of review (if any) they give your book, and whether or not they buy your next book.
Once you’ve decided on a budget, don’t deviate. I recommend having an editing price range… What I want to spend and what I’m willing to spend if I find an editor that I just love!
#3: Do your research and make a list
Do your research and create a list of editors to include contact information, experience, offered services, pricing, client reviews/ratings, and what genres the editor works in (if applicable). An editor whose only experience is in technical manuals might not be the right editor for your Sci-Fi novel.
There are a thousand ways to get this information, but I recommend doing a Google search; request recommendations from fellow authors; Search LinkedIn and upwork.com; search online author forums on NaNoWriMo, Goodreads, and any other author chat boards you can find!
Once you have a complete list of editors you should be able to find those that stand out above the rest.
#4: Narrow down your options
Start by deleting editors off the list.
- Delete anyone that is absolutely out of your price range
- Delete anyone who doesn’t offer the editing services you need
- Delete anyone with less than adequate education or experience
- Delete them if they just seem like they won’t be a good fit
- Delete them if they don’t have experience in your genre
- Delete them if their turnaround time wont meet your deadline
- Delete them if they have negative client reviews/ratings
Don’t feel bad about being picky – you should be picky when picking your editor! What you should have left is a list editors whose price range, turnaround time, service offerings, education and experience, meet your expectations.
#5: Request a sample edit and complete reviews
Now is the time to make sure you select an editor you can work with. This person is someone you have to be able to trust… trust to help you mold and shape your manuscript… your creative baby! You can’t just pick an editor because they offer the services you need at a price you can afford. You want to be confident in your choice and the fact that their assistance is going to help move your story forward, and not backward.
The best way to do that is to review sample edits. Most good editors will offer a free sample edit or consultation on a few pages of your manuscript. If the editor isn’t willing to do this, delete them off your list and move on.
Take advantage of this opportunity for a sample edit, but don’t expect to send a different chapter of your manuscript to twenty different editors and call that a round of edits. This is your chance to really get a feel for what it would be like to work with a particular editor. Send the same 2-3 page sample to all your prospective editors so you can compare their work – apples to apples. The more samples you get the easier it will be to choose the right editor for you.
Once you have as many sample edits as you can get, compare them! Look to see if the editor did a good job marking errors in punctuation, grammar, syntax, and work usage. (Tip: I like to include some specific errors when I send my sample… It allows me to test the editors and see who catches the errors and who doesn’t.) If the editor made suggestions/comments on sentence structure or dialogue, or how was their tone? Did they seem constructive or condescending? Did the editor keep their text suggestions within the same voice and style that you prefer?
You are looking for an editor who not only has the technical abilities to edit your manuscript but also the skills to work with one on one with you and respect your creative process and writing style. This isn’t just about one book… on manuscript. If you can find an editor you work well with, an editor who understands your style and is willing and able to work within it, then you can build a wonderful working relationship with them. Like I said before, I’ve been working with the same editor now for 7 novels and I know exactly what I will get from her every time… LOTS OF AWESOME SUGGESTIONS AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM!
#6: Hire your editor
Hopefully you were able to find an editor that gave you a great sample edits, with lots of awesome suggestions, who also respected your creative voice that seems like they would be easy to work with. If so, HIRE THEM! Hire them A.S.A.P. before someone else scoops them up and they are no longer available. There are a thousand editors ready to offer you their services, but finding a good one can be hard. When you find that good one… the needle in the haystack you grab them fast!
On the other hand, if you weren’t able to find the perfect editor – try again. Hiring an editor can be expensive, don’t settle for someone you aren’t excited about. Wait until you are sure you’ve found the right editor before putting out the money.
I have one last piece of advice and I say this not to scare you but to prepare you – The editing process sucks! You’ve worked long and hard to write your story… It isn’t easy to get it back from an editor who has had it a couple of weeks, maybe a month, and see it covered in bright red markings. Each edits poking at your soul like a personal insult.
With that said, as hard as it is to see your marked up manuscript, you don’t want an editor who will just tell you everything is great. That isn’t what you pay an editor for and in the end it would be a waste of your money. You want someone who will be completely honest with you, no matter how bad it hurts.
When I got my first manuscript back from my editor, I cried. I took one look at it, flipped through the pages and cried. I didn’t pick it back up for a month. Then, when I finally took the time to read her edits, consider her suggestions, and really think about my story I knew she was right. In the end, my story is so much better because of the care and time she and I spent working through the issues the original manuscript had. It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, in the end your editor will – if they are good – find things that MUST BE CHANGED in order to make your story the best it can be.
Don’t pick an editor who makes you feel great about yourself, pick the editor that cares more about making your story great than coddling your feelings.