How to Hire a Great Editor

You’ve finally typed the words “The end” on your novel, and a feeling of accomplishment floods through you. This is an exciting time! It’s the very beginning of the publication process, the time when you feel nothing but joy and anticipation. The time before…the editor.

Cue intimidating music.

If this is what you’ve heard about editors, you’ve heard it from people who had…not great editors. An editor is your guide to tweaking your novel so that it shines. An editor should:

  • Create a line of open communication with you
  • Give you 100% honest feedback
  • Provide ways to accomplish their critiques, not just hand out broad criticisms
  • Care about your work as if it were their own

It goes without saying that an editor should also be detail oriented, always meet deadlines, and remain open to questions. But here’s the really tricky part. How do you find an editor who can do all these things without wasting tons of money hiring wrong editor after wrong editor?

First of all, first impressions. An editing company or freelance editor’s website says a lot about them. You can tick off these boxes as the first flaming hoop they have to jump through:

  • Are there any typos or obvious punctuation errors? They should be spending a ton of time ensuring everything is just so. That’s what they should do with your book too.
  • Are they wordy, going on and on about things that aren’t relative to their services? If they can’t edit down their own writing to present themselves well, how can they do it for you?
  • Are their services and what they include clear, to the point that you only have a few questions instead of a boatload? If the services are so unclear, your book may come out unclear too.
  • How much experience do they have and with what genres? If their experience is in nonfiction and you’re writing fantasy, you may want to look elsewhere.

editorIf your prospective editing company or editor made it through this first stage, hooray! On to the next, more detailed checklist.

Editors should always provide a free sample. Whether it’s five pages or ten, they shouldn’t be afraid to prove they’re worth their salt—on your manuscript. You can take advantage of free samples by having several prospective editors look at the same section of your book and seeing whose edits suit you best.

When you get this free sample, see if the editor gives you advice on how to fix the problem and doesn’t just comment telling you the problem exists. If they suggest rewrites and give you examples of what the rewriting could sound like, check if they’re writing in your voice or their own. This will become extra important if they suggest rewrites or new sections—are they thinking about this from the perspective of your voice or in a generic way? That can run much deeper than writing style.

Check to see how long an editor will support you. Will they create a style sheet for you to ensure all your books are consistent? Can you come back with questions after the edit? How about a couple of months later? You never know when a reader might ask you a question or point out what they perceive as an issue with your story, and you may need to consult with your editor for their opinion.

Price is a bit of a contentious subject. Everyone has a different opinion, and everyone has a different budget. Some believe that a good editor must cost $1,000+ while others think editors should be closer to $200, even if the book is 100,000 words. Here’s what I say: get those samples I mentioned before, compare them, ask any questions you have, decide which editor is your top choice, second choice, etc. Then look at the price. You may find that if an editor is extraordinary, you aren’t dissuaded by a higher price from the start. If you can’t afford your first choice, you already have a second choice, and you may be able to afford them.

Searching for an editor can be a little time consuming at first, but once you find the right person, your work will glow and you’ll become a dynamic team dedicated to your success. Isn’t that worth the effort?


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