Have you recently completed your manuscript? Gone over it yourself a time or two? Then it may be time to hire your first developmental or line editor—and once you think you’ve found the right one, it can be tempting to jump right in with both feet. But not so fast.
As a freelance editor, I like to work collaboratively, one-on-one with authors throughout the entire editing process. Because of this, it’s important to me that I “click” with my authors, that we are both comfortable enough to be open with each other.
Developing a connection with my authors helps me ensure that they will trust me to help them make their book the best it can be, and I think every author should feel the same way about their editor. So how can you make that happen?
The best way is to do thorough research before selecting your editor. Here are some questions you should be able to answer by the time you’ve made your decision:
1. Does this editor work in my genre?
Not every editor will work in every genre, and this is particularly true of those who focus on developmental editing. You’ll want to find out which genres your editor has an interest in and which ones they have experience in for best results. An academic editor may not be an expert on futuristic, sci-fi novels, and that can make for a difficult professional edit.
2. What sort of things will this editor do for you? What won’t they do?
Not all editors can do everything. Some are experts in grammar and cleaning up copy, but aren’t trained in helping you develop the structure of your story. Some have time for unlimited one-on-one consultations with their clients, while others charge an hourly fee for phone conversations.
On the other hand, your editor may be able to offer additional services apart from simply editing. They may also be able to format your manuscript for submission to agents or publishers, and some are even skilled in cover design or have friends they can connect you with. Finding out what sort of opportunities the editor can provide is a great way to narrow down your options.
3. Is this editor available?
Professional editors often book clients months in advance. Before committing to an editor, it’s important to ensure that they’re currently booking new clients and that they can fit you into their schedule on a timeline that works for you and any deadlines you may be trying to meet.
4. How will this editor charge me? By the hour? By the word?
There’s nothing wrong with either of these methods—it’s completely up to the editor which they prefer. However, you, as the author, may want to consider ahead of time which of these methods makes you feel most comfortable. Either way, make sure you also find out how you will be charged, what method of payment the editor will expect, and when you need to pay them. All of these details should be outlined in your contract, but I’ll go over that more later.
5. Is this editor qualified?
You’re forking out a lot of money to get your manuscript edited—so you don’t want all that cash to go to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Ask your editor: Do they have a degree? Are they working on one? Any certifications? If not, do they have enough experience to substitute for a formal education? Make sure you pick someone who you feel is completely qualified to do the job right the first time.
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6. How does this editor present themselves online?
Before you commit to an editor, look them up on social media and examine their website. If their site looks outdated or their social media accounts are full of cursing and complaints, that could be a red flag. Additionally, do your best to contact your potential editor, and see how they act in their correspondence. Remember, you want your editor to be a professional—so hold them to a high standard.
7. What will this editor expect from me throughout the process?
Do they want to be paid in installments? Do they require a down payment? Will you need to participate in constant video chats with them? You should know the answers to all of these questions and more about their editing process and how they plan to work with you. If something isn’t clear to you, don’t be afraid to ask the editor to clarify.
8. Will this editor make me sign a contract? What will it entail?
The answers to these questions will likely be in the editor’s contract if they have one—and they should have one. Any freelance professional or business-owner should protect themselves and their customers by having a contract that they require you to sign. Be sure to read the contract that your editor provides you in full before signing it, even if you are already confident that you want to work with them. You may even be able to find a sample of the editor’s typical contract ahead of time on their website.
9. What have others said about this editor?
Many editors post testimonials on their website, but if not, see if you can find any reviews or mentions of the editor online. In addition, you may want to evaluate their work yourself by asking for a sample edit or before-and-after examples of their work.
10. What is my gut feeling about this editor?
My mom always says to trust your gut feeling—and when deciding who to help you take your manuscript to the next level, this advice is invaluable. If something feels fishy or makes you uncomfortable, don’t feel guilty about moving on and finding someone you trust.
What else do you look for in a professional editor? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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This article was last updated Oct. 24, 2020.