Editorially Speaking: How to Find a Book Editor You Can Trust

Editorially Speaking is a new monthly column for The Write Life. Over the next year, we’ll cover topics like how to find and vet an editor, how much you should expect to pay for an edit, what you ought to send an editor, how to get on your editor’s good side and much more.

As for your host, I’m a full-time editor, author and ghostwriter.

I’ve written, coauthored, or ghostwritten eight books and have edited dozens more. I’m well-versed in self-publishing, and I’ve helped a handful of clients craft proposals for traditional publishing, one of which was picked up at the tail end of 2016.

In other words, I’m in the trenches every working day.

Through this column, I hope you’ll learn what I wish I would have known about editing and editors when I first became serious about writing as a business.

To that end, let’s get to what may be the most pressing topic for a new author seeking to self-publish.

How to find an editor

You could search the Internet for “editor,” “book editor,” or “Help, I need an editor ASAP,” but you will be overwhelmed with choices.

Even that last search phrase has more than 200,000 hits, and most of those seem to be video editors. So how are you supposed to find the right editor for your book?

Try each of these steps until you find one that nets you at least a few good leads.

1. Seek referrals from other writers

The best advertising for an editor is a satisfied client.

Talk with your fellow writers, whether online or in real life, and ask who they recommend.

However, you may encounter a Catch-22: better editors’ schedules may be packed, and you may not want to wait a few months for them even to begin working on your book.

That’s when you proceed to Step 2.

2. Seek referrals from that referral

If your writer friend has provided a glowing review of his or her editor, but that editor doesn’t have room for you in their schedule (or they don’t provide the specific kind of editing you need), kindly and quickly ask that editor for a referral to another editor.

Most experienced editors have professional connections they’ll be more than happy to leverage in order to help a writer.

But what if you don’t have any writer friends who’ve used an editor?

3. Check pre-vetted lists

Instead of searching the entire Internet for an editor, consider these sites that have already compiled lists of qualified, capable editors:

  • “Need a Good Book Editor? Top Recommendations”: As an editor herself, and after being asked far too often for editorial recommendations, author K. M. Weiland created this list based on writing experts whose opinions she trusts.
  • The Editorial Freelancers Association: In addition to searching its directory, you may alsosubmit your editing need for free, but be warned: you might receive dozens or even hundreds of replies.
  • Pronoun: Build Your Team: Pronoun, a free publishing platform, also offers this vetted database of publishing professionals. What may be most helpful on this site is the ability to compare and contrast rates.

Whether you use these sites or other compilations, be sure to read up on how a list was curated.

Did the editor have to pay to be listed? (The EFA requires a yearly subscription.) Did someone else have to vouch for their work in order to be added? (Other writers vouched for editors on K. M. Weiland’s list.) Could they simply add themselves? (Fiverr, Upwork, etc.)

Always conduct due diligence.

How to vet an editor

After discovering a handful of editors who seem like a good fit, you’ll want to spend more time ensuring that they’re the right person for you and your book.

After all, you’ll be closely working with them on something that’s likely very close to you.

By investing time up front to find the best candidate, you may just succeed in landing a great editor on your first try, saving you the hassle of further back-and-forth emails with more editors.

Vetting an editor can be as simple as two steps, though each of these steps could require a fair amount of work on your part.

1. Do your research

Before contacting an editor, comb through your prospective editor’s website.

Carefully read about the kinds of editing they offer. Browse through the books they’ve edited. Read their endorsements.

If you’re really intent on learning about what it’s like to work with that particular editor, consider reaching out to one of that editor’s clients. Find the editor on social media to see what he or she is like apart from their writing work. Conduct a search with just the editor’s name to see what the rest of the web may say about them.

2. Ask specific questions

Don’t waste your time (or theirs) to discover information that’s already online.

Do as much homework as you can before contacting an editor by email or phone. However, you will undoubtedly have specific questions that can only be answered by contacting your prospective editor.

Here’s a list to help you think through what you ought to know about your editor before contracting to work with him or her:

  • What types of editing do you offer?
  • How much do you charge?
  • How long have you been editing?
  • Can you put me in touch with other clients you’ve worked with?
  • What experience do you have in [insert your genre]?
  • What’s your process in working with writers?
  • What software do you use to edit?
  • Will you send me a contract before work commences?
  • Can we schedule a face-to-face meeting [virtual or IRL] prior to beginning work together?
  • How often (and how) will you be in contact with me during the editing process?
  • Do you offer a sample edit?
  • When is payment due?
  • What are my options for payment?
  • Will you be nice to me?

Despite what they may do to your manuscript, most editors I know actually are nice people.

They love to read as much as you do, and their goal for your book is the same as your goal for your book: to make it the best it can be with the time and resources allowed to them.

Finding the right editor for your book can be challenging, but if you approach it from a professional mindset and follow the suggestions in this article, you should be able to find someone who can make your book shine.

May your search for an editor be short and successful.

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