When someone asks, “How do I find an editor?” the real question is this:
How do I find the right editor for ME?
I firmly believe that all writers need editors. If you trust only yourself to do the final editing of your work, then you’re going to miss something, from a comma here to a strangled plot line there.
When you’re putting your work out there in a competitive market, you don’t want to miss anything!
Recently I joined a discussion on Goodreads about finding an editor:
How would I know if the one I’m asking for an offer is decent and good enough? I have looked up some of their previous work, of course, and there are no negative comments about their editing. Should I just trust the reviews and my ‘gut’? Or should I always use an editor that someone I know recommends?
The post ended with asking for recommendations.
I thought, hey! This is a great chance for me to recommend my editor, without whom I would not have been so wildly happy with my books and the response they’ve been getting.
As well, I had done as much due diligence as I could before actually contracting with her, so here I am with the tedious part already done and able to put in a good word. It’s a win-win, right?
I had forgotten one thing: Deciding upon one’s editor is a very subjective process.
So here are my 5 1/2 steps to how you can find the right editor for you (which I will try to keep as objective as possible).
1. Figure out what kind of editing you’re really looking for.
- Copy editing. That’s spelling, grammar, punctuation, clarity, etc.
- Line editing. That adds in sentence revisions.
- Substantive editing. That includes the first two, plus deep analysis into both small-and big-picture intent.
My experience: You may start out thinking you just need copy editing, and some editors will only stick to that because that’s what you requested. Other editors may spot something that they just can’t in all conscience keep quiet about, and may ask if you would like to add on their extra services.
I haven’t yet tried any other editing services besides Fiverr, but Fiverr makes it extremely easy to see all these offers laid out in tiered packages.
2. At the same time, keep your price point in mind.
It’s easy to get carried away at both low and high ends of the scale.
For example, on Fiverr, nearly everything really does start out at $5, and goes up in increments of $5 from there. You may think you’re getting away with something, but those $5 eventually add up.
It’s also easy to think that cheap equals low quality. But just as with the more expensive folks, don’t be fooled by the price tag. More $$$ does not automatically equal more prowess.
Additionally, editors that offer full refunds if you’re not satisfied are people you can be more confident about working with.
Plus you have to remember that there will be other costs to incur beyond editing. From the perspective of a self-publisher, the list goes on! Formatting, cover design, marketing, buying your own author copies…
The point is, keep your eyes open and your price point in front of them. Having some flexibility is great if you can afford it, but most of us aren’t flush with disposable funds at this stage.
3. Make sure the editor accepts your genre.
If it isn’t clear what genres, styles, or lengths the editor prefers, ask!
It’s the same with formatting, I’ve found. Children’s books can be awfully wambly, and some people will refuse to work on them at any stage. Others take just about everything.
4. Collect a few possible editors and then sit on your decision (if you can).
Entrusting your work to someone else is a big deal. I picked through a fair number of editors before narrowing down my list. I saved my final choices and then walked away from it all for about a day. I returned to scour the reviews and packages offered before making my own final (I hoped) choice.
You may sometimes be in a bigger hurry to get your work polished and done, and that’s fine. Either way, take heed of step 5.
5. Use your head.
In other words, pay attention all through the process.
- How do they describe their editing services? Any grammar issues in their own summaries should be a red flag.
- How do they correspond with you? If you feel that something is off at any time, this is not the time to keep the relationship going just to be nice. This is your money and time. Thank them for their time, and say you have decided to go in another direction.
- Do they deliver on time, or let you know in good time if there’s a conflict? You are contracting for services, after all. This isn’t depending on the good will of a friend, it’s a business transaction.
- Carefully review the work they did. Remember, you don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you do want to see how they edit. In addition to spelling and grammar, do their changes make sense with your story?
5 1/2. Build a relationship.
This is only half a step because it depends on your comfort level and how you like to engage with folks you may never meet in person.
This is someone you are paying in exchange for services, but you are still both people. Building a rapport can really help you both understand each other and what you each bring to the contract.
For me, I quickly found out that the kind of editor I prefer is one who will really read my story beyond copy editing. If that person gets interested in what they’re reading, this is a lovely bonus—and so is getting to know your editor as a person .