Writers need outside eyes on our stories. External feedback will identify what we’re doing well, and where our stories need work. Working with a professional editor is one of the most efficient ways to improve our skills and write the best we can. However, we also need to work with editors that we trust and that will help us tell the story we envision, rather than overwriting our voice.
Finding the right editor can be overwhelming! The options seem endless, the cost of the investment is likely high, and it feels like you’re taking a chance no matter who you choose. How do you know that an editor is a good fit? Will your investment be worth it? Can you trust that the editor will preserve your vision for your story?
We completely get it! It sounds like an impossible task, but you can find the person who is right for you. As editors, we’re sharing our internal knowledge for how to choose an editor that you can feel confident in.
Step 1: Understand your needs
The first step in hiring an editor is understanding what type of editing you need. Do you need big-picture revision help? Are you ready for copyediting or proofreading in preparation for publishing? Are you somewhere in between?
No matter where you are in your journey, there’s an editor who can help, but it will save you time and money if you start with an awareness of what you and your story need. Then, you can begin searching for editors who provide those services.
Step 2: Determine your goals
Once you understand what type of editing you need, figure out what your goals for the edit are. Ask yourself:
- What do you want the editor to accomplish?
- Where do you want your work to be when you’ve finished working with them?
- What does a good edit look like to you?
We have many clients who come to us without knowing what they hope to accomplish through editing. On the one hand, that’s fine, because an experienced editor can help you tease out what you need through conversation or after actual review of the work even if you don’t know yourself.
However, if you search for an editor knowing what you want and you lead the conversation by establishing your expectations, you are much more likely to find an editor — and receive an edit — that satisfies you.
Step 3: Knowing if an editor is right for you
When choosing an editor, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think of it like a job interview, where you want to hire the person that’s the best fit. Regardless of if the editing relationship will be short or long term, you still want to make sure you and the editor mesh well together in personality, expertise, and process.
Here are some great starting points for surface level questions:
- Do you work in my specific genre or age group?
- What is your editing process like? What will I receive when the edit is finished?
- What qualifications do you have? Do you have any training or experience?
- What’s your expected turnaround time? Does it line up with when I need edits back?
- Do you have any samples, reviews, or testimonials?
Because giving and receiving feedback requires so much trust, we recommend diving a little deeper to determine if an editor is right for you. We love when our clients ask hard questions that serve to answer these deeper inquiries:
- Does the editor believe wholeheartedly in your story and/or vision?
- Do you trust this editor will work to understand and preserve your vision for your story?
- Do you enjoy talking with them and/or feel you can build trust with them?
- Would you feel comfortable receiving praise and criticism from this editor?
- Will this editor teach you how to improve your writing craft overall?
Step 4: You’re ready to hire
Once you’ve narrowed down the candidates and you’ve decided on one or two editors that really stand out, you’re ready to move forward. Before pulling the trigger on payment, review the below checklist to ensure you’ve covered all the bases!
If you haven’t already, set up an intro call.
Editors should offer a free call option to discuss your needs and get to know you. Calls are the best way to get to know the editor, and see if they’re a good fit for you, before “buying.” Use this opportunity to establish trust and to explain your vision/goals for your story.
Ask for a sample (or example) edit.
Editors should provide a real example of edits they’ve done in the past. This gives you an opportunity to review how the editor gives feedback, what kind of feedback they give, and the balance of praise and criticism. Use this to see how the editor’s work aligns with what you’re looking for (or how you learn).
Ask about which service the editor thinks would fit your needs the best.
Many editors offer a “menu” of services; sometimes what you think you need isn’t always what the editor would recommend. The editor can review all options with you so you can make an informed decision. Often, editors can customize their services to fit your needs, so don’t hesitate to have an open conversation.
If you don’t know already, ask what you’ll get back when the editor is finished.
- Will you get a feedback letter? Roughly how long will it be?
- Will there be line edits or no?
- Can you expect track changes and/or comments throughout?
- Will there be a follow up call to go over the feedback?
Confirm price or rate expectations.
Some editors operate on a price-per-word rate, while others set hourly rates. Make sure you understand the cost as best as you can before you decide. Ask for a quote where applicable.
Confirm turnaround time.
Turnaround time can vary depending on many factors. Always confirm expectations before you decide.
Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to decide! If the decision still isn’t crystal clear, remember that sharing your story with another person requires a lot of trust and understanding. Work with the editor who makes you feel the most comfortable and excited about your story. Above all, make sure you hire someone who seems invested in understanding your vision for your story, and who will work with you to execute on it. Editors should not overwrite your voice. It is your story and your writing journey.
This story was first published at goldenmayediting.com. We provide book coaching & editing to fiction writers. If you’re interested in our other blog posts or in checking out our services please visit us there!