How do you find the best editor for your book?
You have written a book, or you are in the process of writing one. That’s great! Maybe you’re just thinking about writing one. You hope it will be a bestselling novel. Or maybe it is more practical—a tool for promoting your coaching practice; something you can sell at a public-speaking event.
You need an editor, or a writing coach, someone who can help you align your vision for the book with what you have written so far. You want help pinpointing just the right tone of voice. You’d like insight.
Are you going to sift through sites like Reedsy or Fiverr, with thousands of self-proclaimed editors? Google “book editor” and sift through hundreds of pages? Are the reviews real or fabricated?
Post for editing help in any Facebook writer’s group, and suddenly everyone’s an editor, and they charge low, low rates. Some will even edit for free.
Would a real book editor work for free?
How do you check their credentials?
Are the good ones more expensive?
Here are some tips for finding and hiring the right book editor for you.
The DIY stress option or the vetted option
Your goal is to find several potential editors, and to choose the one that is the best fit for you. You can do a Google search, post on your Facebook page, search on LinkedIn, or mention it to local writers’ groups. And then sift until you’re utterly confused about which editor had this-or-that credential.
The stress option.
Or you can use a vetting service such as Book Editing Associates, which was formed to help writers find editors who can really edit and proofreaders who can pass a proofreading test. If you use the Book Editing Associates website, you can request contact with several editors you like. You can even call a human (aka: our coordinator) and get help with the selection.
That’s the less- or no-stress option.
Ask for a sample edit
Editors have different strengths and talents. Provide each editor with the same sample and review what you get back. You can request a phone consult to make sure the two of you communicate well. You need to get a preview of what it will be like to work together before investing your time and money.
Some editors do one or two passes through your manuscript, but developmental editors may go back and forth with you for months. Some will give you an hourly rate and others—such as copy editors and proofreaders—will break it down for a per-word rate. A line editor may be a developmental editor or a copy editor. Have a basic understanding of editing terminology, and make sure the contract spells out the editor’s definitions and costs for varying types of editing services.
The bottom line: Find out everything up front.
Follow your gut
After you interview several potential candidates, sit on it for a bit, then trust where your gut leads you.
What you may not realize: the editor’s gut is assessing not just your manuscript, but you as well. It’s an intimate relationship that works both ways. If you plan to become a client-from-hell, expecting 24/7 phone/email/texts (for example), the editor may decide to not work with you. Life is too short.
Expect some wait time
Good editors are busy editors. Of course there are seasonal shifts in our work, natural ups and downs, cancellations, and unexpected openings in schedules, but I can’t tell you how many times over my career people have come to me expecting that I can start their project right away.
I am usually booked two or three months in advance. Or more. And many of my colleagues are booked even farther out than that. However, I may be able to get you in sooner due to shifts in my projects.
The time between paying your deposit and the contractual start date is a great opportunity to get some distance from your work, gather yourself, and even do some revising.
How can you productively work on your manuscript until your scheduled start date with your new editor? First, read through your manuscript again and cut any “fat.” For many of my editing projects, I charge by the word. If you cut some of the fat ahead of time, all the better for your budget.
If your book is nonfiction, start writing your book proposal. Begin the research and homework of gathering the material necessary to compose a strong book proposal to send to agents and publishers.
Don’t be discouraged by an editor’s wait time, especially if it’s someone you are really looking forward to working with.
Understand the cost and payment arrangement
Most editors want a partial payment, or retainer, prior to starting a project. This lets the editor know you are serious and allows them to reserve a spot on their busy calendar that they won’t give away to anyone else. Most editors accept a variety of payment methods—personal check, money order, Apple Pay, PayPal, Zelle, or other online payment methods. Be aware that your payment method will need to clear before you get on the editor’s calendar.
There may be incremental payments to make the process more affordable, but the project is paid for before the edited work is returned to you.
Ninety-five percent of the time, I give you the total cost of your project up front. Although, if the project is multi-tiered and involves a lot of development, I may work on retainer and bill as we go. If this is the case, then I always discussing pricing and options with you along the way, and I always provide you with a good ballpark figure from the start.
Don’t ask one editor to match another editor’s price quote
If you love editor A’s sample edit don’t even ask about matching another editor’s price quote. That is not how professional editors work. In fact, the editor you liked may move on to another submission for consideration.
If you love editor A you will pay that editor’s quoted price. It’s not considered rude, however, to ask if your editor would help write the jacket blurb or review your query letter.
Sign on the dotted line
Always use a written contract. Never pay an editor who does not use a service agreement. My contract is short and simple. It states our agreement, what I will do for you, terms of payments, and what happens if either needs to end the contract or stop working together.
Be aware that, if the editor doesn’t receive a payment on the date specified in the service agreement, the editor may move on to another paying project. This is business, and no one can afford to let a workday go by without earning income.
Always review the contract, and question your editor about anything that feels confusing or uncomfortable.
Feel good about your decision
Like any good working relationship, ask for what you need, ask for clarification when you are unclear about something, and keep communication open so that you have the best possible experience working with your editor.