A good editor will have relevant work experience and testimonials from published authors who have worked with her. She will ask what your goals are and customize her work to fit your needs. A good editor will be professional, honest, courteous, and timely in her communications. It should go without saying that she will respect your work and you as a person.
The right editor is an alchemical being who helps you refine your words and intentions into a powerful and successful story. She has the experience and empathy to point out weak spots in your work and help you shore up your confidence.
A good editor will answer a query for free. She will offer to give a sample edit, either for free or for a low cost, like $50. Her rates will be within the industry standards: getting a book edited by a professional may be the equivalent of several months’ rent in a major city. A good editor will include a reasonable amount of revision and back-and-forth communications in a project rate. Beware of very low costs for editing.
The right editor will have edited work similar to yours that has gone on to be successful. She will have a background that speaks to her ability to understand the market.
A good editor will be able to answer your questions about writing and publishing, or point you towards resources like workshops, books, and websites. She might be able to advise on things like how to get an agent, what to look out for in a publishing contract, when to self publish and when to pursue traditional publication, audio rights, foreign rights, media rights, getting reviews, self promotion, industry awards, networking, e-book formatting, proofreading, conventions, poetry, journalism, blogging, podcasting, and incorporating as a writer. A good editor will understand that the publishing industry is changing, that self publishing has outgrown its stigma, and that today’s authors have a bewildering number of options for publication.
Choosing the right editor may come down to a gut feeling. She will make you feel good about working with her. Her comments and questions will guide you to produce a version of your book that is better than the version you could have written on your own.