How to Find an Editor
Editors make your work better. They bring a fresh set of eyes to your writing, not only to catch typos and grammar errors but to work with you to bring your vision to the next level. A good editor is as invested in making your book the best it can be as you are.
The process for finding an editor varies when it comes to traditional versus self-publishing. Most editors who work for major publishing houses only accept agented submissions. Your agent will sell the book to the editor, and then the editor will guide you through the steps of the process from developmental edits to line edits—all in-house, all at no cost to you.
If you’re self-publishing, or even if you want to use an editor before you query agents, it’s up to you to decide what kind of editor you want and how much you’re willing to pay them to edit your book.
What type of editor do you need?
Depending on the state of your manuscript, you may need to work with multiple types of editors. Professional editors generally focus on one area of the editing process:
Developmental editors, sometimes called Story Coaches, are the big-picture editors. They can help you with the story itself. Is it consistent? Does the timeline make sense? Is the conflict strong? Are the characters well-formed? Is your structure solid?
Line editors are concerned with how your story works at the sentence level. They help you with things like the tone of your paragraphs, word choice, and how the sentences fit together.
Copyeditors and proofreaders have some overlap with line editors, but these types of editors are most focused on things like grammar, potential typos, punctuation, and light fact-checking. Proofreaders in particular are for when your manuscript just needs that final polish before publishing.
Once you've decided which of these editors you need, it’s time to do your research and find the perfect editor for your manuscript.
Where do you find editors?
Publishing house editors—those who do accept non-agented submissions—can be found on sites like Manuscript Wish List. Like agents, they list specific criteria for what they’re looking for in a book, and you must follow it to the letter. These are the editors you want to contact when you’re book is ready for submission.
However, when looking for freelance editors, there are a few places to start compiling a list of potentials: Reedsy is a one-stop shop where you can find lists of editors, designers, publicists, and other publishing industry professionals. The Editorial Freelance Association is another place to search for freelance editors. And, of course, you can also get recommendations from other writers. But what happens once you have your list of potential freelance editors?
Questions to ask potential editors
Don't just hire the first editor you find! Nothing is more important at this point than making sure you and the editor are the right fit for each other. Well, maybe one thing is more important: a contract. It’s vital that you have one that lays out exactly what each side is expected to do. Protect yourself. If an editor refuses to sign a contract, they are not the editor you want.
Another major consideration is if they offer a sample edit. A reputable freelance editor should. It may vary in what they offer: some will do a certain number of pages, some use a set word count, and others might request a certain section of the book, or another personalized method.
A sample edit matters. Not only will it show you the editor’s skill, but it is also the best way to determine if you should work together. Do their edits make sense? Are they suggestions and not attempts at rewriting your work entirely? Are the edits nothing more than a few red marks anyone could have found?
You want to make sure it’s a free sample because the entire point is not to pay someone who is not a good fit for you. Even though the sample will be small, it can tell you everything you need to know about their style.
Cost is another consideration. There’s a wide range of editing prices out there, and that’s solely up to you as to what you do and don’t want to spend. Remember: higher prices don’t always mean better. Freelance editors usually charge by the word or the page, though some will charge by the hour. Do your math!
Other questions you may want to ask:
- What is their timeframe?
- How quickly can they get edits back to you?
- How soon do they need to get your book in order to make those edits happen?
- Do they want to talk to you about the edits beforehand or only afterward?
- How do they prefer to communicate: text, email, phone, Zoom?
You should also ask questions about their experience and if they have a portfolio. If this is starting to sound like a job interview, that’s because it is one! You are hiring this person and trusting them with your book. You want to make sure they’re the right fit in all areas.
Don’t forget: a freelance editor works for you. Their job is to help you make your book better. Take your time and do your research. Ask your questions, consider your options, trust your gut, and please don’t forget the contract. Your book will reap the benefits!