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How To Find The Right Editor For Your Book

You’re almost there! We understand how exciting it is to finally “finish” writing a book you’ve always dreamed of publishing. The sense of accomplishment must be indescribable after putting your thoughts and ideas into actual readable material. But there is also this tremendous sense of anticipation when it comes to finalizing your work before it goes to print. But before your book hits your chosen platform and printing press, you will want to polish your work with the help of an extra pair of eyes to see what you may have missed, mistakes in your copy, or developmental flaws in the story you are trying to share. 

In this case, the next step for you will be to find the right editor for your book who can enhance your work to its fullest potential. We’re here to help you find the best book editor for the job. 

What does a book editor do?

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Whether you meet a full-time editor at a traditional publishing house or freelance editors who work with self-published authors without publishing house backing, they are all professionals who play a very important role in the book publishing industry. 

Typically, a book editor first reviews a story by going through the draft page-by-page, line-by-line, and word-by-word to review elements like spelling, grammar, sentence structure, accuracy (fact-checking for non-fiction), and developmental content to make sure your book is ready to progress to the next level of being accommodated for design and publishing.

Do you really need an editor? 

The short answer to this is no. 

You can always edit and proofread your own work. Some writers with editing experience prefer this arrangement, as they can keep complete creative and technical control of their work. But not all writers have editing experience, and if you want your work to have a better chance of being looked at and considered by a literary agent or publishing house or appreciated by readers and book reviewers from your self-publishing platform, getting a professional editor can be hugely beneficial.

In the same way that you would want a gorgeous but slightly loose outfit altered by a good tailor to fit you perfectly, hiring an editor to work on your final draft will turn it into the polished and ready-to-read manuscript you want. Sure, the initial form is already something you can appreciate, but having someone professional come in and help you perfect things to unlock their fullest potential pays off.

However, signing up with the first editor your see is not advisable. You need to take time to figure out your requirements and preferences. So before you start with your search, consider the following things:

Figure out what you need for your book

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You might know about your little weaknesses or insecurities with your work (that’s normal!). There is nothing wrong with pursuing the best version of your book and yourself as a published writer, even if it means employing the help of strangers. Besides, what would be the whole point of selling/distributing a book if not to offer the best book that you can?

Before hunting for your book editor, gather information like your personal requirements and needs when it comes to editing your book. 

What kind of editing do you need?

Establish what kind of editing assistance you need. Is it only proofreading (after the final draft) that you need? Perhaps you need copyediting to ensure the correction of typo errors like punctuation, spelling, and grammar? 

Do you need something more substantial from your editor, like developmental editing, where if you hire a book editor, you will expect them to look at the big picture, helping with structure and content? If this is the case, you might even want to consider hiring them early on in the writing process, as they can help you, chapter by chapter, to maintain a great flow to your storytelling as you continue to write the book. 

Suppose you decide to go the traditional publishing route. In that case, developmental editing will be a necessary step in your process as an author, which your agent can help you out with (by connecting you with competent editors) before they can pitch your book to publishers.

Make a list of places where you can look for a book editor

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There are many places and methods to find a book editor. You can go the traditional route of networking with the help of your agent (if you have one), especially if you plan to publish your book the traditional way.

You can start your networking and research efforts online if you are self-published. Consider social media groups and pages where you can meet other writers in the same genre as you who can share their experiences of working with their editors.

You can also find several websites through a simple Google search that offer a great deal of information through forums and articles, discussing shady editors to avoid and recommending fantastic editors with a growing list of satisfied author clientele. 

Some legitimate and professional websites, like Reedsy, are dedicated to pooling experienced and vetted book editors, designers, and marketers for writers who may need their services.

You can also list a number of your favorite writers. You can reach out to them to express your admiration and later ask them if they edit their own works or enjoy a particular book editing service. Who knows, you might get lucky and be able to hire one of your favorite authors to be your own book editor.

There are also freelance and career platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and LinkedIn, where you can find book editors by the hundreds who are ready to provide their services. Approach these websites cautiously, as there are no vetting processes made before freelance book editors on these sites are allowed to sell their editing services. But do not underestimate these platforms because many talented book editors who prefer to work independently also populate these channels.

Another great opportunity to find a book editor is to attend book conferences and events that are centered on your genre. More often than not, book editors with experience working with writers like you will attend these events to network and meet more writers with whom they can discuss their services.

Start searching and reaching out to promising editors with your needs in mind

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Once you have a good idea of the places to look at when searching for your book editor, it’s a good time to look at what these individual professionals can offer you for your budget and requirements.

To help you narrow down your options, here are some guiding questions for you when trying to find a book editor:

How much do I want to spend?

Writing can take a lot out of you aside from energy and thought. Depending on your vision, you will find yourself setting aside a budget for various things. This could include payments for an editor, an illustrator, a photographer, and a marketer.

This is why you need to be able to set a budget before searching for your editor. You can look up going rates for book editors to set a reasonable budget that can afford a good editor without breaking the bank. 

Make sure you also know the different rate standards you want to offer. Some editors prefer a per-word rate, others use an hourly rate, and some charge by the page. Based on your budget and your manuscript, be ready to have the right figures that will correspond with these different bases of rates.

What are their credentials?

Editing literary pieces requires more than a healthy knowledge of spelling and grammar. Even apps like Grammarly can do that for you. You would want to find a book editor who studied and trained to read through countless books, identify which demands correction and revision and why, and present you with a better and polished version of your creative work.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask editors for their credentials. Where did they study? What course of study did they take and finish back in college or grad school? Have they worked with publishing houses before? What genre of literature do they specialize in?

How many clients have they worked with?

Speaking of credentials, nothing could vouch for an editor better than their work and previous clients’ testimonials.

Request links to websites of writers who an editor you are thinking of hiring have already worked with. Ask how many clients they have worked with so far and if they can show you recent testimonials of their past clients. If you aren’t sure, you can even reach out to their past clients with a quick list of questions about their satisfaction with the editor’s work.

Testimonials could also give you an idea of their work ethic and relationship-building habits with their clients. For example, an editor who communicates a lot with their clients through constant updates can be great for most clients, but to a few who are extremely busy and are not a fan of micromanagement, that can be a nuisance.

What is their feedback style?

When you start inquiring with an editor, how fast do they reply? Do they respond pleasantly, or are they too curt for your taste? When you ask them about their feedback style during editing, do they take pride in being brutally honest with their past clients? Is that something you can work with? When you show them a couple of pages from your manuscript, do they express interest in working on your book, or are they showing some hesitation? 

Finding an editor is like finding a plumber or a carpenter for your home renovation. You need someone you can trust a little more intimately than others; you will entrust YOUR book to the one you pick. You need to find a book editor whose editing skills, personality, and communication style meet your writing needs. They will not necessarily be your next best friend, but wouldn’t it be great if you work with someone who makes the journey to being published more enriching and rewarding?

What is their expertise and editing process?

It is crucial that you ask an editor which genres they enjoy editing. You want to find an editor who will enjoy editing your book and can communicate references and concepts specific to your genre. As for book titles they have worked on, see if you like the outcome of their editing work. 

You also need to ask the editors you shortlist the turnaround time they see with your manuscript and how many passes the manuscript will go through in their hands within that time. If you are particular about style guides, ask them too which they prefer to use when editing. You might want to hire someone who doesn’t rush through your work and edit hastily but also doesn’t take forever to turn your manuscript back in.

Create a short brief about your book with your top choices

Monochrome Photo of Book

Once you have narrowed down your choices to 3-5 editors based on your budget, their credentials, editing experience, and expertise, you can then create and share a short brief about your book. This may include information about yourself as a writer, the book’s synopsis, objectives, and a chapter from your book. A brief will give the editors an idea of what you want to convey and achieve through your book, what kind of editing you need, and provide them a sense of your writing style.

Get their thoughts on your book and see who understands your style the best, who communicates their ideas and opinions with clarity, honesty, and respect, who offers a timeline and process that is the most reassuring to you, and who corresponds with you most pleasantly and professionally.

Final thoughts

Finding the right book editor will require much effort and time researching and comparing. Budget, credentials, expertise, communication styles, work process, and time requirements are good bases to use in looking for the editor who will be perfect for you and your book.

Do not hire the first editor you encounter or someone who is “good enough.” How your book is edited will affect the impact and message your book delivers to your audience. In more ways than one, the book editor you choose will be one of your partners in accomplishing (or failing) your published book dreams.

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