Let the right one in: choosing an editor

DCFN0008.JPGYou’ve made the decision that your book needs editing, but how do you go about hiring an editor? A good working relationship with an editor can be of tremendous value to an author – a bad one can leave an author demoralised and upset. As with any other business relationship, putting a little effort into finding the right editor in the first instance can save you a lot of heartache at a later stage.

Here are 5 tips to help you make a choice:

  1. Be clear about what you want, what your book needs and what editing stage it is at.  Don’t waste your money hiring someone to copy-edit text that is likely to be removed in the next draft. If you are still working on your story or structure, hire a substantive editor instead.
  2. Word-of-mouth recommendation. Ask your writer friends, their friends and their friends’ friends about their editors. If they are happy to recommend an editor to you, you are already off to a good start. If none of your friends write, this may be a good time to join a writers’ group and link up with like-minded folks at writing workshops, seminars and on social networking sites. Ask questions, find out what’s good and what is to be avoided.
  3. Picture3BAsk for a sample of the editor’s work and/or client testimonials. Most editors will be happy to provide these for you. They’ll often ask for a sample of your manuscript in any event, so that they can judge the editing work involved. An editing sample gives you a chance to see how the editor treats your text and how you respond to editorial criticism and amendments.
  4. Shop around – don’t feel obliged to plump for the first recommendation. You may have a glowing editor recommendation from your five best writing pals, but if they are all writing romantic comedy and your book is a gritty, intrigue-laden fantasy epic, the editor may not be the one you are looking for. Use your instinct – if the editing sample and other testimonials feel right to you, then go for it. If not, make further inquiries.
  5. Be reasonable with your editing budget – remember, if you’re looking to pay peanuts, you risk attracting monkeys. When properly done, editing is a skilled and time-consuming process. Heart writing 001For that reason it is also expensive. Also, most good editors will be busy and you may need to book an editing slot with them beforehand to ensure they are available when your manuscript is ready for editing. So plan your budget and your publishing deadlines well in advance.

For more details on substantive (structural) editing, copy-editing and manuscript critiques, check out Book Nanny’s website at www.booknannyfictioneditor.com.

4 thoughts on “Let the right one in: choosing an editor

  1. Thanks, Joan.

    I’m delighted that the edit was such a positive experience for you, but as you say, finding the right person is a scary process. Hopefully the tips will help at least a few authors avoid a bad editor experience!

  2. I don’t think writers realise how important an edit is until their manuscript comes back with the changes they need to make. I sent mine off thinking it only had a few typos but that was far from the case. I couldn’t believe how very obvious mistakes had escaped me. I think you are just too close to your own work. And choosing an editor is difficult too – these tips are spot on.

  3. Thanks, Tara. I believe that if you ask people to pay money for your book, you owe them the best book possible. Editors are an integral part of the publishing process and are there to help writers. But you do need to put some thought and effort into finding the right one for you. The idea behind the post was to give authors a few useful and practical ideas to assist in the often difficult search for the right editor.

  4. Great post, Book Nanny. It needs to come up more in conversations, especially with those who think they don’t need an editor in the first place!!

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