So you’ve written a book. Congrats! If you don’t already have an established relationship with an editor, hiring one can feel very overwhelming. How do you know who is right for you? And what should the process be like? Let's break it down.
1. Determine what type of edit you need and your timeline.
Do you want comments on story-level issues like character development and pacing? You’re looking for a developmental edit (also referred to as a content or substantive edit). Want someone to clean up your prose, taking out all those pesky repetitions and awkward phrases? That’s a line edit (also sometimes called a copy edit). Just looking for someone to do a final check? That’s a proofread.
Not all editors offer all services, and some have different definitions of each edit, so be sure the edit you need is the one you are going to get.
Also decide whether you’d like the editor’s next available slot, or if you have a specific time frame. Many editors book weeks or months in advance, so you’ll need to make sure your prospective editors can meet your deadline.
2. Determine your budget, and be realistic about who you can hire.
Look, I know ideally you’d get an editor who had worked on hundreds of NYT bestsellers. But that sort of experience isn’t cheap. And it isn’t particularly fair to ask an editor to work for much lower rates just because you can’t afford them or want a deal. (Exception: if you are planning a series, it is not uncommon for editors to offer a discount in such situations.)
Reedsy recently posted a blog about the costs of self-publishing, with a handy table of average costs and a calculator: https://blog.reedsy.com/cost-to-self-publish-a-book/ It’s a good place to start to get an idea of what professional editing costs.
If your budget is similar to the average, great! You can probably hire someone with a decent amount of experience. If it’s much lower, understand that you probably will be looking at editors with less experience. (If it’s higher, lucky you! You can go after that editor with hundreds of NYT bestsellers!)
The “good, fast, cheap” triangle applies here: you can only pick two. If you want it good and fast, it isn’t going to be cheap. If you get it cheap and fast, it probably isn’t going to be good.
3. Find some prospects.
There are lots of places to find editors. Try:
What should you be looking for? At minimum, look for someone who has experience in your genre at a publisher or agency, or who has professional writing credentials. How much experience and what type of publishers (big NYC one, or small indie) is going to depend on your budget.
4. Do your due diligence.
Run a check on a site like Writer Beware and a general Google search just to make sure nothing egregious comes up. A good editor will generally have an online footprint—LinkedIn, personal website, Twitter/Instagram, etc.
What counts as egregious? Any complaints about work not being done, or possibly if the editor is making disparaging remarks about clients on social media. (This is rare. Editors are professionals. But anyone can call themselves an editor, so you have to weed out those who aren’t professional.)
5. Get quotes and samples.
Some editors list their rates on their websites, others you need to contact for a quote. Ask for quotes and a small sample (5 pages is fair) so you can get a feeling for their work.
From here, it’s going to be about how the sample edit “feels” to you. Do you think the editor’s comments were helpful? Do you feel the editor “gets” your style? Do you like how the editor comes across in your email communications? You need to feel comfortable with your editor in order to get the most out of your collaboration.
Now make your choice and get to work!
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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash