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How to Hire an Editor by Rochelle Melander

March 15, 2016


Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,


I’ve worked as a writer and editor for nearly twenty years. Despite my experience, I still feel vulnerable when I hire someone to edit my work. When we pour our heart and soul into our books, it’s important to get an editor who will treat our work with respect and wisdom. Today’s tip will help you learn how to find an editor for your project.

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



Hiring an editor is a bit like selecting a babysitter for a new baby. We wonder, Can they be trusted to take good care of my precious one? The first time I hired someone to watch my infant son, I contemplated staying home and watching the babysitter watch the baby so that I could make sure she did it right.

When writers consider hiring an editor for the first time, they’ve got many questions:

+What can I expect an editor to do?

+How do I know if an editor is reputable or not?

+How much should I pay?

+Do I need a contract?


I’ve had several editors, worked as an editor, and have hired a few of my own editors. The following guidelines will help you make a good decision next time you hire an editor.


Know what you need

Do you need a development editor to read your work for content and structure (nonfiction) or plot and character (fiction)? Or do you need a copy edit to check the manuscript for grammar and spelling? As we talked about in last week’s article, each task requires a specific kind of editor. Generally, development editors work with content; copy editors check for clarity, organization, and grammar; and proofreaders perform a final check for errors.

Make a list of the various tasks you need to have done. If you have specific concerns—e.g., do I use too much jargon? or is chapter 7 confusing?—note those, too. Then decide which kind of an editor will be right for you now. If you have concerns that bridge a variety of editorial jobs, know that you might need to hire more than one editor.


Ask and research

Ask your colleagues to share the names of their favorite editors. If you belong to a specific writing organization—like Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America—ask if they maintain a list of recommended editors. When you get a recommendation, ask your colleagues about their experience: what was the process like, what did they find most helpful, what did they find least helpful, what was the fee? These questions will help you find a short list of editors that will be a good fit for you.

Review the web sites and LinkedIn profiles of the editors you are considering. Research them online, making sure that there are no substantial complaints about them.


Ask for a consultation

Almost all reputable editors will give you a complimentary consultation. Some will even do a test edit, reviewing a few pages of your work so that you can know what to expect from the editor and the editor can learn more about your writing.

Let the editor know about your list of concerns and issues for your book and what kind of an edit you want. Talk frankly about what you want to get from the editing process. Ask the editor what exactly they can provide and what their price points are. Find out about the editor’s process—will they edit the manuscript all at once or pass it back to you for revisions? Will they be willing to talk to you about the manuscript after they edit it? Also, have a conversation about the mechanics—do they edit a hard copy or use a word processing program? Ask for references of clients who have worked for them. Finally, ask for a written price quote.


Shop around

Talk to multiple editors. Check their credentials and referrals. Compare their credentials against what you are asking them to do. Some things to look for:

+Does the editor have experience editing the type of book you’ve written? If your editor has worked with only nonfiction, they might not be the best choice to edit your mystery novel.

+Does the editor know the style guide you’re working with? Different publishers and periodicals use different editorial guidelines, including the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP style.

+How do the editor’s prices compare with other editors in your area or field?

Weigh price and qualifications together. You may pay less for a newbie but not receive the same level of editing as you’d get with an experienced editor.


Get it in writing

Once you’ve hired an editor, ask the editor to put your agreement in writing. The agreement should contain a list of what the writer can expect the editor to do, how the process will work, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. The agreement will also include a payment schedule. Most editors ask for a portion of the payment up front and the rest upon satisfactory completion of the editing work. If the project is a long one, some will ask for a payment in the middle of the process.


What have I missed?

Ask your questions in the comment section below.


A version of this article appeared in Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell about It) by Rochelle Melander




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