Thinking about how to choose the right editor for your book can be overwhelming! There’s so much to consider, and there are so many freelance editors out there, it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are some things you should consider when you’re searching for a freelance editor.
Do they have experience with the genre you’re writing in? This is important, because editors who are familiar with your genre will know the conventions that come along with that, and what readers will be looking for. They’ll also be familiar with the more cliché tropes of the genre, and can help you make your work stand out from the crowd. Plus, you want someone who is interested in what you’ve written!
Familiarity with age category matters too. If you’ve written a YA or a MG, it’s a good idea to work with someone who is familiar with the market and understands who the book is for. For instance, I work on YA a lot, and I’m often able to point out choices that just aren’t suitable for those categories: if your YA protagonist is ten years old of twenty-five years old, it isn’t YA.
Working with an editor who knows your market is key to making sure that your book will be marketable – and whether you might need to look at switching categories or changing elements of your book to suit your audience.
You’ll want to consider the services offered by the editor. If you’re looking for a developmental editor, you won’t have much luck if all the editor offers is proofreading and copyediting.
Consider if you want to work with the same editor across multiple stages, too, especially if you’ll be self-publishing and looking to build a relationship with your editor. Lots of editors offer both developmental services and copy/line editing, so you can hire them for both.
I will say that it’s always worth hiring a separate proofreader, because an editor can get very close to a project – a fresh pair of eyes will catch errors that have slipped through.
The editor’s style will be important, because if it doesn’t match what you want, they won’t be a good fit for you. If you want a hands-on developmental edit with structural changes to the manuscript, but the editor only offers an editorial report to evaluate the book, that’s a clash of style. If the editor is hands-off and not intrusive, but you’d like a deep, intensive line edit, you likely wouldn’t be a good fit either.
A lot of this does depend on what the manuscript needs as well – you might feel you need something more intensive – but this should be agreed with the editor.
You can usually get a feel for the editor’s style by asking them for a sample edit before you commit. This isn’t usually possible for developmental editing, but you can ask questions about how they work and take some time to look at their service descriptions.
Make sure your editor is qualified. This will help you to avoid getting burned or worse, scammed – the last thing you want is to work with someone hanging up their shingle as an editor when they don’t know how to edit, or someone who will take your money and disappear.
It’s also worth thinking about your editor’s experience more generally. Do you want someone with traditional publishing experience? A freelance editor who is also an author? Someone who has worked with lots of self-publishing authors? Take some time to consider their portfolio, qualifications and client list.
If you have a deadline in mind, consider what the editor’s schedule is like (some share this on their websites, but you can always ask). Most editors book up several months in advance, especially if they’re full-time freelancers, so when you start to think about editing, get in touch as soon as possible. More experienced editors are likely to be scheduling projects further out.
What’s your budget? If you aren’t concerned with that, and are happy to pay whatever is needed, established editors with significant experience probably wouldn’t be out of reach for you.
If you’re on a tight budget, search for editors who offer either affordable services or payment plans. Consider someone slightly newer to the industry who is just starting out and looking to build a portfolio – but do be mindful of who you contact to avoid red flags or being scammed. You’ll still want to make sure they aren’t going to butcher your manuscript.
It is worth noting here that editing is a professional service, and freelance editors deserve a living wage too. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to edit your 90k-word manuscript for £100, no matter the experience level they have.
The CIEP’s suggested minimum rates for editors and proofreaders can give you an idea of what to expect (these are suggested minimum hourly rates, in pounds). You can also check out the EFA’s rate chart for an idea of what editors charge (these are median rates based on data collected from editors, in dollars).
Getting along with your editor will be crucial! Do you like them? Do they give you a good vibe? If they’ve done a sample edit for you, were they polite and professional, or did you feel scolded and embarrassed? Finding an editor who you like, and who you feel supported and encouraged by, is important. Writing is already hard, so you want someone who you connect with and can trust with your stories.
How do you want to communicate with your editor? Some only do email. Other editors are happy to talk on the phone or to set up video chats. Your preferred method of communication will be really important here, because it’s no good working with someone who wants to talk on the phone if that makes you uncomfortable.
You could also consider social media here, too. You might find it easier to send messages on Facebook if you’re on the go often, so an editor with a business page who is happy to talk to you on there might be a good fit. Do you want an editor that you can exchange tweets with? Do remember to respect boundaries here, but some authors like their editor to have a presence online so they can boost and promote each other.
I hope this was helpful. The right editor is out there – just do your research, and don’t rush to make a decision. If you’d like to chat with me to see if we might be a good fit, you can get in touch here.