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  • Rachel Leroy

How to Choose the Best Editor for Your Book


Seven Steps to Choose the Right Editor for You You've completed the first draft for your book, but now what do you do? This blog shows you what do to find the right editor for your manuscript. Somewhere, there is an editor that is just right for your work. Here are steps to take to ensure you find the best editor for your work and needs.

1. Understand the different kinds of editing your book needs and communicate your needs with potential editors. While there is some overlap between these different types of editing and each editor will interpret these differently or use different words, these are the fundamental forms of editing that book authors need:

  • Developmental Editing--(Sometimes called content or structural editing) is the larger context of the work, including overall message, organization, chapter outline, logic of ideas, early drafting, and feasibility of approach. Editor(s) and/or writer(s) need to complete this process before any other forms of editing can take place. This can be the most time-consuming and expensive form of editing.

  • Line Editing--(Sometimes called substantive or stylistic editing) is smoothing the structural issues in the work in sentences and within and among paragraphs in the work for cohesion, clarity, and conciseness. Many consider line editing part of copy editing.

  • Copy Editing--(Sometimes includes line editing--I combine these two in my editing) includes correcting grammatical, punctuation, mechanical, and vocabulary issues in the work, as well as correcting the document for accuracy, like fact-checking.

  • Proofreading--includes a check of the final copy or "proof" of the work for typos, spelling, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and formatting inconsistencies. This tends to be the quickest and most affordable kind of editing.

2. Find the editor that's right for you. Depending on what you need, consider the questions in the section Qualities in an Effective Editor. However, even a good editor isn't necessarily compatible with your style or vibe. How do you know if they're right for you? Consider some of the following questions:

  • Do they have a clear track record of skills, experience, and success/results? Ways to tell if they do include social proof on their website of books edited, testimonials, reviews, education, and experience and interest in your genre/niche. Are they on several reputable sites?

  • Is there passion reflected in their website and work? If you can, see a sample of their work. While some editors may not have all of the examples listed above, there should be a track record of experience, competence, and professionalism.

  • What do others have to say about the editor with whom you want to work? Ask editors and their clients questions, particularly the things that matter most to you.

  • Are they passionate about your message and/or niche? Do they have experience in your genre or niche?

  • While not the first quality to look for, are they courteous? Even more important, are they reliable?

  • Does the editor mesh with your vibe? They may check all the boxes above, but you need to be able to work with the editor you hire, so trust your gut instinct before hiring anyone.

3. Before you hire, know your budget and time frame. While it saves time and money in the long run, editing a book can be time consuming and expensive, so be sure you're realistic about the process.

  • Speak with authors who have hired an editor or at least those who have edited their own work. There is no prescribed length of time to write, edit, or proofread a book, though there is a general time range most editors take to do these steps.

  • How long it takes in each step of the editing process can depend on the editor and quality of the work. Some will charge more for a quick turnaround, and editors work at differences paces. Everyone is unique.

  • Editing almost always takes more time than expected, so build in extra time for contingencies.

  • Also consider that some editors are booked out months or more.

  • Do you have an ultimate goal for when you want the final proof completed?

  • Do you have a goal for each step in the process?

  • Do you want an editor for developmental editing, line editing, copy editing, or proofreading, or some combination of these? Many editors offer different tiers and packages based on these steps.

  • Are there external circumstances that influence your deadline?

  • How much help do you need with the book?

  • How much are you willing to spend?

  • How much can you set aside for editing, and how much help can you get based on your editor's estimates?

  • Most editors can give you an average on their time frame and clarify variables that impact completion of the final product. Please note that estimations of time and cost are averages and can vary as the project evolves. Communicate these questions and concerns with your editor.

4. Know where to find editors. For example, while you can do a Google search for editors, this might not be the best way to find one. It does work out for some people, but a Google search will bring up top editors first, who are often booked out longer and are more expensive than other qualified editors. If you have a modest budget, a Google search won't be helpful. If you can pay top dollar, then go for it.


Here are tips for finding the the right editor:

  • Go to places where authors and editors hang out such as writing groups and sites, Facebook groups, and other writing and editing communities. You can find both writers and editors on these sites.

  • Search the job boards or reputable editors' organizations such as Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), Society for Editing (ACES), etc. Check which organizations are prevalent in your country, as they may vary.

  • Go to job boards with experienced editors that include editor lists such as Reedsy, Upwork, Fiverr, Scribendi, etc. There are many sites where you can hire editors, but each one varies, so do you homework and know the risks before hiring on such a site. Also note, many of these sites take a percent of the editing fee for providing this service.

  • Ask for referrals from those who've worked with an editor.

5. Talk to and test several editors (at least two or three), whether in person or by phone, conference call, or email. It is optimal to speak with them by phone or conference call to get an idea of what they're like. When you test editors, some will do a sample edit of a chapter or two for free or for a small fee. A small fee is not uncommon. If an editor is at the top of your list, the fee may be worth the investment.

When you talk to several editors, see if they have the following qualities:

  • enthusiasm about your project

  • connection with you and the work

  • reason for genre, subject matter, message.

When you test editors, consider these steps.

  • Have them give a sample edit or take an editing test.

  • Don't shy away from an editor that resonates. This is an important investment.

When you look at sample edits, consider the following:

  • Are they thorough and competent?

  • Do they have good attention to detail?

  • Are they slower because they're thorough?

  • Are they faster for a shorter time frame? Does this impact quality?

  • Does their style mesh/vibe with yours?

  • Do they get your voice and help you maintain it without killing it in the editing process?

  • Do they strike a balance between being thorough and keeping your voice?

  • Get multiple sample edits.

6. Don't automatically discount new editors. Just because someone is new, doesn't mean they're not a competent or good editor. Newer editors can be more affordable, easier to book soon, and still as competent and professional as experienced and booked editors. Test their skills based on the same suggestions given in this article to make sure they are the right editor for you.

7. Understand the editing process. Editing is difficult, time consuming, unpredictable, and messy. You can set deadlines, but you won't always make these. That's okay. Be flexible. The key is not to get so far behind that you lose sight of your goals. You and your editor will work together to ensure the editing process runs smoothly and you complete the work with a good final product in a timely manner.

In closing, there are a few other considerations when choosing an editor:

  • Some editors work with writers whose first language isn't English, and some may not. They may review a sample of the work, and part of what determines the fee may be the quality of the work. There are editors that specialize or work with non-native writers.

  • Rates of many editors may vary based on the specialty, genre, length, and quality of the writing, in addition to the kind of editing you want.

  • Don't select your editor solely on price. Many writers live to regret this, and they lose money and then spend more money to hire a better editor. That's why paying a small fee to get a sample can be a good investment.

  • Another consideration is how editors work. What software do they use? How will they communicate with you? What format do they prefer for editing? What systems do they use to edit your work and return edits to you?

  • Many editors also do "discovery calls" (or they may call them something similar) to see if you're a right fit for them as well, and you can request one as well. Keep in mind that the editor you work with is also looking for an appropriate project, so they'll want to ask you questions.

  • Another way you can test an editor to see if they're a good fit is getting a general overview or idea of your book's overall concept. Many editors will also do this for a customized and lesser fee than a whole edit. Even if you don't go with an editor that does this, you can get a helpful second opinion about your book's message, organization, and key ideas. They may charge a flat fee for such a service.

As you can see, there are numerous considerations that go into finding the editor that's right for you. It may seem like a daunting task, but asking the right questions, doing the right research, and getting sample edits can save time, money, and heartache in the long run, so it pays to follow some steps to find the right editor.

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