Qualities in an Effective Editor and Questions to Ask Them
Updated: Jan 9
Many people visualize editors helping with grammar and punctuation, but they do much more than that. They help with grammar, sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation, and they also help with the larger vision of your manuscript. Editors help writers create a clear central message, and they make sure these ideas have clarity, support, and accuracy. They help you sound smart and look like you know what you're talking about, which gives your voice credibility and authority. Editors often act as coach, confidante, counselor, corrector, and qualitative analyst, so you want to make sure you choose the right editor for you. There are as many types of editors as books and as many processes for writing books as people, so how do you know what editor is right for you? That's a good question!
You'll want to make sure that you choose an editor with specific qualities, regardless of your style and preferences, and then you'll need to ask yourself a few questions to find an editor that meshes with your style and needs.
Qualities in An Effective Editor and Questions to Ask Them Here are some qualities to look for in an effective editor:
1. Compassion--Effective editors know how to work with people and gets results, but they're also approachable. Do they have a way of getting through that's effective? While the writing is up to you, having the right editor can be the difference between success and failure. Sometimes there's a fine line between needing someone who will give you a needed kick in the pants and someone who knows when to be compassionate. Writing is personal and vulnerable, so you need someone who will push you, but know how to encourage you at the same time. You need someone who knows what your message means and why it's important--someone who understands your vision is important.
Questions to ask potential editor: Do they care about the work? Are they able to connect with you in a way that allows you to feel comfortable? Do they act as a guide that helps you get the work done?
2. Accountability--Your editor will act as a coach who pushes you to set and complete measurable goals based on specific outcomes. Good editors are disciplined, focused, and results-driven, and they act as a mentor to motivate you, to check in and see if you're staying on track, and to get you going again when you're stuck. They work with you to set realistic and concrete goals to keep you on a schedule and on track. Writing a book can take years, so they're there to save you time and ensure your book is written and edited in weeks instead.
Questions to ask potential editor: Do they set concrete goals based on specific outcomes? Do they check in regularly with you to make sure you're staying on track? When you get off track, what is their approach to coach you back on track?
3. Gets Results--At the end of the day, you need an editor that will help you get results. While you want someone who motivates you, you also need an editor that knows what they're doing. They need to understand the psychology of the writing process. If you have fears, are they able to help you get past those fears? This is where compassion meets accountability. You also needs an editor with a background that proves they know what they're doing.
Questions to ask potential editor: What is their process like? What do they do if you get stuck or have fears about your writing? Do they have testimonials, reviews, or a portfolio that shows a track record of experience? What is their background/education/affiliation? How long have they been editing? What kind of clients do they work with? What kinds of results have their clients gotten with their books?
Note the questions that are especially important to you, depending on your priorities. Consider these questions, and you'll be on your way to finding the best editor for your needs.