Sunday, May 27

How To Find The Right Freelance Editor For You

India Drummond recently shared her experience selecting a freelance editor. Her methodology makes so much sense that after I read her suggestions I thought: Of course! Why didn't that occur to me? All the truly good ideas are like that, they seem self-evident after the fact but a complete mystery beforehand.

India Drummond's Suggestions On How To Select An Editor

1. Ask everyone you know this question: Do you have an editor you can recommend?
I thought this was a stroke of genius. Rather than asking for editors to recommend themselves, ask other writers to recommend editors whose work they liked.

2. Narrow this list down to 12 people.
How? Go and look at the website of each prospective editor. They don't have one? Cross them off the list. Their website looks unprofessional? Cross them off the list.

3. Write a letter to each prospective editor.
In your letter let them know that:

a. This is a professional relationship you would like to enjoy for years to come.

b. Ask your prospective editor whether they are familiar with your genre (if you write genre fiction), and its conventions. For instance, if you write romance novels you don't want your editor to complain that the happily-ever-after ending was predictable!

c. Make sure your prospective editor is available to edit your book. Sometimes editors have a full plate and can't fit in new work in a certain time period.

d. Ask for references from their clients.

e. Make sure your prospective editor is comfortable with your style of writing. For instance, if she is American would she be comfortable with you using British spelling and conventions?

f. Make sure your prospective editor understands what services you would like from them. What one person means by "copyediting" another means by "proofreading" and vice versa. Also, if you would like your editor to indicate when they found a paragraph wordy or confusing, you need to make that clear up front so she or he can give you an accurate representation of her fees.

g. Ask your prospective editor to recommend another editor if they feel your work wouldn't be right for them.

h. Ask your prospective editor what form(s) of payment he would accept.

4. Based on the replies your prospective editors send you, narrow the list down further.

For instance, India eliminated any editors whose grammar wasn't up to snuff, who did not wish to provide references, who simply pointed her to their website, etc. She also rejected any who wouldn't accept PayPal. I thought it was very smart of her to address this detail. How frustrating it would be to finish the arduous process of picking an editor, have them edit your manuscript and then find out she doesn't accept your preferred method of payment! I wouldn't have thought of this, so thanks India.

5. Check references.
Write to the authors your perspective editor gave you and ask them:
* What did you like most and least about working with her? (Gives them an opening to give something other than glowing praise)
* Does she communicate clearly about issues in your manuscript? (Very important!)
* How does she handle follow-up questions?
* Do you generally use all her recommendations, or do you take some and leave some?
* Would you say her main strength is flow, structure, pacing, grammar/technical, spotting errors…or something else? (This allowed me to find out if the type of editing I needed was the same type this person had received.)
* Is it easy to book a project with her, or do you find you’re having to be squeezed in around a busy schedule?
* What do you receive on a full-length manuscript? A report? A document with tracked changes, etc? If a report, how long/detailed is it?
* Do you recommend her and plan to use her again?
- Hiring a Freelance Editor
6. Ask your prospective editors for a sample of their skills
Each of India's three prospective editors agreed to edit the first chapter of her next book. She writes:
Honestly, I expected them all to come back with virtually the same results. After all, a mistake is a mistake, isn’t it?

Well, no, it isn’t. Editing is incredibly subjective.

I was truly surprised at the difference in the marked-up manuscripts I got back, but so glad I went to the trouble of doing this. As I said, all of the editors were qualified, but comparing these was very useful in making my final decision.
Wow! India went to a LOT of work, but I bet it paid off. After all, a writer's relationship with her editor is, arguably, her most important professional relationship.

By the way, Susan Helene Gottfried is India Drummond's new editor.

Thanks to The Book Designer for his May 2012 issue of The Carnival of the Indies for leading me to India's marvelous article. Cheers!

To read India Drummond's complete article (something I highly recommend!) go here: Hiring a Freelance Editor


  1. It took me many years to find a film editor I coud trust and I'm finding the same difficulty with acquiring a copy editor for my novel (just fallen out with one in a terminal manner).

    Thanks for reposting that, Karen, it reminded me of my search for a film editor - same principles apply.

  2. Thanks for the comment! Glad you found it helpful.

    By the way, I like your blog, especially your April 13th article on editing. Loved the line, "Editing a novel is like killing a puppy, but much more messy." (Although I'm glad to say neither of us has killed a puppy!)

  3. "Editing a novel is like killing a puppy, but much more messy."

    Whence comes the knowledge to make such comparison? Methinks, experience. Eww.

  4. lol No, no. As I said in my comment, "I'm glad to say neither of us has killed a puppy". It is quite an evocative line, though.

    Although I must say that every writer I've read on the subject of editing has agreed it is a torturous process.


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