But where do you find a good editor? How can you avoid hiring an incompetent editor who will do more harm than good?
Here are a few general tips on how to find a good editor
Make sure you pick an editor who specializes in or at least has some experience in the genre of your choice. A wonderful editor specializing in mysteries won’t do you any good if you are writing romance novels or vice versa.
I suggest you check out several different editors and compare what they offer before you decide who fits your editing needs best.
Know what type of editor you are looking for. Do you need someone who does developmental editing? Or do you need a line editor or a copy editor? If you’re not sure, check out my blog post on the different types of editing.
Three ways to find an editor
Ask your writer friends or published authors whose books you liked about their editor.
Check out the member lists of organizations such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (US), the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (UK), the Institute of Professional Editors (Australia), the Editors’ Association of Canada, or the New Zealand Association of Manuscript Assessors (New Zealand).
Google editor/editing + the genre of your choice to find editor websites.
How to make sure the editor is qualified
After you have found several potential editors for your book, try to get more information about them. Some of the information might be on the editor’s website; for others, you will have to email them.
Qualification and experience: Look at the editor’s website. It should contain a bio or some information about the editor’s background. Have they ever worked in the publishing industry? If the editor has worked for a reputable publisher in the past, that’s a big plus, but it’s not automatically a disqualification if they haven’t. How long have they been editing? Are they a successful writer too? That might be a plus for a developmental editor.
References and testimonials: On their websites, most editors will name a list of books they’ve previously worked on. Ask for a list of completed projects and contact a few of the authors with whom the editor has worked before. What do these former clients say about the editor?
Track record: Also, check out the books the editor worked on. Read an excerpt to make sure there are no mistakes that the editor missed. Read reviews of the books. Do they mention big flaws that the editor should have caught?
Check websites such as Writer Beware, Absolut Write, and WritersWeekly to see if anything negative has been posted about the editor before you hire them. But, of course, keep in mind that just one disgruntled customer doesn’t necessarily mean an editor is a fraud.
Editor’s website: Does the editor’s website look professional? Does it have any spelling/grammar mistakes? If the editor can’t even correct mistakes on their own website, they probably won’t find them in your manuscript either.
Type of editing: Make sure the editor provides the type of editing you want or need. A copy editor will not help you with plot holes, while most content editors won’t correct your spelling mistakes. Once you contact the editor, make sure you find out what exactly the editor will be looking for and what they won’t do.
Genre: Most editors specialize in certain areas—nonfiction, fiction, technical writing, etc. Fiction editors often specialize in specific genres. Look for an editor who has experience in your genre.
Editing tools: If you are hiring a copy editor, ask them which style guide they use and whether they’ll provide you with a style sheet. If they don’t know what the heck you’re talking about, you’re not dealing with an experienced copy editor.
Do an editing trial run
If all the information on the editor’s website looks good and they could answer your questions to your satisfaction, request a sample edit.
Most editors offer free sample edits (usually 1,000 words) or at least a sample edit at a very low price.
So once you narrowed it down to one or two editors, contact them and request a sample edit. That way you can make sure the editor is a good match for you and your book. Are the editor’s comments clear and helpful? Do you find their suggestions helpful? Are they addressing the weaknesses you need help with? Do you like their style of communication?
If you do, congratulations! You found yourself an editor! If you’re not entirely satisfied, thank (and pay) the editor for the sample edit and go back to step 1 of the search.
I hope these tips help you find a great editor!