You’ve done the hard bit – you’ve laboured on a manuscript for weeks or even months and now you’ve started to think about publication. But you know it needs editing and so you start looking for an editor. With countless individuals offering their services, as well as a great number of editing companies, how do you know where to start? Here are some tips.
Where to look?
Start with Google; many freelance editors have a website and you may even find one based locally. Look at the editing societies’ websites: CIEP, ACES, MET, Editors Canada, IPEd. Then there are online directories: Find a Proofreader, Reedsy, People per Hour. Ask around – has someone you know already worked with an editor and can recommend them?
What to look for?
There are a number of things that’ll distinguish a good editor from a great one, and not every great editor will be a good fit for you and your manuscript. So, what are some of the points to consider?
- What’s your first impression on contact? Are they easy to get in touch with, do they respond promptly, do they seem interested, professional, nice? A lot can be gauged from that initial email exchange, so trust your gut feeling. You’ll be working with them for a while and it’s good to get on. If they can’t respond at length immediately, do they get back to you when they said they would? Sending a holding message and then making good on their word is a mark of an editor who treats their clients with respect and honours their own commitments (think those deadlines!).
- If the editor has a blog or a social media presence, check those out – you may learn a bit more about them as a person and an expert. What are the things they write about? Do you like who they are to the world? Do they seem to know a thing or two about their topic?
- Have you seen a sample of their work? If they haven’t offered you a sample edit, you can request one. It’s usually a 1-page (500 word) excerpt from somewhere in the middle of the manuscript. Some editors will charge a small fee for a sample, some will do it for free. A sample edit is a win-win: you’ll see how an editor works and how well they understood your brief; they will see if yours is the kind of manuscript they’ll be able to help with.
- Are they able (and happy) to answer your questions competently, recommend resources and advise you on the best way forward, or are they just saying ‘yes’ to everything you’re suggesting? Remember, you’re the client but they’re the expert – you should be able to rely on their knowledge and advice.
- Do they charge more or less than others? Can you think why that is? If they charge less by a large margin, they may be less experienced, but are they upfront about this? They may also be keen (too keen?) for work – perhaps they overstretch themselves, taking on too many projects? Perhaps they’ve come up with a quote for you in a rush and didn’t prepare for any contingencies – this may mean surprises down the line, both financial (work may suddenly grow more expensive) and timewise (deadlines missed). Think of the quote carefully and consider how best you can budget for the work.
- Are they a member of any recognised professional editors’ society? Membership ensures training, accreditation, staying on top of their game, and keeping up with editing, language and industry trends. Some societies also offer arbitration in the unfortunate event that things don’t go well. This benefits both the editor and their client.
- Do they specialise in any particular area, topic or are they a jack of all trades (‘I can edit anything!’)? There are so many different types of editing: line editing, copy-editing, developmental editing, editing for fiction, non-fiction, editing screenplays, editing for the web, editing government reports, financial reports, editing cookbooks, editing poetry – and they each require different skillsets. It’s good to work with an editor who’s aligned with the area you’re going to publish in.
I hope this is a good start. Can you think of any other questions to ask? Put together a list and use it to aid your search. A good editor can bring enormous value to your work (think more readers, more social media shares, increased chance of publication, better book sales), so it’s well worth investing some time into finding the one who’ll suit you.
At the end of the day, finding an editor is a bit like job hunting – you’ve got to know what you need, hunt around and trust your instincts. Good luck!
Can I help?
If you’re looking for an editor for your book, report or paper, perhaps I can help? Give me a shout – it’s just an email and I’ll respond quickly!