How do I find a good editor?

During the month of February, we are going to explore some aspects of editing your book. I’ve recently added a page to my website, designed to help you figure out which stage of your novel you’re at and what you should seek for feedback.

Narrowing it down, though, let’s take a step back and talk about what you should look for from an editor. Of course I’ll be highlighting things that I offer as an editor, but, in all fairness, you may find a fantastic editor during your journey that you just never click with. You may find editors who have worked with award-winning authors, whose feedback you don’t like or can’t quite utilize. A book is a very personal journey, and sharing it with your critique partners, betas, and editors can be emotionally exhausting.

Where should you start?

Obviously, since you’re already here, you’ve got some sense of direction. Lots of authors have found me through twitter and LinkedIn, and I even had Wix inform me that my website is getting some clicks through Google! The best way to find an editor, in my experience, is to ask other authors for recommendations. In this case, the author has been through the critique/editing process with the editor in questions and has found their feedback helpful and pleasant.

Once you have your field of vision narrowed down, you need to ask for two things:

A quote, with realistic price range and time frame (note that these may not be exact, depending on what stage of the manuscript you’re at and how many variables stand).

A sample edit. Any editor who does not offer you a sample is likely not worth your time or money. This should consist of at least 500 words (I offer 1,000 or more), so you have an idea of how they flow, critique, and what their process/turnaround is.

Being in the business, I’ve done plenty of research into pricing for editing. You are welcome to do searches as well, as there are plenty of articles that outline and break down average pricing (like this one).

Once you’ve gotten your sample and quote, I strongly recommend that you “shop around.” Find two or three editors who are well-spoken-of in your circles, and see if they will all offer you a sample and a quote. From there, you can find a combination of “this fits in my budget” and “this person has the insights and communication skills I’m looking for.” Bear in mind, you’re likely looking at a fairly large sum of money and possibly a waitlist, so ensure that you budget the correct amount of both time and finances before you begin your quest. If you can, begin looking for an editor a month or two before you project that you’ll complete your novel.

Some things to look out for (warning signs that an editor may not be right for you) include:

  • An editor who wants to change your vision (suggests revisions farther outside of your original concept than you are comfortable with);

  • An editor who gives you a blanket price/quote without looking at a sample of your work (this doesn’t count in the case of limited-time special pricing or deals the editor may be offering during a slow season);

  • Unapproved changes/revisions to fundamental parts of your manuscript. This one is a little tricky because, depending on your skill level, your editor may not be able to discern the meaning behind certain sentences and paragraphs. In this case, you should be working closely together to make sure that you are both on the same page. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to email my authors or take notes asking for clarification in certain areas;

  • An editor who can’t adhere to deadlines, doesn’t communicate or respond, or becomes annoyed when you ask followup questions (either during the editing process or following it).

Once you are working with someone, be sure to keep your mind open, and be ready to make some changes! If you are doing a substantive content edit, there may be large chunks that need changed in order to fit your narrative. Even during your beta read, you must remember that your goal is to make your book the best it can be; this should be the goal of your team, as well. If your CP, beta, or editor request clarification somewhere, they don’t mean an explanation from you, in the notes. Your prose and writing should be as concise and clear as possible, and if your CPs are left with questions, your later audience will be, as well.

None of this is to say that your audience will never have questions; in fact, mystery is a compelling part of storytelling! The problem is when the questions become technical, as in the case of misunderstanding how an action or movement is possible because of something you, the author, overlooked.

What about the bad editors? What happens if you’re halfway through working with someone, and you realize that they may not be the right editor for you?

It’s a bit trickier getting out of an author/editor relationship once you’re in it. Depending on what type of paperwork you signed, you may be legally obligated to stick with them – this is, again, why the sample edit is so very important. You want to ensure that you are committing to the right person for the job. However, if you’re in a sticky situation, remember to always be communicative. A good editor will do their best to adapt to your needs and answer all of your questions. Sometimes, they may just not realize that you’re having an issue!

Before I sign off today, I’d like to make a special announcement:

Tomorrow, the Overhaul My Novel Beta Program will hold its official launch! Please welcome our cast of beta readers, who have elected to dedicate their time and energy reading for all of you! All of them are reading on a purely volunteer basis, and connecting you with a beta is entirely free of charge!

Amy Kiyoko

Michelle Toale-Burke

Nicole Powell

Natalie Gasper

Gloria Bottelman

Miranda Flores-Ross

Leonni Lark

Sarah Nestler

Avril Marie Aalund

Erin Robinson

Arwyn Sherman

Aaron Thiel

Wes Schulte

Thank you all for joining me here; I can’t wait to connect everyone!

I’ve closed signups for now to give the program some time to settle. The next window for signup will be March 4th through March 8th. I look forward to hearing from you, then!

Next week’s blog post will cover the beta reading process!




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