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  • Writer's pictureSofia Sawyer

5 Tips for Finding and Hiring Editors

This month was all about lessons learned for little ol' me, so I figured I'd share the wealth. After all, the writing community is super supportive and transparent. It only feels right to give back when I can. Last week, I shared my tips for finding cover designers. Now it's time to dive into the process for editors. Your book can look pretty all it wants, but making sure the meat (aka the actual writing) is quality is something you shouldn't skimp on if you can afford it.

Whether you're looking to self-publish, wanting to polish your query letter or manuscript to submit to agents/publishers, or are a traditionally published author trying to go hybrid, hopefully, this post can make it a little easier for you. I won't lie, it's been a tad bit overwhelming to learn the ins and outs of this, and I'm sure I'll refine the process once I get used to it. But for now, here's my take on hiring my very first editor...or in this case, EDITORS.

Let's dive in.

Look at Your Favorite Authors or Respected Authors in your Genre

Just like I suggested in my post last week, you can easily find the names of editors in the front matter of the book. I usually find the names on the copyright or acknowledgment page. Are there certain authors (within your genre) that you absolutely love? Do their storylines enchant you? Does the prose sing? Does your inner grammar Nazi shake her fist in rage when she can't find a single typo? Good. Look in the front matter or contact the author to find out who they used!

If you're dabbling in a new genre or don't typically read the genre you write in, look at some of the highest rated authors within the genre. If you want to dive deeper, also read their reviews and make sure none of the negative ones call out horrible editing (plenty of reviewers will, FYI). You'll go through the same process of looking at their front matter to find their editors.

Tip: Make sure you research these editors and ensure they not only have experience editing within your genre but that they actually like editing it. There are a lot of rules and reader expectations within each genre. Your editor needs to know what elements are important to have in your story.

Leverage Respected Resources

There are a ton of different sources out there for writers that can protect them from hiring a shady person. Check out associations or respected resources that offer up that advice. If you have some editors in mind, make sure you research their websites, see if you can get a client testimonial, ask for the names of books they edited (so you can do a "Look Inside" on Amazon, read reviews, or purchase it and see for yourself), or do a Google search for news on them.

Or, if you use freelancer sites as I did with Reedsy, be sure to read customer reviews! They can be very telling.

Get a Sample Edit

As I mentioned in a previous post about working with my agent (a former editor), editors can deliver feedback in a number of ways. You can find an editor who's the best in the whole world, but if they don't jive with you, that's an issue. Luckily, many editors will offer a sample edit either on the first page or two or even the first chapter. TAKE IT.

When selecting my editors, I paid attention to the types of critiques they offered as well as how they delivered it. Did they give a clear explanation? Were they personable in their responses? Did they provide positive feedback on sections that worked aside from just the areas of improvement? Pay attention to that and find what works best for you.

Figure Out What Services You Need

If you have reliable critiquing partners or beta readers, you may be able to bypass certain services such as developmental edits and/or proofreading. For me, I went for it all. This is the very first book I'm putting out in the world, and I was worried about crashing and burning before my writing career even took off (don't we all?), therefore, I went for a developmental edit, copy/line edit, and proofread.

Also, note that I had to save funds to afford all of these. A lot of these edits—especially developmental—can be pricey. But since I pantsed this book and it's a romantic suspense, I wanted extra eyes on it to make sure the storyline was believable, the killer wasn't immediately obvious, and that there were no plot holes or loose ends when it came to leads. That's just me. If you're confident in your writing or you have those people you can turn to, you could skip that.

Tip: If you're worried about costs, some editors offer a discount if you purchase multiple services for them. Silly me ended up hiring a developmental editor before I realized she didn't do copy editing, so I missed out on that chance. Also, many writers suggest hiring a different person to proofread after the copy edit to get a fresh set of eyes. Once again, that meant I didn't have a chance to combine services, and now I have three editors working on my manuscript.


Confirm a Timeline and Get a Contract

Just like cover designers, several editors I reached out to were booked for months out. If you have a specific launch date in mind, you need to consider that. On average, I was seeing editors booked out for about 2-3 months. I did find a developmental editor who was available within a month and then a copy editor who was available a month after that. For me, that works out well because it gave me around three weeks to make any changes the developmental editor suggests before I need to hand it off to the copy editor. From there, I secured an expected deadline from the copy editor, which helped me coordinate a proofreader with some wiggle room.

No matter what your situation is, make sure you protect yourself. If you aren't using a site like Reedsy that helps protect both parties when you sign up to work together, then definitely get a contract. Work with your editor to determine expectations and deadlines. The last thing you want is to hire an editor and expect the two-week turnaround, and then have them sit on it because there was no hard and fast contract that they had to abide by.

Wherever you are in your journey, make sure you make the most of this time. Pay attention to every interaction with your editors and the expertise they provide. This is a way for you to test people out to see who works best as your partner. In some cases, you may need to go through a few editors before you find one you absolutely love, so it's best that you focus on these aspects while going through the process.


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