How to Choose the Right Editor

Posted by Kristen Hamilton on November 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM

I've been editing for a long time, and unfortunately I've seen countless (countless!) cases of authors coming to me after previously being "burned" by a bad editor. There are a lot of underexperienced editors out there—or even worse, people posing as editors who are in reality scammers—so this blog post gives you a crash course in what you should expect when choosing the right book editor.

No matter which editor you choose—and there are many different types of book editors, so choose wisely!—it's crucial to do your homework before making the final decision. Not only are you giving money to someone to do a service for you, you’re giving them the power to improve or destroy your work.

Five things to look out for:

1. Is the editor qualified?

Do they have education in English, writing, or an editing field? You'd be surprised how many "editors" don't have the proper education or skills! While years of on-the-job experience will help hone an editor's skills, nothing can replace the specialized learning that comes with earning a degree in English, writing, or editing. 

2. Does the editor have feedback and testimonials from previous clients?

If not, that might be a red flag. No feedback on an editor's website might mean that their clients—however many they have had in the past—were unhappy with the quality of work. You're paying good money; you should expect excellent service. There are too many book editors out there for you to settle for anything less.

Choose a book editor who has worked on many books in your genre, and who has glowing testimonials and recommendations from other authors.

3. Does the editor freely offer you sample work when asked?

Most editors freely provide sample edits to give you, the author, a chance to view his or her editing work. This is an opportunity for the editor to work her magic and show the author what to expect during the editing process. In most cases, the sample edit is done on an excerpt of your own manuscript.

You should typically send an excerpt from the middle of your book that is representative of the whole manuscript—not the beginning or end, which tend to get especially reworked and self-edited. After you receive the sample edit back from the editor, read the work and ask yourself: Does it read better? Do you agree with the editor's use of punctuation, such as em dashes or semicolons?

4. Does the editor offer a contract or written agreement?

This is a big one. I require a contract with every project, which provides the details of any editing project in writing, including the payments, editing services provided, and a confidentiality agreement. But when I look around the web at my competition, there are only a handful that provide their clients with contracts. Even if the editor you choose is qualified, does have feedback and testimonials, and does offer sample edits, put on the brakes if no contract is offered.

At the very least, protect yourself and ask the editor to provide a written agreement prior to you submitting payment or your manuscript.

5. Be wary of editors offering their work for a bottom-dollar price.

If someone is willing to edit your 75,000-word manuscript for $400, there's a problem. Though some editors are willing to work for lower-than-average prices, prices that low seem fishy. Countless clients have come to me after being "burned" by an editor who offered very low prices—only to never hear from them again or receive incomplete work.

There are thousands of editors to choose from, but finding the one that's right for you, your book, and your style of writing doesn't have to be a tricky process. Blake Atwood from The Write Life recently wrote a blog post titled Editorially Speaking: How to Find a Book Editor You Can Trust that echoes many of these same warnings and suggestions. Do your research; ask specific questions. You'll find the editor for you.

Editing is a time-consuming process that requires a combination of skill, knowledge of English grammar, and eagle eyes. The cost of editing is an investment—one that greatly improves the final product of your manuscript. Editing is a serious thing, and one I am passionate about, so please shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions!

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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of

Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing

services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several

authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have

topped Amazon's best sellers lists.

Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she

can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her

four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,

eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is

likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.

Categories: book editing

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