Finding the right editor for you

Editors are usually nice people. At least, the ones I've met are nowhere near the pedantic nit-pickers they are usually made out to be. (Thought I'd better get that cleared up straight away.)

So, how do you find a good editor?


The first thing you need to do is have some idea what you need for your story. Yes, there are different types of editing and you should have some idea what you need before you approach a potential editor. See The Three Phases of Editing for more information and help in deciding what you need.

 

You can always approach a professional editing association in your state for their recommendation on where to find an editor that might meet your needs. For example, the Institute of Professional Editors has a list of accredited editors on their website.

But finding the right editor - one that will 'get' your style of writing, who will be helpful and accommodating and work collaboratively with you on your story is a lot harder than merely engaging just any old editor. ​Because you won't really know what kind of editor you've got until you begin working with them. And, believe me, you'll know almost as soon as you start whether they 'get' your writing, and honestly want the best for your story.


Because, of course, that's the type of editor you need. It's certainly the type of editor you should try and find.
 

But let's first look at what an editor will do, won't they won't and then explore some suggestions on how to find an editor you'll be happy to work with for a long time to come.

What an editor will do:

The type of work or help an editor will give you depends entirely on what you want the editor for in the first place.

For example, if you want someone to go through your story to check for inconsistencies, to make sure your story makes sense and that the story flows in a relativity smooth and logical way, then you're probably looking for a structural edit. This takes longer, and will cost you more, but is definitely worthwhile. So, you'll need to seek out editors who specialise in doing this type of editing.

 

If you're looking for someone to check your grammar, then you're probably looking for a line or copy editor, or even a proof reader. Because that's what they do. They pick up any spelling mistakes, any grammatical errors, and, sometimes, any passive voice or changes in points of view.
 

Again, take a look at The Three Phases of Editing to help you work out what type of editing you might need in the first instance for your story.

But what every editor will do is help you with your story. They'll do the job you've asked them to do to the best of their ability. If that's to make your story flow smoothly, effortlessly, and at just the right pace, then that's what they'll do.

 

They'll most likely use track changes (I know I always do). This means it'll be your decision whether to accept or reject their suggested changes. They may add comments - both good (this is great!) and instructional (you might consider....), depending on what you've engaged them to do.

 

Nevertheless, good editors always want to make your story better. To improve it, make it clearer or more succinct. To get your message across without all the fluff or distractions.


These are the only type of editors you should be considering when hiring an someone for your story.

What an editor won't do:

They will never, ever, write or rewrite the story for you.


They should never try to impose ‘their’ writing style on your story. That is not their job. That isn't to say they won't suggest structural, grammatical or logical changes to your story. They will. But it'll be up to you whether you accept these suggestions or not. Because, at the end of the day, it's your story, no-one else's. So that decision is firmly and wholly in your court.

Also, an editor should never take your story idea and make it their own. Not only is that illegal, but it's also morally wrong.

Some suggestion on how to find an editor that will suit you...

  • Seek advice from your local Professional Editor's Association
    For example, the Institute of Professional Editors has a list of accredited editors on their website and I am sure they would be happy to help you find a suitable editor from among their membership. I'm not saying this is the ONLY thing you should do, but it is a good place to start your search.

     

  • Seek recommendations
    Personal recommendations can be one of the best way to find an editor. But be warned. What works for your friend or associate or colleague might not work for you. But gaining recommendations from others in a similar field as you is definitely another good way of finding an editor you'll be happy with.

  • Ask questions.
    Questions like: How much do you charge? What's your estimated turnaround time? What do I get for the fee you're charging? Can I speak to your other clients to see how they found working with you? Who else have you worked with? What's your experience working with xxxx stories? 
    You should be able to gauge how well you can work with them by how wiling they are to answer your questions, and how long it takes them to respond. Not a fool-proof method, by any means. But there's no harm in asking as many questions as you need to be assured you're both on the same page before you hand over your hard-earned money.

     

  • Ask them to do a sample edit.
    Sample edits are like those sample chapters you can download from the Kindle store. It gives you a taste. It allows you to assess whether this editor is a good fit for you and your style of writing.
    How it works in practise is you send your first chapter or certain number of words through to your prospective editor to work on. They do their thing on your precious words and send it back. You get to see the way they'll approach your writing, and it'll give the editor a good idea on how long they'll need to complete the tasks you want. 
    Most editors will be happy to do this, but if they're not, or want to charge you for the privilege, drop them immediately. Mind you, some might send your sample back to you without doing anything because they don't have the capacity to take on more clients or for various other reasons. This doesn't happen often - they wouldn't have agreed to do the sample if they didn't think they could fit you into their schedule, but it does happen sometimes.

I've done sample chapters many, many times. I like doing sample chapters for a brand new client because this allows me to see what kind of writing you do and the amount of work your story will take. And that'll translate into me being able to give you a more accurate and detailed quote. So, a sample edit is a win-win, for everyone.

For new clients and sample chapters, I usually include a few more comments than normal, explaining why I've suggested the changes I have. I note this in the covering email, so my client doesn't get too overwhelmed by the number of changes and comments. [The more you work with someone, the more you can tune into the way they write, the way they express themselves and hopefully, they'll also learn some things along the way, too.] But with this initial interaction, I'm a 'more is good' kind of person. Doesn't always get me the client, but it does allow them to see what I do, how I work and what I'll probably do to their full manuscript.  
 

If you think I might be a good fit for you and your writing, I'd love to hear from you. I'm not cheap, but I'm not expensive either. And I will do my best to help you make your story, your article or web content the best and clearest it can be.