Just about every editor I follow or befriend is an excellent editor. They’re not only excellent—they are brilliant, kind, funny, and sharp.
So writers: how do you narrow down your options besides comparing prices and availability? And how can you know the process will turn out well before it even begins?
Here are some guiding principles that Travis and I follow as editors that we feel are vital for creating the perfect writer-editor duo. Let’s dive in.
1. They Specialize in Certain Genres
Most writers want to hire someone who goes beyond spell checking. You likely want to get feedback on characters, show-not-telling, the plot flow, and more. This list covers items that a developmental editor would handle, but there are a few things that any editor can look for to satisfy your book’s genre. Thus, it’s ideal to work with someone who understands the mechanics of your specific genre.
For example, I might not be the best editor for your poem anthology because I’m not a regular poetry consumer. I do try to stretch into other genres, but I make my home in all things fantasy and fiction. It’ll serve the poets more if they reach out to folks that understand how to write poetry so they can offer feedback and suggestions.
Last year, I edited Teralyn Mitchell’s book Between Two Moons (go read it—it’s juicy). She asked me if I could edit her spicy romance novel—not just if I was able but if I was okay with editing romance.
As a married woman, I knew I could handle the content but I could tell that Teralyn was really asking me “Can you edit this so my target audience will enjoy it?”
Everything worked out great and I appreciated that she helped me branch out to a genre I normally don’t read. But you should be like Teralyn and ask about these things if they are important to you.
A lot of editors will list these genres somewhere clear if they want specific clients. If you are unsure if your editor is up to the task, mention your genre in your email and ask them.
2. They Help You Understand the Pricing/Payment Options
Money is tricky and often hard to talk about; authors are looking to get the job done at a fair price and editors are trying to charge what they’re worth. We base our pricing on EFA guidelines. These rates are based on how much experience or education an editor has and what they’re editing. You can check out these rates before you find an editor but expect to see a range of prices.
Travis and I have chosen to share our specific rates on our services page so you could do the calculating yourself before you approach us about editing.
Each editor approaches rates differently, but it’s normal to see the list of services without the rates. Usually, you would need to email the editor and ask them about their rates there. I don’t think either approach is meant to be shady or tactical; it’s just based on what works for the editor.
Whoever you work with, you should understand the total amount or any additional payments in case the total increases at some point during the process. This is pivotal for any of you budget-keepers out there.
3. They Give You an Invoice or Contract
I remember once upon a time when I did editing without contracts; my clients and I just relied on email conversations. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine asked me for a contract for her to sign that I quickly changed my ways.
I’ve never had any legal issues or confusion over my work, but contracts or invoices are vital for record-keeping and protecting everyone involved. Thus, you should get a contract before your editor touches your manuscript.
The contract should clearly state what kind of edits you’re paying for, the cost breakdown, and other legal statements. For example, there could be a statement that says that the editor is not allowed to copy or share your work without permission—it’s sad that this must be said but it’s not a problem you want to have. Or, the editor might state the time frame when you must deliver your payment.
Usually, everyone is very mature and easy to work with, but contracts are an easy way to keep everyone accountable.
4. They Regularly Report on Their Progress
The editing process is easier for everyone when the editor offers updates on their work. As a writer, you could be huddled in one corner and wonder if they’re working on edits, if they’re finding everything, or even if they like it.
I remember having a client email in and sharing these concerns with me and I wanted to give them a big hug. I already knew what it was like to surrender your manuscript to critique but I appreciated the reminder to soothe the writer with honesty and positivity.
Sharing your work is hard. Leaving your book in the hands of an editor can be like dropping off the family dog at a kennel for a month. Whether things are going well or not, your editor should keep you posted on where they are.
I like to show that I’m actually enjoying the book by giving specific bench posts in the story rather than page numbers. Like, “I just got to the part where we figure out your character has a crush on so-and-so. I ship it!” Or, I might tell them some common issues I’m seeing so they have an idea of how much I’m fixing and how long it might take them to wrestle with my suggestions.
Can you tell we’re Team Communication?
5. They Communicate the Differences Between Errors & Suggestions
It’s vital to work with someone who knows the differences between set in stone edits (there’s only one way to spell certain words and verbs should agree with their subjects/objects) or suggestions (diction, word order, paragraph flow, etc.)
Regardless of your affinity for grammar, it’s wise to talk to the editor about your expectations. For example, if I’m working with an editor, I’d tell them that I’m worried about my commas because commas are wild.
It’s also ideal to work with someone who won’t be upset or offended if you disagree with their changes. Or, they shouldn’t be defensive if you ask for clarification.
I usually put my comments on the side to explain my decisions and remind the writer they are suggestions. This way, I let them know my reasoning while reminding them that they’re in control of their manuscript. This might look like how em dashes or ellipses are formatted, whether a fantasy word is capitalized, or I might point out that I found instances of “gray” and “grey” and they need to pick one.
Ultimately, an editor should ensure there are no distractions in the writing so your readers can focus on your story. This isn’t about who is smarter than the other or who gets the last word.
6. They Give You the Confidence You Need to Keep Going
This last point is the ultimate reason why I got into editing in the first place. After my own experiences with editors, I decided during college that I wanted to be a writer and editor to support my global writing community. I wanted to encourage people to write—not deter them from publishing.
Sometimes, I think back to when I was a young author in high school and I received really scathing feedback from a peer. I trusted them because they enjoyed reading in my genre. But they weren’t a good editor. It wasn’t the spelling errors they found but the attitude they brought to my project. I almost felt like I had wasted this friend’s time and I felt my creativity flicker and waver.
It wasn’t until I met another good friend—*cough cough* Travis—who edited the same manuscript but with empathy, professionalism, friendship, and honesty.
See, authors need honesty but they also need someone in their corner. Writing can be a very lonely hobby. Thus, a good editor should motivate you to dig into those edits keep going further into the publishing process.
Want to Work with Us?
So those are just six ways to know you’re working with a great editor. If you want to work with us, head over to our editing services page to see our rates.
You can also sign up for our newsletter—we offer 10% our editing services to our faithful subscribers.
In the meantime, did we leave anything out? Tell us about your experiences in the comments or on social media.