Tips for finding an editor

February 6, 2013

In past blog articles, I talked about why you need an editor. But where can you find a good editor? How can you avoid hiring an incompetent editor who will do more harm than good?

I suggest you check out several different editors. Ask other your writer friends or published authors whose books you liked about their editor. Search the Internet, e.g., blogs about editing, editors’ websites, etc. Organizations such as the Editorial Freelancers Association (US), the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (UK), the Institute of Professional Editors (Australia), the Editors’ Association of Canada, or the New Zealand Association of Manuscript Assessors (New Zealand) also have lists of members.

After you have found several potential editors for your book, try to get more information about them.

  • Qualification and experience: Look at the editor’s website. It should display a bio or some information about the editor’s background. Does she have an academic degree? Has she ever worked in the publishing industry? If the editor has worked for a reputable publisher in the past, that’s a big plus, but it’s not automatically a disqualification if she hasn’t. How long has she been editing? Is she a successful writer too? That might be a plus for a developmental editor.
  • References and testimonials: On their websites, most editors will name a list of books they worked on. Ask for a list of completed projects and contact a few of the authors with whom the editor has worked before. What do these former clients say about the editor?
  • Track record: Also, check out the books the editor worked on. Read an excerpt to make sure there are no mistakes that the editor overlooked. Read reviews of the books. Do they mention big flaws that the editor should have caught? Have some of the books the editor worked on been published by a traditional publisher, or are they all self-published books?
  • Check websites such as Preditors & Editors, Writer Beware, Absolut Write, and WritersWeekly to see if anything negative has been posted about the editor before you hire her. But, of course, keep in mind that just one disgruntled customer doesn’t necessarily mean an editor is a fraud.
  • Editor’s website: Does the editor’s website look professional? Does it have any spelling/grammar mistakes? If the editor can’t even correct mistakes on her own website, she probably won’t find them in your manuscript either.
  • Type of editing: Make sure the editor provides the type of editing you want or need. A copy editor will not help you with plot holes, while most content editors won’t correct your spelling mistakes. Once you contact the editor, make sure you find out what exactly the editor will be looking for and what she won’t do.
  • Genre: Most editors specialize in certain areas—nonfiction, fiction, technical writing, etc. Fiction editors often specialize in specific genres. If you write romance, it won’t help you much to hire an editor who has only worked on mysteries before. Look for an editor who has experience in your genre.
  • Fees: Check to see if the editor’s website gives you an idea about the costs of editing. Some editors have hourly rates, so the total costs depend on the length of the manuscript and the quality of writing. Other editors have flat rates that are based on word count. If the website doesn’t have information about the editing fees, ask the editor. After taking a look at your manuscript or a sample edit, the editor should be able to give you a rough estimation of how many working hours will go into editing the manuscript and how much it will cost. Be aware that the editor with the lowest cost isn’t necessarily the best choice.
  • Sample edit: Most editors offer free sample edits (usually 1,000 words) or at least a sample edit at a very low price. So once you narrowed it down to one or two editors, contact them and request a sample edit. That way you can make sure the editor is a good match for you and your book. Are the editor’s comments clear and helpful? Is the editor merely correcting spelling mistakes, or does she make suggestions to improve the book? Do you like her style of communication?
  • Editing tools: You might want to ask the editor which style guide she uses and whether she’ll provide you with a style sheet. If she doesn’t know what the heck you’re talking about, she’s not a professional editor.
  • Editing method: Make sure the editor’s preferred working method fits your needs. Some editors edit onscreen, using MS Word’s Track Changes and comments. Other editors edit the old-fashioned way with red ink on a hard copy of the manuscript. Never hire an editor who makes changes in your document without marking them so you can see what she did.

Does anyone else have tips for how to choose an editor? Please leave a comment.



  1. Thanks for this insightful post, Jae. One day, I hope to be able to engage an editor, and any and all info I can come across is greatly appreciated! Do you mind if I reblog this in a future post on mine? http://johntmherres.wordpress.com/

  2. Go ahead and reblog it all you want. Thanks for commenting and good luck with your writing.

  3. Reblogged this on BarbarianWriter and commented:
    I came across this blog, and found a whole bunch of useful information. Jae agreed to let me re-blog it, so here it is:

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