How to Hire a Good Book Editor
All authors need a second pair of eyes. Hiring an editor can be one of the most important parts of your book’s journey to success. Finding a professional editor who shares your vision, maintains your voice, and will work within a reasonable timeline will make your journey to publication easier and more enjoyable.
A big mistake self-published authors make is to try to save money by doing the editing and proofreading themselves. No author should rely on his own editing or on that of his niece, the college English major. Hiring a professional with experience editing and proofreading is necessary before publishing a book. Without the help of a good editor, an author risks his book being filled with typos and grammatical errors as well as plot or content issues that may confuse the reader, but which the author did not realize existed. In short, editing is not the place to try to save money.
Shop around when looking for an editor. Yes, you want a good price, but the price may not directly correlate with the editor’s skill. Find an editor whose editing and personal style work for you and your budget.
Lots of editors have hung out their shingles, some with no editing credentials. If you have writer friends, ask them for suggestions—if they had good relationships with editors, they will be happy to give referrals. Feel free to consider several different editors. It is fine to make them audition for you.
Audition? Yes, in the sense that you send the prospective editors a chapter or a few pages of your manuscript and ask them to give it a sample edit. Most editors will agree to spend an hour or edit a few pages for you so you can see what they think your book needs. You will then be able to tell whether they will respect your style—making your book sound better, while still making it sound like your book.
Never hire an editor based on price alone. Some editors state a simple flat rate, such as: “I charge $2,000 to edit a book.” There needs to be a basis for that price, both to be fair to the author and to the editor. If the book turns out to be 20,000 words, the author may be overpaying. If the book turns out to be 200,000 words, the editor has probably shortchanged himself.
Never hire an editor without it being clear what he will do for you. Requesting an editing sample is the best way to determine if you will get what you pay for.
The editing sample not only provides the author with an idea of the editor’s style, abilities, and vision for the book, but it allows the editor to calculate approximately how many hours it will take to edit the book based on the author’s writing abilities—grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, character development, and organization.
Once the editing sample is completed, the editor will give a price for editing. An author is generally wiser to ask for an overall price and settle on it rather than agree to pay the editor hourly—hourly adds up fast, and a good editor can provide a price quote that takes into account any little issues that need to be handled.
The editor will base the price on the book’s length, the degree of editing needed, and the approximate number of hours required to complete the work. If the editor feels from the editing sample that heavy editing will be needed to resolve major grammatical errors, inconsistencies of character development, plotting and organizational problems, you might request an editorial evaluation of your entire book where the editor does not rewrite anything but gives you advice so you can rewrite it yourself before you have the editor fine-tune it.
Editing levels vary from something as simple as proofreading to light and heavy editing. Light editing might require some rewriting of a sentence here or there along with proofreading for errors. Heavy editing may include rewriting passages, correcting major grammatical errors, making decisions about paragraph order, larger structural issues, and deleting unnecessary passages. Ask the editor what level of editing he feels you need; if you disagree with him after reviewing his justification for it, seek a second opinion. Make sure the type of editing required for the book and the cost to you are agreed upon before the work begins. You do not want the editor to edit only half of your book, and then ask you for more money.
The most important aspect of choosing the editor is not the cost or the timeframe to complete the work. It is how the book sounds when you read it after it has been edited. Make sure the editor respects your style. A good editor will make the book sound like your voice while correcting your grammar and helping you to develop or delete passages as necessary. You don’t want the editor to change your tone. After all, it is your book.
You’ve spent hours writing your book, so you owe it to yourself to have it be the best book possible that readers will enjoy, remember, and recommend to others. Finding a good editor is key to achieving that success.
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Review The Book, where authors and reviewers meet. Her team provides reviews of recently published books that are posted on the site as well as at least ten other sites.