3 Steps to Choosing The Perfect Freelance Editor

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

shutterstock_96217187Digital publishing allows writers everywhere to become authors. One of the most important steps in getting your work polished for self-publishing is to hire a freelance editor for conceptual feedback and line edits. You can find many freelance editors with a search engine, but how do you know which editor is right for you?

Here’s a quick set of steps to choosing the perfect freelance editor.

Step 1: Reading

Contact the editor and send your manuscript. Ask the editor to read it, or a part of it, so you have a baseline of content to talk about. Freelance editors should be willing to read at least a few pages of what you’ve written—so they understand the scope of what they’re about to embark on. The partnership has to be mutually comfortable and reading your text is a great way for the editor to know what’s ahead.

Step 2: Talking

After you’ve given the editor some time to read your work, have a conversation. Make it relaxed so you can get to know each other. The goal is to discover whether you are compatible—and whether your visions for the book are aligned. Here are some suggested discussion points:

• Talk about the information in your background that is relevant to the project. Ask if the editor has any experiences that relate to your book.

• Tell the editor why you wrote the book. Ask the editor what he or she finds interesting about your book.

• Ask what hours the editor will be working on the project (night time, daytime, weekends)?

• Ask what is the best method of communication—calls or email or online chat sessions?

• How often would you like to have updates—every chapter, once the editor finishes the whole thing, every hundred pages?

• Schedules: How rapidly can the editor do the work? Are there any schedule restrictions (such as planned vacations) that will delay the process? What is your goal publication date?

• Fees: Ask the editor about fees. He or she may charge a flat fee, per word, or by the hour. Be clear about what work you expect to be completed for the fee.

• Scope Changes: The most difficult part about working with an editor is that issues may come up that make you re-evaluate the project as a whole. Listen to the editor’s advice—you may decide to re-write parts of the book. If so, that might extend the scope of the project. Talk upfront about how the editor deals with a change in the scope of the project. Will the editor charge more? How will you, together, decide what’s fair? Maybe a scope change won’t arise, but if it does, you’ll be glad you discussed at the outset.

Step 3: Sampling

If you like what you hear in the phone conversation, ask the editor to do a brief sample edit of the first chapter or first few pages of your book. That way you can tell if your work styles are compatible. Also, ask for references from his or her other clients. Call those people and talk to them.

Finally, ask the editor to send you some sample chapters of other books that he or she has worked on. Look at those samples. Are there too many comments? Too few? Do you appreciate the tone and substance of the comments? Looking at the editor’s previous work is the best way to know whether his or her comment style inspires you or rubs you the wrong way.

Take the time upfront to find the right editor

The freelance editor who reviews your self-published book will make a significant impact on its outcome. Before you agree to work together, take the time to choose the right person.

The first editor you speak with might not be the appropriate one for you—even though he or she might be a wonderful editor. Keep looking till you’ve found someone you trust to share your vision for the book.

3 thoughts on “3 Steps to Choosing The Perfect Freelance Editor

  1. Mike Simon

    These are excellent tips for anyone looking for a freelance editor. The most important one is to agree on goals – make sure that both you and the editor know WHAT to expect and WHEN to expect it.

  2. Christina M. Frey (@turntopage2)

    Great advice, although I disagree about obtaining example chapters of other books the editor’s worked on. Most authors I have worked with are unwilling to allow others to see their marked-up work. Additionally, because each manuscript’s needs are completely different, prior clients’ marked-up manuscripts may not be an accurate reflection of the editing experience of every author. The sample edit should be sufficient to determine the editor’s style (including tone and number of comments).

    1. ellen

      I have to agree with Christina, above. Editors respect their clients’ privacy–I would not advise any client I work with to hire an editor willing to show marked-up work. I would also advise writers that they may need to pay a small fee for the editor’s work on the first chapter. Editors’ time is worth money; it’s professional work. There needs to be clarity–this is not a “friend” looking something over. Lawyers don’t do a sample contract on spec, nor do appraisers, etc.. Doing too much work on spec is endemic in publishing and part of the industry’s problem.



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