We all know how it goes. You write a knockout book, but that’s only the beginning. Getting from The End to publication can be a real headache, and a big part of that headache is finding an editor who is affordable, professional and available when you need them.
There are simply thousands of editors to choose from. Post a ‘Need an Editor’ ad on any forum or message board and you’ll be inundated with folks eager to help you out. But. How do you know if they are actually any good?
Unfortunately, there is no tried and true way to tell. Ideally, once you find a good editor, you’ll stick with them through thick and thin to avoid going back into that murky pool of often dubious talent. To get you started on your journey to finding a good editor, here are a few rules of thumb to follow.
Get a Sample Edit
Getting sample edits can be a bit of a pain for writers (as well as editors) since it includes extra legwork, but it’s an essential part of finding an editor who is a good fit for you. Most editors will offer 1,000 words or so free as a sample edit. Track down a few likely candidates and ask for sample edits.
Take some time to compare the results, check that they caught all the errors they should have done and go with the editor who seems like the best fit for you. Generally speaking, someone who has good response times, doesn’t make too many arbitrary changes and catches those barely-there errors and inconsistencies as well as the obvious ones is a solid choice.
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Ask Other Authors
Got some author friends who are a bit more seasoned in the business than you? Ask for some recommendations for a good editor. Word of mouth is a great way to find a really fantastic service—provided you trust the source. Don’t rely solely on someone else’s opinion though—it’s still important to judge an editor’s work for yourself, so don’t skip that sample edit!
Ask for References
Just like any job interview, you are totally within your rights to ask a prospective editor to provide a few examples of their previous work. You can also use this method to check if they have any experience in a specific genre. If and when they provide a few author names, do your research and check those authors’ books (you can often see a sample on their sites or on Amazon) and their reviews. This will only get you so far, but it’s a good way to weed out those with little to no real-world experience.
Don’t Go Dirt Cheap
It’s possible that you might find an absolute gem of an editor charging bargain basement rates—but it’s not likely. You don’t necessarily need to go top shelf, but look for rates which don’t strike you as too good to be true (because they almost certainly are). If you want a job done properly, look for an editor with experience, not an English major trying to make a few extra dollars.
Even with all these tools in your pocket, there is still a measure of luck involved in finding an amazing service at an affordable rate, but it’s worth doing some extra work to make sure you find a quality editor. After all, if they do a bad job, thousands of readers will be sure to let you know.
Emily Nemchick is a freelance copy editor. She enjoys reading practically anything, preferably curled up somewhere cozy with a cup of tea. She can generally be found in front of her laptop, probably eating a cookie.