First Steps of Hiring an Editor

Here are the first steps when looking for a new editor.

Amanda Rosehart

11/17/20213 min read

So I realize some authors haven’t worked with editors yet. Or maybe you had an editor that you didn’t like. My goal with this post is to break down my early process so that you have a better idea of what you’re getting into and what you should be looking for.

To start off, I give you my website information so that you can look through my services and get a basic idea of what I offer. If you like the services and prices, great!  The next step is giving me a brief summary of the project. What information is helpful to me as the editor?

  • Who’s the audience? A book written for children is going to sound very different from one written for teens. And adults expect different character traits and plots than children or teens do. An article written for a scientist in a related field is going to be very different from a fictional book for entertainment. So, I’m going to need to change what I’m looking for while editing so that it's accessible to whoever you want the reader to be.

  • What genre is it? Fantasy has different expectations than thrillers. How the story flows, what types of events take place, the feelings your words evoke in the reader … All those factors are important to consider as an editor. A sentence or paragraph can have perfect grammar and spelling, but that doesn’t mean it's going to fit the vibe you were going for. 

  • How in depth do you want me to edit? A final proofread for spelling takes less time than a line edit where I’m suggesting changes to sentence order so that a scene flows better. 

  • Do you have a deadline? Knowing if you have a specific deadline or an expected timeline up front will save time for you. If I have the room in my schedule, great! If not, then that’s a real easy way to narrow down your choice of editor. 

Once I have a decent idea of what you’re looking for and that the time frame works for both of us, then it’s time for the sample edit. This is when you provide me a short sample of your work for me to edit. Then, afterwards, I give it back to you. This sample does a couple things:

  • It gives me an idea of how long it will take and the scope of the edits required. If there was any confusion about what service was required, this is a good place to figure it out.

  • It gives you an idea of what edits I’m going to be making. Hopefully, most of the edits/suggestions will make sense and fit what you’re thinking. If I make edits and you don’t like or disagree with them, that’s really good information for you. 

  • It allows both of us to get a feel for how the rest of the job will go. A sort of trial period, if you will.

This sample will ideally come from somewhere in the middle of the book. Generally, people are more diligent about errors in the beginning and the plot is just being introduced. A sample from the middle will be a more accurate representation of the work as a whole. However, the exact location of the sample is not nearly as important as getting the sample. The sample will give you the best opportunity of weeding out editors that either don’t know what they’re doing or don’t listen to the client and just make whatever edits they want.

When comparing sample edits, it’s not about whether they changed that comma to a period. They all should have them if it’s a clear-cut situation. What you’re looking for is

  1. are they doing the work I requested? and 

  2. do the suggestions fit what I was expecting?

If not, find another editor. An editor can be a very nice person and a great editor, and still not be a good fit for you. And that’s okay.

Note that some editors, especially if they have more clients and are better established, will charge a small, flat fee for a sample edit. 

In the end, you deserve a book that you’re happy with. If an editor doesn’t feel right, then go with someone else. A professional editor will understand and have no hard feelings. It may sound like a lot of work up front, but it will be worth it when you have a finished work you're proud of.