Ricardo Fayet is a co-founder of Reedsy, an online marketplace connecting authors with the best editorial, design, marketing and translation talent.
Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, once told me this about book editors: “They are authors’ unsung heroes.” I thought it beautifully summed up the role of editors in an author’s publishing journey.
Editors basically separate “amateur writers” from serious authors. Ask any author out there who makes a living out of their writing, and they’ll tell you just how important editors are.
Not only do you want to work with an editor, you want to work with the right one. In this post, I’ll explain, step-by-step, exactly how you can find that dream editor using the Reedsy platform.
If you want to get an idea of how much you should budget, we recently released an analysis of the costs of editing, broken down by word count and stage. Check it out here
1. Know what kind of editing you’re looking for
This might sound silly, but “I want to hire an editor” isn’t really precise enough. There are several types of editing and they are pretty different.
We’ve compiled a nice list of definitions for the different kinds of editing here, but as a general guideline, ask yourself what level of input you want from the editor.
Are you looking for professional feedback on the structure of your novel, the plot, story arc, pacing, characters; or are you simply looking for someone to catch grammar/spelling mistakes, hyphen inconsistencies, and punctuation errors? If you’re looking for deep, high-level input, you’ll benefit most from an editorial assessment or a developmental edit; in the other case you might prefer to stick to a copyedit and proofread.
Of course, bear in mind that professional copy-editors and proofreaders will immediately detect if your manuscript has developmental flaws, and often decline to work with you as a result. Copy-editing a manuscript that needs developmental input is basically like polishing an uncut diamond. It’ll be smooth, but it still won’t have a decent shape. And if you then decide to cut it, it’ll need another round of polishing anyway…
While you should strive to educate yourself as much as possible about the different levels of editing, and know what you’re looking for, you should also be attentive to the feedback you get from the editors you query. If they all tell you your manuscript needs a structural edit, there is a reason for that.
2. Do your homework
A core principle guiding the Reedsy philosophy is that you don’t throw your project into the open and wait for people to bid on it; instead you research the editors you’d like to get a quote from, and contact only them. This is because we don’t feature just any editors, we feature top professionals handpicked out of thousands of applicants, and personally vetted by us.
When browsing our marketplace, you can (and should) filter your search by type of editing, genre, and language (UK or US English). That will probably still give you more than 20 results. That’s where your job starts: go through each profile and look at portfolios for books similar to yours. Read each editor’s overview to get a sense of their personality, look at their work history, and see if something “connects” with you on a gut level.
You should be able to quickly find four or five that stand out from the rest and seem more relevant to your project. These are the ones you should select.
3. Ask for sample edits and a proposal
Once you select up to five editors to query, Reedsy guides you to create and send a single brief, and helps you keep all conversations and quotes in one place. So once you’ve made your selections, just fill in the brief as exhaustively as possible, and wait to hear back.
Still having trouble choosing favorites from our list of incredibly talented professionals?
Ask for sample edits
Not all will actually perform an edit on a sample of your manuscript, but those who don’t should be able to provide you with sample edits or edit letters from other manuscripts they’ve worked on. This will give you an idea of their editing style.
See what they have to say
Along with a quote, a good editor will usually give you their first impressions of your manuscript. Take that into account and start a conversation if you have questions. This will give you an idea of the kind of communications you’ll have during the editing process.
4. Don’t let price stand in the way
You’ll receive a range of quotes from your Reedsy editors, but the level of professionalism you’ll encounter on our marketplace means you can expect prices to occupy a similar range editor to editor.
If there’s an editor you really seem to hit it off with, but their quote is slightly higher (or even quite higher) than the others, don’t give up! Ask if you can spread the payments in installments, or ask if there’s room to adjust the scope of work to lower the price. Someone you really want to work with usually really wants to work with you too. Don’t let price prevent a great partnership from happening.
All these steps can seem tedious, but remember: all you’re basically going to be doing is talking to professional editors about your book. And they’ll answer. Isn’t that every author’s dream? More importantly, finding the right editor can be the start to a lifelong, fruitful collaboration, so it’s something worth taking seriously!
Ready to give Reedsy a try?