Orna Ross, the 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.
While there are different types of editors, they all share one common goal: helping authors publish polished and professional books. An editor who has done a good job likely won’t have their handiwork noticed by a reader, but it is very clear to readers when a book has not been properly edited.
Not only should all authors work with an editor — you also want to work with the right one.
So how do you go about finding the collaborator who will help you turn your manuscript into a finished book that’s ready to hit the shelves? 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 release a yearly analysis of the costs of editing, broken down by genre, word count, and the type of editing you’re looking for. Check it out here.
1. Know what kind of editing you’re looking for
If you’re new to the publishing world, you might think of “editor” as an all-encompassing term to describe someone who reviews your story from top to bottom. However, there are several distinct types of editors, and they all approach manuscripts in fairly different ways.
We provide detailed definitions of the different types of editing here. But as a general guideline for determining what type of editing your work needs, ask yourself what level of input you want from an editor.
For instance, say you’re looking for professional feedback on the structure of your novel, the plot, story arc, pacing, characterization, or any other big-picture, high-level input. Then you’ll most benefit from an editorial assessment or a developmental edit. On the other hand, if you want someone to rid your novel of grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, then your best bet will be a copy edit and proofread.
If you do decide to go straight for the latter two types of editing, bear in mind that professional copy editors and proofreaders will immediately detect if your manuscript has developmental flaws, and might even decline to work with you as a result. Copy editing a manuscript that needs developmental input is essentially like polishing an uncut diamond. It’ll be smooth, but it still won’t have the right shape. And if you then decide to cut it afterward, it will still need another round of polishing anyway…
You should strive to educate yourself about the different levels of editing so that you can best identify what you’re looking for. At the same time, you should also be attentive to the feedback you get from the editors you query. If they all tell you your manuscript needs a developmental edit, there is a reason for that.
2. Do your homework
Something that’s always been very important to Reedsy is providing authors with a safe and secure environment in which to hire publishing professionals. We don’t want authors to have to worry about whether the editor they’re hiring is really qualified or trustworthy. This is why we don’t feature every editor who requests to be part of our marketplace — we accept only top professionals, all of them handpicked out of thousands of applicants, and personally vetted by us.
This is also why a core principle guiding the Reedsy philosophy is not to have authors throw their project into the ring and wait for an editor to bid on it. Instead, authors get access to our marketplace so that they can research the editors they’d like to quote and then contact them specifically for the best possible fit.
When you browse our marketplace, the first thing you should do is narrow your search by the type of editing you’re looking for, the genre of your book, and your language (UK or US English). You can also use the keyword search to find an editor with experience in a specific topic, or who has worked on a specific book.
That’s when your homework begins: your next job is to go through each profile and browse the editor’s portfolio to see if they’ve worked on books similar to yours. You should also read each editor’s overview to get a sense of their personality. Then, look at their work history and the reviews other authors have left them, and try to get an overall sense of whether their profile “connects” with you on a gut level.
You should be able to quickly find four or five editors who stand out and have work experience that feels relevant to your project. These are the ones you should select as you move onto the next step…
3. Ask for sample edits and a proposal
If you’re still having some trouble deciding which of our incredibly talented professionals to query, you can always try requesting sample edits from the editors on your shortlist.
Sample edits are not a standard part of the hiring process, and so not all editors will agree to do them. But those who don’t should still be able to provide you with sample edits from other manuscripts they’ve worked on — and this will help give you a clearer idea of their editing style.
Along with a quote (and potentially a sample edit), a good editor will usually give you their first impressions of your manuscript. Take that into account before making your final decision — and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions! This will give you an idea of the kind of communication you’ll have during the editing process.
Once you select up to five editors to query, Reedsy provides you with a brief template you can fill out to give editors a better idea of your book’s content and your editing needs. The brief is sent directly via Reedsy, and all communication takes place via Reedsy as well. That way, you can keep all conversations and documents organized and in one place.
4. Don’t let price stand in the way
You’ll receive a range of quotes from the Reedsy editors you query, but the uniformly high level of professionalism you’ll encounter on our marketplace means you can likely expect prices to not vary too much.
If there’s a professional you really seem to hit it off with, but their quote is slightly higher (or even quite a bit higher) than the others, don’t give up! Ask if you can make the payments in installments, or 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.
We know it can be daunting to trust another person with the book you’ve worked so hard to write. That’s why Reedsy hopes to make the process of finding the right person a little easier. If you feel overwhelmed, remember: finding the right editor can be the start of a lifelong, fruitful collaboration. So approach the process with preparedness and determination — and remember that behind every good book is a great editor!
Ready to give Reedsy a try?Go to Reedsy
Ricardo Fayet is a co-founder of Reedsy, an online marketplace connecting authors with the best editorial, design, marketing, and translation talent.