How Do You Find an Editor Who’s Right for You?

Editing and Expectations is a blog series about the entire editing process, from figuring out when and how to start working with an editor to getting the most out of your edits - and everything in between. This is the second in the series.

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So now that you know that you need an editor, how do you go about finding one? Finding the right one is kind of like online dating - a big pool, with only a few choices who might be right for you. So who do you swipe right on?

First, let's start by putting some filters on. Narrow down your search by looking for editors who work in your niche. You want an editor who's able to speak to the originality of the story, the tropes being used, the expectations of the readers, where the story fits in the context of its genre, and all of the other things an expert in that field would know. I’m a romance editor, so I can do that for romance manuscripts, but I'm probably not the right editor for someone with a sci-fi/fantasy novel as that's not a genre I'm very familiar with.

Once you’ve found a few potential editors, follow these tips to choose the best one for you:

1)    Read up on them

Don't lie, you know you've creeped on potential dates/friends/enemies online. (We've all done it, friends.) Google around and check out the editor's website to see if this is the type of person that you might get along well with. Read their bio/about me page to get a sense of who they are and what they like. Do they offer the kinds of editing services you’re interested in and what do their packages entail? (Wow, this dating metaphor could get dirty really quickly here, guys.) Look at what other people say about them in the testimonials – do their clients mention that the editor did a great job helping them with a particular issue that you have as well? What are they praising about them, and do you value that? If they have a blog, what kinds of things are they posting about? Are they helpful and clear in their posts?

Also take a look at their social media. If they’re on GoodReads, do they seem to have their pulse on what’s going on in the genre? Can you get a sense of their personality on Facebook or Twitter? You want to know who they are before you commit to them, so use the tools that the magic of the internet gives you.

2) Get a sample edit

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This is the "maybe we should get coffee" stage. I’m a huge proponent of sample edits, for the editor and the author. They’re a great way to gauge how you and the editor might work together and you can both feel out how a working relationship might go. Editors will generally offer to edit anywhere from 5-20 pages or a chapter for free. When these edits come back, ask yourself:

  • Were they too gentle in their criticism? Would they simply praise you or would they be able to help you to improve your craft?
  • Were they too harsh? Could you handle that level of criticism or would it be too soul-crushing?
  • Did they explain why they edited the way they did? Did they overexplain their edits? (No mansplainers, please!)
  • Does their style of editing appeal to you?
  • Did you learn something from their edits and can you use them to improve your manuscript?

Are they good enough to graduate to a real date? If so...

3) Trust your gut

Moment of truth: do you want to see them again? Once you’ve evaluated their web presence and seen their sample edits, it’s time to turn inward to evaluate yourself and consider what you really need from an editor.  Is this the one for you? Will they give you the kind of criticism you need? Will they push you to be a better writer? Do you just get each other? As with any relationship, being on the same wavelength is crucial and makes the whole editing process so much easier (and way more fun).

And finally, trust is the biggest component here. Is this a person you can trust with your work to help make it better? That’s the ultimate question that only you can answer, so go with the person who you believe will be the best fit for you.

(I'm going to end this here so I don't take the dating metaphor to the third date, because I don't even know what that is in editing terms. Ooh, analyze my manuscript?)

Next week: What are editors looking for when they edit?


Interested in a sample edit to see what kind of editing would work for you and your story? Let’s chat!

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