You probably have more than one book idea floating around in your brain. And you should just get on with writing it. It’s relatively easy to write an e-book or self-publish these days. And it’s a smart way to build your personal brand, help other people, grow your freelancing business, and ultimately make more money from writing.
But once you’ve got your book written, there’s at least one more step in the process…editing. And it’s something a lot of writers dread. Sound familiar?
So what do you do when you’ve written a book and want to make sure you’ve done your best work?
You could try and self-edit, or pass off your prose to a family member or friend for free feedback. But either way fails to give you the kind of objective view you need to make the biggest impact. Both editing options are frequently plagued by bouts of frustration and procrastination, and conjure up horror stories about the editing process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Find an editor who is competent and affordable, and you’ll sound smarter, reduce roadblocks that could prevent you from publishing, and give your readers greater value.
Here are six ways to find the right editor for your book:
1. Understand the editing process
Editing is editing, right? Wrong.
The price you’re going to pay an editor depends on a lot of different factors. You may just want an editor to proofread your book to catch minor errors and typos. Or you may want to work with an editor to help you overhaul your book. Getting familiar with the kind of editing options available will help you choose the right editor. Typical book editing services are:
- Developmental Editing examines the big picture and structure of a book. This is heavy editing and, if needed, should occur first.
- Line Editing is stylistic editing, which refines each line for smooth and clear text.
- Copy Editing addresses grammar, word usage, and punctuation, while checking for internal consistency of facts.
- Proofreading is the final check for typos, repeated words, spacing and formatting consistency.
Note: These terms may be used differently depending on the editor. You should clarify with potential editors exactly what their services include. If you are not sure which editing services you need, many editors offer a free consultation.
2. Give potential editors a test-drive
Some writers shop around for an editor by sending them a page from their book and requesting a sample edit. It’s a legit way to see if an editor has the skills to catch errors, improve word choices, and maintain your voice.
But it’s not the only way you can gauge an editor’s skill level. What if you sent an editing quiz to which you had the answer key? You could compare results of several editors to see who has the best grasp on grammar rules. This will ensure an editor is effective, especially for copy editing.
3. Find an editor in your niche
Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been writing for some time, it’s no secret that the most successful writers specialize in a niche. Why? Focusing on a niche helps you become an expert in that area, write better content, ask better questions, and know where to find sources and research. The best editors typically specialize in one or a few niches for similar reasons.
A good editor understands the market of the material she is working with. If you’re going to trust someone to make changes to your book, especially for developmental editing, make sure she is experienced in your niche.
4. Expect editors to read the fine print
Attention to detail is a critical skill for editors. So how do you screen out editors who might not wield a virtual red pen with the chops to catch every typo, grammar problem, style issue, and the like? You could post a job ad for an editor and subtly screen out applicants that aren’t as detail-oriented by including some fine print in the description.
For example, if you create a post to find your next editor, place a random requirement in the middle of the job description. Dave Chesson, aka the Kindlepreneuer, likes to use, “Respond with ‘Hey, Jedi!'” (Nerdy, but works). This is one way to find an editor who thoroughly reads all the details about editing your book.
5. Ask for referrals and references
Asking your network for referrals to help you find an editor for your book is a good way to find someone who’s already proven they’ve got the skills to edit your book. If that doesn’t work, you could ask potential editors for references. If you’re going to vet an editor by talking to references, you might ask:
- What type of project did you work on together?
- Was there anything you were unhappy with?
- Did the editor meet agreed-upon deadlines?
- Did the final cost match the initial quote?
- Would you hire this editor again?
Not every editor will have contact information for references, but most will.
6. Give newbies a chance
After doing your homework to find the perfect editor, you might discover that the person with the most experience and rave reviews also charges the most for their services. If you don’t have piles of cash to pay a top-ranked editor for your first book, consider giving a newbie a chance. You can find affordable editors on the Freelance Writer’s Den job board, social media groups for self-publishers, and online platforms like Upwork, or Reedsy.
If an editor’s rates seem skeptically low, send an editing test, ask for references or a sample, place a hidden message in your post, and see if they understand the different types of editing. If an editor passes all of these tests, even if she’s a newbie, give her a try. This could save you hundreds of dollars and help you find a skilled editor who is competent and affordable.
Find the right editor to help you improve your book, and you’ll be making a good investment in yourself and your writing business.
Have you had success finding an affordable yet effective book editor? Leave a comment below and share what’s worked for you.
Val Breit has a knack for keeping writers calm while transforming mediocre writing into straightforward, error-free, marketable, and engaging pieces for readers to enjoy at Keep Calm Write On.