how to find an editor

If you’re wondering how to find an editor and how to hire a freelance editor for book editing services, this is a quick guide to the process. First, you will want to find an editor. The Internet is full of professional-looking websites for people who provide editorial services—like this one!

However, be aware that absolutely anyone and everyone can hang a shingle out and claim to be a freelance editor. There’s no certification process or degree to help you separate the quality service providers from the people who will leave you high and dry. Writing is incredibly intimate and emotional. Sometimes, that makes writers vulnerable to being taken advantage of.

A reputable book editor will have two things you can’t fake: qualifications and experience. For example, I have spent ten years actively working in publishing, first at Chronicle Books, then as a literary agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and Movable Type Management. I have a large online presence, including a blog that has been running since 2009, and a book on the writing craft, out from Writer’s Digest. My professional publishing credentials are very easy to fact check. In terms of my qualifications on the editorial side, I also have an MFA in creative writing and testimonials from dozens and dozens of clients. Not only do I have insider publishing industry experience, but also practical editing experience. I have been passionately building my freelance editing business since 2013. Not all editors can say the same, so you need to be very careful about who you select.

hiring a book editor

When hiring a book editor, you really are paying for their knowledge, experience, and opinion. That’s it. You will invest money and emotion into the transaction, and a person’s review of your project is what you will receive. So be sure to vet any potential editor and decide for yourself whether this feedback will be something you can respect and trust. Read over their website. Fact check their resumé. Don’t just shop based on price. The experienced professionals will almost always charge more. But in this case, with no regulating body to oversee editorial services, you really do get what you pay for.

A reputable book editor won’t hesitate to answer questions or provide references. In fact, if you get a suspicious response from an editor, or pressure to sign or pay money without feeling completely confident in the transaction, run the other way. There are many good, honest, and talented editors out there. The predators continue to stay in business because some of your writing peers don’t know any better, but you don’t have to be their next victim!

questions to ask a book editor

It’s always a good idea to ask for more information, so here’s a list of suggested questions to ask a book editor you’re thinking about hiring:

1. What is your publishing or editing experience?

Ideally, this will be clear from their website. If not, it’s always a good idea to get a sense of a book editor’s credentials and experience. This is what you’re paying for, at the end of the day.

2. Do you work in my category?

Not all editors are good at everything, and you don’t want them to be. For example, I made my career in children’s books. I am very qualified to work on other kinds of literature, including genre novels and memoir, and I really love it. I’d say 30% of my clients are writing outside the kidlit space. But most people come to me for children’s books, because that’s what I’m known for. If you’re unsure, it never hurts to ask. If the editor you’ve found doesn’t really work on fantasy novels, for example, listen to them. They may be awesome, but if they don’t have experience relevant to your project, you may be better served elsewhere. You don’t want them “learning on the job” with your manuscript.

3. Do you provide an introductory call or sample?

Some editors will provide an introductory call or manuscript sample, some won’t. Decide if this is something you need, or if you are open to proceeding without. For example, I only do introductory calls and sample edits for potential Full Manuscript Edit clients. It’s my most comprehensive service, so I want clients to feel very confident that my feedback aligns with their needs. But a sample edit on a picture book? I don’t do them because then I’m editing 25-50% of a manuscript for free, since the project might only be a few pages long. My Picture Book Edit clients rely on my reputation, testimonials, and client references. Every editor is different in this regard.

4. Can you connect me to a reference?

Hiring a good book editor often means hearing about their services—from their clients. An editor who is proud of their work should have no problem connecting you to references, past clients who can share their experiences. I do this all the time. If an editor won’t give you contact information for at least one past client, it could mean one of two things: their past clients are angry about their services, or they don’t have any!

5. Do you work via phone or in writing?

When you’re hiring a freelance book editor, know thyself. Do you want to speak to them on the phone? Or do you want feedback in writing? While I do offer phone services, most of my work is written. Writing and editing are written art forms, so it makes a lot of sense. That’s how I think best, and besides, I want my clients to have a written record of their notes to refer to as they revise. So my editing is done completely in writing unless I’ve made a custom arrangement. If you absolutely require phone support, look for an editor who will hop on the horn. But it’s all about how you work best and what you need.

6. What is the scope of your service? What is your turnaround?

Your editor should have no problem defining what’s included—and what isn’t—with every editorial service. All of my written edits include query letter feedback, for example, and I’m very clear about that. Almost none of my services include a phone call. A good book editor should be very clear about the scope of each service, so there are no surprises or disappointments. They will also have no problem giving you a specific sense of turnaround timing. I bust my booty off to meet or exceed deadlines, and communicate very clear timeframe expectations to each client. If an editor isn’t responding to early inquiries or their communication is otherwise dodgy, or they are vague about their services, this might signal ominous things to come.

7. How do you handle revisions?

Is a review of revised material included in the scope of service? Some editors will look at revisions as part of the original edit. Some will not. I charge for revision reads as an additional service, since not all of my clients request them. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting so you can set your expectations.

8. How do you handle questions and follow-up?

I believe that all editors should offer to clarify their notes and answer questions after an edit is returned. How is your editor going to handle it when any comments or questions spring up? Is there a phone call? Do they provide email back-and-forth? Ask the editor you’re thinking of hiring how they prefer to do follow-up.

9. Do you have an agreement?

A reputable book editor should have a written agreement that outlines the scope of work, defines their contribution, discusses privacy, rights, and gets into other legal territory. (Never sign rights over to any editor or literary agent, by the way. If they’re asking for rights to your work—run!) My editorial agreement is thirteen pages long. Why? Because I take my work, and your creative product, very seriously.

10. Do you provide any guidance on next steps, submission, or publication?

Some editors are happy to discuss the edit after they return it, but that’s it. Others go the extra mile and provide guidance for next steps. If your goal is to revise your manuscript and eventually submit it to literary agents or for publication, will the editor provide any kind of advice or guidance? Since I’ve worked as a literary agent, I know I’m in a unique position to offer insider information. I always consult on next steps, submission questions, and other writing career issues at no additional charge.

Next steps in hiring a book editor

You are thinking of investing a lot of effort, emotion, and money in hiring a freelance book editor. This isn’t a decision to take lightly. Do your research, ask questions, and really try to get a sense for the provider you’re interviewing. Don’t be afraid to inquire with more than one editor, and compare. This is your writing and your career, you need to do solid due diligence here.

Please don’t hesitate to check out my writing craft book or reach out for editorial services via the contact form, below.

Click here to purchase Writing Irresistible Kidlit, my book on fiction craft for MG and YA novels, out from Writer's Digest Books. This will show you my writing craft philosophy and give you lots of valuable advice, including tips for the novel revision process and self-editing. There are over 35 example novels cited and discussed throughout. It’s a valuable resource for any writer’s toolkit.

It genuinely feels like you’ve handed me a golden compass so I can trek off in the right direction now to ultimately find buried treasure. I’m so excited to not be wandering around aimlessly on this story any more. I can move forward on it now with confidence.
— Kendra