Friday Fundamentals: Choosing the Right Editor


Happy Friday, friends!

This time last week I was just starting a fabulous weekend at ConGregate, one of my favorite conventions, and thinking about the panel I was to sit on later that night: Finding the Right Editor.

It was a great panel, or at least I thought so. Sharon Stogner, Leona Wisoker, and I were the panelists discussing what a writer needs to consider when hiring a freelance editor. Since I talked a good bit about Magical Words during that panel, I thought I’d share some of what we discussed.

We primarily focused on hiring editors for either self-publishing or when looking for a publisher and/or agent since a lot of this doesn’t apply so much to publisher-assigned editors. Some does, so take what you want.

We compared finding an editor to dating, which actually works out really well.

Decide you want a date:

First, you have to decide that you want to hire a freelance editor and why. Do you want to self-publish? Do you want to learn more and improve your craft? Do you want to improve your chances of getting picked up by an agent? Basically, what’s your endgame? Like a date, are you looking to develop a long term relationship or just have some fun?

Meet people:

Once you’ve decided your motivation for finding an editor, you have to actually find one! Word of mouth is the BEST way to do this. Ask around. If people like their editor, they’ll tell you. Reputation is extremely important in this business.

Look at the acknowledgements in books you like to see if they mention an editor. Most self-published authors list their editor on Amazon as well as themselves as the author.

(Note to those of you who do or plan to self-publish: this is one way editors get business, so we’d love it if you’d take the extra ten seconds and add us as editors, okay? We will love you for it. It’s sort of like our reference list.)

Conventions are another great way to meet editors. You can talk to them face-to-face, get a business card, attend some of the panels they are on to see what they know and how they approach editing (because we all approach it differently). I make a lot of contacts when I go to conventions, not only with writers looking for an editor but also with other editors. We love to talk “shop” while we’re there. For example, I was on a different panel with Sharon Stogner, David Coe, Darin Kennedy, and Tamsin Silver about dialogue tags. Sharon and I got quite excited about the punctuation of them. We may have gotten funny looks from the other end of the table. But, I am getting off topic…

Once you have an editor in mind that you’d like to make contact with, check to see if your chosen editor has a website, social media presence, etc. and stalk them. (Not in a creepy way…much like you would if you were an employer checking out a potential employee.) You can generally find out a lot of information from their website: who they’ve edited, what they charge, what they like to edit, their editing philosophy, etc.

The First Date:

The first edit is much like a first date. You both are looking to see if you’re a good fit for each other. Writers, the editor is evaluating you as much as you are evaluating the editor, so professional courtesy should be extended by both parties.

Editors: don’t change the writer’s voice, be honest about the level of edit needed, be straightforward about your pricing and other policies, and communicate with the writer.

Writers: don’t rush the editor (ex: if it’s your first novel, your edit will likely take more than a few days, so don’t plan a huge release party!), reply promptly to their emails, remember that their job is to critique your work so it won’t be rainbows and butterflies the whole way through, and communicate with the editor.

Develop the relationship:

I prefer to work with writers on a continual basis because I can learn their writing style, their habits, and know what to expect. They learn the same about me.

That being said, sometimes using multiple editors is a good thing — you can get a fresh perspective or different opinion. However, if it’s your third or fourth or fifth book in the series, don’t expect an editor to know what happened in book one or two if they’ve not edited them. Even if they’ve read them, editors read differently than they edit and notice different things. For example, in my post on style sheets two weeks ago, I talked about how I approach making sure things are consistent. It’s time consuming, so I am surely not going to do that for a book I’m reading for pleasure.

Another benefit of working with the same editor repeatedly is that you develop a relationship — often even a friendship — that extends beyond the editorial. You have to keep in mind, however, that you have to keep those two relationships separate. You may get angry, but you can’t talk to your business associate in the same way you’d vent to a friend. You can, but you risk damaging one or both of the relationships.

Ending the relationship:

Finally, sometimes relationships need to end. The same goes for writer/editor relationships. You may decide you want a different editor if you’re moving to a different genre, or an editor who can return things more quickly, or for any number of reasons.

Regardless of why you decide to no longer use the editor — or the editor decides to no longer edit for the writer — please be professional. Don’t bash the editor or writer on social media. Don’t advertise that you’re seeking a new editor when you’ve not told the editor. It’s a small community; they’d likely find out. Don’t refuse to pay if the work has been completed correctly.

Basically, be professional.

You can find my editorial information on my website at or on Facebook at or on Twitter at



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