Perhaps the single most important relationship you will forge in the publishing process is the author/editor relationship. But if you have never worked with an editor before, finding one can be a challenge. To help you find the editor that’s best for you, here are a few basic tips on how to begin your hunt.
Ask for Recommendations from Other Authors
The easiest way to find an editor you’ll love is to find one other authors already love. The author/editor relationship thrives on trust, specifically the trust an author has that their editor will make them look their best. Ask around and find out which editors the authors in your area already trust. Use those names as your shortlist of possible candidates.
Look for an Editor Who Specializes in Your Genre
Although skilled editors have what it takes to work in a wide range of genres, most specialize. The benefit of working with an editor who specializes in your genre is that he or she brings more to the table than just a good grasp of language. An editor who specializes is aware of trends in a specific genre, which authors have set the gold standard for their genre, and what readers of that genre will expect from your book. That added industry knowledge will only enhance the work your editor does.
Ask for an Editor’s Credentials
Did your editor of interest study editing formally in college? Does she have an editing certification from a reputable program? Can she provide you with a list of books she’s worked on? An editor with strong credentials will be happy to share them with you, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Ask for a Sample Edit of Your Work
One of the best ways to decide if an editor is right for you is to have the editor edit a sample of your work. Upon reviewing the sample edit, you should almost immediately know if the editor is capable of offering the help you need. If the sample makes you think, “I didn’t know my writing could be so good,” you’ve likely found a keeper. If the sample feels like it did more damage than good, or if for some reason the editor won’t provide you with a sample edit, walk away.
Don’t Let Cost Be Your Only Deciding Factor
Good editors are worth what they charge. Cheap editors are also worth what they charge. If an editor has rates well below what is standard in the market, that’s a red flag. That’s usually a sign of lack: lack of skill, lack of repeat clients, lack of professionalism. Cost should be a factor when choosing an editor, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you consider. Focus first on finding a skilled editor, then talk about rates. If you approach it the other way around, you’ll likely end up paying more, as you’ll have to hire a second editor to make up for your first editor’s lack (an unfortunately common occurrence among self-published authors).
Trust Your Gut
I can’t stress this point enough. As stated before, the author/editor relationship is based on trust. This means you have to click with your editor. If you have any sense that you won’t work well with an editor, even a very skilled one, don’t. You should feel good about the editor you choose.