Aspiring authors and established writers looking to up their game should consider hiring a professional editor. Such a prospect may sound tedious, even distasteful, after the amount of work you already put in. But, the right editor can become an invaluable colleague for those wishing to transform good manuscripts into great books.
As an experienced editor, I never look for customers or jobs. My business partner and I plan to pause, reassess, and possibly discontinue our enterprise if our focus ever turns away from quality stories and their creators. That’s why I’m always searching for clients, projects, and lasting relationships.
Throughout the past decade, opportunistic editors have overrun the internet—particularly on social media and writing forums. It’s these divisive, yet visible characters who have turned off many authors to the idea of professional editing.
I don’t blame writers for being wary. A full manuscript edit—while priceless in theory—is often a costly endeavor. However, the extent of time an editor devotes to each project and the degree in which they heighten the narrative can be well worth the expense. But that’s only true if the client is happy with the finished product.
Personally, I want to assist others in achieving their best work. To accomplish that, I guide them through every step of the process after I finish my initial read-throughs and note-taking. Despite my hands-on method, I don’t take on everyone who contacts me.
Trust is the most important part of the editor/author relationship. Be wary of those looking to edit your story sight unseen. It’s paramount for the two parties to mesh and really understand each other’s vision. To come to this conclusion, an editor must first review a sample and learn the genre, length, and style of the manuscript.
I am comfortable editing any genre from YA to erotica, but that doesn’t mean I’ll edit any and all projects. Aside from variables like a draft being incomplete or not ready, I won’t take on a client if I can’t see myself falling in love with their story. It would be unfair to them to dive so deep into their work without sharing enough of their passion. I’d hate to overlook a book’s greatness and have the author miss out on opportunities because I’m not fully committed.
Here’s what to look for in a proper editor and what to avoid:
1. Beware of anyone who mentions money first
Remember, the work should be the primary focus. Editors should have basic, competitive rates that they never discuss during a first consultation. The initial correspondence gives the editor and author a chance to figure out if they’re right for each other. The former must determine if the project and the ensuing work intrigues them. The latter decides if the editor’s method is right for their manuscript. Payment should only be discussed after both parties reach a meeting of the minds.
2. Don’t let anybody pressure you into edits before you’re ready
I’m always straightforward. After a free sample edit of around 1,000 words, I’ll tell a client if their draft isn’t ready for editing. I’ll advise them to take the piece to a beta reader or a critique group/partner and bring it back to me once they revise based on their peers’ notes. Many opportunistic editors charge more for premature drafts. You shouldn’t have to pay an editor for pre-edit work such as beta reading or basic proofreading.
3. Turn down any editor who doesn’t feel right
Your work in progress is your prized possession. Nobody will ever be closer to your story even if it’s one day beloved by many. Therefore, even when an editor ticks all the boxes and doesn’t appear disingenuous or amateurish, it’s still okay to pass if they don’t feel right for your project. It’s your decision and professional editors will always understand.
You are your story’s life force. Don’t let anyone take away the power of your unique voice by writing the story for you. A worthy editor will enhance your storytelling so well that you’ll welcome them as a long-term collaborator.
Gregory Austin is an editor, writer, and journalist with more than a dozen years in the business. He is the co-founder of the Writing Lodge which provides editorial services and writing courses for creatives all over the world. Catch up with him and the lodge on Twitter, Instagram, and Medium. Much love to the writers of the world.
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