Editors: What to Look For

Choosing an editor is a very personal decision, and I understand what it’s like. There is a sea of editors out there to choose from, and you ultimately have to trust one with your precious work. It’s not easy! I’ve appreciated working with each and every one of my clients and I’m grateful for the trust placed in me. Below you’ll find some tips to help you find the editor that’s right for you.

đź“· credit | Layne Beckner

Things to Look for in an Editor

Communication is key in any kind of relationship, and the same is true for a client-editor relationship. You want to be comfortable with the communication style. An editor should be open, thoughtful, considerate, and available. Ask the editor questions! A good editor should be happy to answer whatever questions you have to make you feel more comfortable hiring them. I like to take a professional yet friendly approach when communicating with my clients. We typically communicate via email but I’m open to other mediums as well. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a free editing sample. If you’re seriously considering hiring me as your editor, I’m happy to provide a sample of up to 2,000 words so you can see what my editing style is like and how I communicate. This also allows me to see what the scope of work will be so I can give you a more accurate quote.

Professionalism is important. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with communication, but you want to ensure you’re hiring someone who has the right attitude: positive, encouraging, and motivating. Choose someone who has testimonials or who’s a member of a professional editing association. Look for an editor who offers tips and advice—they’re putting the time and effort into helping clients, potential clients, and the greater writing community, so you know they’re serious about their job as an editor.

You want someone who’s going to work hard to maintain your authorial voice. Don’t work with someone who’s insistent on certain structural changes if they don’t resonate with you. Part of an editor’s job is to point out what’s being done well and make suggestions in areas that aren’t working so well. However, it is ultimately the client’s decision whether to use those suggestions. When I’m working with a client in the structural stage of editing, that’s the more creative stage and I’m not offended if a client chooses not to go with a suggestion I’ve made. When I give feedback, I point out why I’m making the suggestion so that you can make an educated decision. The most important thing to remember is that every decision you make should be intentional. There must be a reason you’re doing it that way so that it works for your story and so it’s best for the reader. However, copy editing and proofreading are much more rule-dependent. I like to ensure if something is going to print that credits me as the editor, that the standard of editing is maintained to the best of my ability (meaning edits/revisions aren’t changed after we complete the final round of edits together).

Something I like to look for in professional services is an online presence. This website, for example, provides an informative overview of what I’m all about and what you can expect from me as your editor. And not only that but what services are offered and the differences between each service. I’m also on Twitter in the #WritingCommunity, I’m on Instagram, I provide tips to writers, I run a podcast for writers, authors, and industry professionals, I co-founded and run a Twitter pitch + moodboard event for writers looking to connect with agents and publishers, I’m the previous primary co-chair of my local branch of Editors Canada, and I’m the previous International Rep on the Board of Directors for Crime Writers of Canada. The point is I’m out there, I’m present, I engage with my clients and peers, and I’m constantly upgrading my education, knowledge, and expertise by taking university-level courses, online webinars, and classes (both live and pre-recorded). I also read craft books and always research writing- and editing-related things. When an editor is in the public eye doing positive things, it enables potential clients to get to know them better and get a feel for their personality and communication style, which goes a long way in establishing the foundation of a good client-editor relationship.

đź“· credit | Layne Beckner

Your money is valuable. Let’s face it: a thorough edit isn’t cheap by any means—and it shouldn’t be. A good editor should have fees that are consistent with the industry standard, similar to how contractors charge industry-standard fees for renovations or how electricians or plumbers charge standard fees for their services. If a service provider charges too little, they’re simply not valuing their time and expertise enough or they don’t understand the level of work that goes into the service they’re providing. Having fees that are well below the industry standard also undercuts their peers, which isn’t good business practice.

Having said that, it is always up to the editor to decide on an acceptable rate depending on the circumstances and work involved. With full edit projects, each client has different needs, which is why there’s no one-size-fits-all rate. So, when you’re looking at editing fees, know that it’s not going to be the least expensive part of the publishing process. It’s an important investment of time and money. This is why it’s so important to select an editor who you jive with and who will give you solid, actionable feedback and is worth your investment.

Time is also valuable—both yours and your editor’s. Proper edits and assessments take time, and rushing through something is never recommended because that’s when things get missed. Putting your best foot forward means having the patience to ensure everything is done right. Having to speed through something causes a lot of stress on the part of an editor, so be sure to hand over your project in plenty of time before your anticipated deadline. For me, I separate my client’s work into chunks so that I can always come at it with fresh eyes. I don’t offer rush service because that opens up the door for missed errors, and I don’t want that for me or for you, plus it’s not fair to my other clients who I might have to rearrange projects for and then rush through them, as well. Putting time and distance between you and your project is just as important for a writer as it is for an editor. Look for an editor who will give it to you straight, who won’t promise you the moon and stars (because there are no guarantees in the publishing industry), and who isn’t afraid to give you a realistic timeline or goals.

Lastly, contracts. When you are handing over your manuscript to an editor, you may or may not think about a contract. The word itself seems scary! But contracts are used to outline responsibilities and protect the interests and rights of both parties. I now use contracts for all full edit projects because I want you to know I value your rights and interests—as well as my own. It’s important to go over the contract in detail before you sign anything and ask me questions if any arise. Although I can’t provide legal advice, I can explain what each clause means in the contract and how it helps protect our interests. No one wants to be taken advantage of, and I hope that providing a contract will help ease your mind about sending your precious story to me. Rest assured I will handle your manuscript with as much care as you would!

Above all else, trust your instincts. If you have a good feeling about an editor, they’re professional, you like their feedback style, and they have clients with lots of great things to say about them, this is probably an editor you want to work with. Setting you up for success is a big part of my success, so I make sure I devote the time and effort necessary to help you put your best foot forward.

I hope to get the chance to work with you! 🙂

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đź“· credit | Layne Beckner