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How to Choose an Editor

As a comment to an earlier blog post, Deb Scott asked what kind of editor to hire before self-publishing her book.

I recommended hiring a good copy editor, because you want to edit for style, organization and format, as well as grammar and punctuation. It seemed to me though, that I shouldn’t give you some advice about the kind of editor to hire without suggesting how you might hire the right editor, as opposed to the wrong one.

I’ve had people come to me who’ve spent thousands of dollars on editing and they know they need to start all over again. They threw their money away.  It’s painful to hear about it and I don’t want it to happen to you. Follow these rules and you should do okay:

1. If you can, get a recommendation from someone who got their book traditionally published or knows good editor from bad.

2. Make sure the editor is familiar with your genre. You don’t want someone who only does how-to books to edit your memoir.

3. Find out what other books they’ve edited.

4. Ask the editor questions about their previous experience. What kinds of things have they done for recent clients (helped organize the material more clearly, helped the writer draw out the anecdotes better, helped the author show vs. tell, etc.)?

5. You may want to ask for a sample of their work.

If you feel you still need more information before making your decision, see if they’ll let you pay for the first chapter before committing to the entire manuscript.

As I think I mentioned in the earlier comment, don’t hire a POD or printing company to edit your book. They will usually look for the cheapest person around because they generally compete on price, not quality. The result is most often a book that doesn’t even seem edited at all.

You should ask about the person’s rates–is it by the page, the word or the hour? Can you get a quote on the project ahead of time? You may want to get several quotes. The ranges are quite varied–you usually get what you pay for, but don’t assume that a higher price always means higher quality–do your due diligence and get references.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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Comments

  1. Julianna says

    Hi Lisa – a quick question for you: I just edited an article for a friend…she wants to submit it to Mothering. Her article is 1350, but in the guidelines for submitting, they recommend 1500-2000. Should she bulk it up to fit, or leave it as-is (it’s a nice piece, as it currently stands)?

    Many thanks! Julianna

  2. lisatener says

    Hi Julianna,
    Great question. I consulted my friend and colleague, Lisa Sussman, who writes for magazines all the time (Redbook, Cosmo, Vogue). She said that you can always your lead sentences to bump it up a bit and add a few adjectives to the body text if you are concerned, but “If the piece is strong enough, the word count really doesn’t matter ultimately for the first draft. Yup – first draft. What many new writers don’t realize is that their initial article is more of an outline – if it does get accepted, it will have the input of many editors before it sees the light of day and that the final copy will have the look, sound — and word count — of the magazine you are targeting!”
    Good luck to your friend with her submission.

  3. Lisa Tener says

    Excellent point, Lauren. Some editors will edit a sample of your work for free. Those editors who have a full practice may require payment–still you can get feedback on a few pages and get a sense of whether it’s a good fit before committing a more serious sum of money.

  4. Renee says

    Hi Lisa,
    I have a rough draft and needs something. It is about my life/child abuse and how I survived the horror of it. I know it isan’t 10 top, but it took a lot of years and time to write it and has been a life – bucket list goal to get it published. Is it possible to guide me as to the next step?
    Thank you

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Renee,
      What are your goals with the book? Do you know how you plan to reach readers? And do you have a budget? If you want to start inexpensively, you can make it an e-book and you can even format it yourself with free software (just google about that; it’s not my specialty). if you want to speak or coach others then it would be good to have a physical book. Either way, are you looking for an editor to get it in shape first? If so, just e-mail me and I will be able to refer you to someone. I’ll need to have some sense of your budget to make a good match.

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