How to Hire a Freelance Editor: Step 2

How do you avoid getting scammed by your editor? How do you know if you’ve hired the right one for you? In this series of five posts, I share with you How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps. Here is step 2.

Step 2: Research your potential editor.

If you have completed Step 1: Gather the names of editors you think you want to work with, you now have the names of four to six editors in hand. Just in gathering these few names, you have probably already done some whittling; however, you will want to research some specific criteria before pursuing a professional relationship with your editor. Unfortunately, there are a lot of frauds out there, so look closely.

If the editor has a website — and many full-time editors do — read it. Look for testimonials, client lists, and any other information that will tell you whether this is the kind of person you want to edit your manuscript.

First, check that this person is a book editor with substantial experience in book editing and not just an English major passing himself or herself off as an editor. What’s the difference? Editors are English majors who have been trained specifically as editors. This training could be through an editing class or certificate program, work as an in-house editor, or time spent as an assistant or apprentice to a professional editor.

Once you have established the person is a book editor, determine whether he or she edits books in your field or genre.

  • If you write fiction, look for someone experienced in fiction.
  • If you write nonfiction, look for someone experienced in nonfiction.

That’s pretty simple, but the subcategory of your work may also be important. Most nonfiction editors can do self-help; most fiction editors can do fantasy or mystery. But if you’re writing literary fiction or a particularly technical book, you will likely want someone with experience in that area. With topics that fall somewhere in the middle, such as football or architecture for laypeople, ideally your editor is familiar with your genre, but it isn’t essential. That is to say, other factors may render your subcategory a nonfactor.

Other qualifications for you to consider include the following:

  • The scope of the editor’s experience
  • How long the person has been an editor
  • Whether the person works full- or part-time
  • The prestige of other clients

Each of these issues alone is not likely to make or break a deal, but cumulatively they can give you a better picture of the quality and personality of the editor. As we will discuss later, personality can go a long way.

Although much of this information may be available online, some of it will have to be gleaned during your first interactions with your potential editors. Best practices on how to do that make up Step 3: Call or send an e-mail to your potential editor.

Skip to:

Step 1: Gather the names of editors you think you want to work with.

Step 3: Call or send an e-mail to your potential editor.

Step 4: Ask for a sample edit, cost estimate, and scheduling information.

Step 5: Evaluate what you have learned, then add the crucial element of personality to decide if this is the right editor for you.

4 thoughts on “How to Hire a Freelance Editor: Step 2

  1. mefoley January 17, 2015 / 5:49 AM

    I’d like to suggest, please, that you might consider changing “How do you avoid getting scammed by your editor?” to “How do you avoid getting scammed by a bad [or unscrupulous] editor?” As written, the post makes it sound as though we’re all out to get authors, and they’ve got to be on guard against us at all times, rather than at there are scammers out there to be avoided, as in any industry. (Hired a contractor to build something lately? The good ones are, like editors, worth their weight in gold, but you do have to watch out for the bad ones.)

    (Um, yes, I guess I *am* trying to edit your post. Hope you don’t mind!”

    • Katherine Pickett January 17, 2015 / 12:43 PM

      Interesting point. It’s a pretty close reading that would suggest I mean *all* editors are out to get authors. Perhaps because I’m an editor myself, I assumed readers would know I don’t think all of us are crooked. Just goes to show you can’t always know how your readers will respond to what you write. Thanks for your comment!

      • mefoley January 29, 2015 / 10:07 AM

        It’s a matter of that being put first, as if protecting yourself from scammers is the most important aspect of choosing an editor. That’s what implies that editors are all out to get their clients. (And isn’t close reading the basis for the job? 🙂 )

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