Finding the Editor Who’s Right for You

by Elisabeth Kauffman
published in Community

Over the past few weeks, we’ve established that in order to give your manuscript the best shot at standing out in a crowded marketplace, you need to hire a freelance editor. We’ve also talked about the basic services you can expect your editor to provide. Now let’s talk about how you find your editor. Because there are a LOT of editors out there. In searching for the perfect one, it helps to know what you’re looking for, ask lots of questions and make sure you click.

Know What You want in an Editor

Looking for an editor for your manuscript is kind of like on-line dating. You want an editor who is capable, who you can trust, and most importantly, who you connect with. There are a lot of duds out there, and often perfectly good editors that are just not the right fit for you. You will certainly go on a few awkward “first dates” before you find what you’re looking for. But be diligent. This process can end in a long-term working relationship.

Of course, word of mouth is the best way to find an editor. If you know someone who has had a great experience with a particular editor, that’s the best place to start, so ask your writerly buddies who they work with. If you need more options, there are a number of associations and sites that can help you find editor listings. Here are just a few.

Editorial Freelancers Association (US)

The Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders (UK)

The Institute of Professional Editors (Australia)

The Editors’ Association of Canada

These professional associations are a good place to start your search. They’re very helpful for determining the credibility of an editor, as well as establishing fair market value for the services an editor offers. They are not always a determination of the capability of an editor.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

To determine an editor’s capability, you should do two things. First, ask for references. Past clients’ experiences are very helpful in determining whether an editor can do what she says she can do. And second, if it’s not offered to you initially, ask for a sample edit. This will give you the chance to see your editor in action, to find out what she does and how she does it. Any editor who is interested in instilling confidence in you as a client will be willing to do a sample edit.

You may have a list of other things to do to help determine capability and credibility of an editor, and that’s great! Be thorough. Ask lots of questions and expect the best, most honest answers.

Make Sure You Click

After you’ve established that an editor can do what you need her to do for you, then you have to decide if you and your editor have chemistry. No, seriously. While you can reasonably expect to receive the same basic service from any editor you hire, not every editor’s personality or method is going to match your particular personality or needs as a writer.

Through your initial communications with a prospective editor, ask yourself the following questions: Does this editor respond to me courteously and in a timely manner? Is this editor willing to be transparent about the editorial process, about the cost of her service, and about her past experience?

But also, know yourself. Do you respond better to blunt, forthright criticism or do you require a more gentle approach? Would you like it if your editor’s sense of humor comes out in her edits or does humor in the editing process cause anger and stress for you? Do you need your editor to spend time going over their edits with you via Skype or do you prefer to be left to process them alone? Knowing the answers to these questions, and understanding and articulating your needs up front, will help ensure that you find the right editor for you.

Editors are a diverse bunch. There’s someone out there for everyone. By taking your time and knowing what you’re looking for, you can find that perfect match!







Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance editor in California. Her favorite genres are YA fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. She regularly obsesses over board games, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. Come share your ideas with her on Facebook and Twitter–@WritingRefinery–and on the web at

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