If you’ve written a book and you intend to get it published this is probably a question you’ve asked yourself. And you may have been going round and round in circles trying to figure it out.
If you’ve hit the jackpot and managed to get a publisher this may be out of your hands as the publisher will likely have a pool of in-house or freelance publishers.
If you intend to self-publish (and many respected authors are taking this route) you will have to find your own editor, and this is where it can get tricky.
With this in mind here are a few pointers for all of you who are having a hard time …
Who should edit your book?
While your old English teacher, best friend, co-worker, sibling, parent or dog-walker may do a brilliant job of spotting typos, or the odd misplaced paragraph, they should really be kept within the role of beta reader.
Only a trained editor can do a professional job within a professional framework.
It’s their job.
OK, this one’s a little tricky. An editor doesn’t need a degree in the subject they’re editing, and a general understanding may be enough. But the more in-depth or complicated the subject, the more you should go for a subject specialist.
For example, I don’t have a degree in history, but I’ve worked around historical subjects for nigh on 30 years (I’ve worked in archives, taken courses, I’m a professional genealogist …) so I’m very comfortable around historical subjects. I’ve also studied the arts in a less formal surrounding, so am happy with all sorts of arty things. But you should never, ever hire me to work on a physics or maths book. I would refuse anyway, but you should be aware what subjects the editors you’re looking at are comfortable with.
Approach those you see have some concrete knowledge of your subject area.
You don’t need to like your editor (although it helps if you do), but you do need to be able to work with them. The editor you choose will be working through your document with a fresh, professional, pair of eyes. They may have to give you some bad news (a section doesn’t work, some things don’t make sense, or point out that perhaps you need to rewrite) and they’re going to ask you questions. You need to be able to talk to your editor. Sometimes it can be a long term relationship and no one likes to be fired, or to do the firing.
Talk to the editor you choose, ask for a sample edit (which may be free or paid for), and pick one that you’ll be able to work with.
It goes without saying that you should be able to trust your editor. Here I’d say go with gut instinct (cue shocked noises and dismay among the ‘hard fact’ brigade).
No professional editor will share your work, or steal it, or do anything with it other than edit or proofread it (or whatever else you ask for). But you need to be able to trust your editor to do their best for your work. Even if that means telling you that your book isn’t ready to edit and you need to spend more time on it.
Hire the editor you trust to tell you the truth and do what’s best for you and your book.
While it’s not strictly necessary, if an editor is a member of a professional society it shows that they’re not hobbyists and that they’re serious about their profession. They will have to abide by the society’s code of standards. They will have a network of professionals that they can lean on and where they can keep up with their CPD. They will have (usually) had to prove proficiency in their field.
Hiring an editor who’s a member of a professional society gives you an extra level of trust.
If you keep these five points in mind it will make finding an editor easier.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned price. Honestly, price is not a factor. Price will come down to many things – size of the book, subject matter, what needs to be done, experience of the editor, timescale etc. Also an editor who seems hugely expensive may be more efficient and knowledgeable and one who seems cheap may be less efficient or charge by the hour and take longer. Price is the last thing you should think of, and if need be budget and save to get the best editor who fits your needs.
If you’re looking for an editor I specialise in historical fiction and non-fiction, but you can check out my SfEP directory entry to see what else I can do.
If you’re looking for someone else the SfEP directory holds over details of over 700 members.
If you’re looking for an editor outside of the UK these links will help you.
Take your time and choose wisely!