5 Tips to Find Your Best Editor for Your Book Manuscript

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A writer who worked with another editor came to me in tears after her book reviewers returned their reviews and asked “This isn’t the edited copy, is it?” The editor didn't do what was asked of her and returned the manuscript full of errors. So, I created these 5 tips for the writer to use in finding an editor for her next book, and I want to share them with you, too, so you can find a great editor who will understand your expectations and support your goals.

1. Before you shop for an editor, know exactly what you want her to do.

My client knew she had formal mistakes, and she just wanted them to be fixed. She didn’t want to discuss them over coffee. A good editor for her needs to be able to see from context clues what she means and then edit her sentences to reflect that meaning in a way that makes the writing appear that it is in her own words.

For other writers, you might want to be more involved in the edits and ask that the editor to send you track comments in a Word file and take the role of an editing coach.

2. Get a sense if the editor interested in your project.

I have spent years in many different editorial situations, and hands-down, if the editor didn’t care about my work, it showed in the editing. I don’t mean that if you write a book about artichokes that the editor must love artichokes, but the editor should care about why they’re important to you and your audience.

While not impossible, it is unlikely that you will get the best editing from someone who thinks your book is not going to be a worthwhile read. This will be written all over her attitude. Trust your instincts.

3. Determine if the editor understands your goals.

Even second and third-time authors are not just sending the manuscript to an editor to check the grammar; all authors can benefit from good editor who can show you if the format could be rearranged to enhance your content and to offer helpful suggestions that you might not have thought of, in order to deliver your message in the clearest and most user-friendly way. The editor won’t be able to do that effectively if she doesn’t learn who your audience is or what your goals are for the readers.

If she treats you like an assignment instead of a partner, beware your precious manuscript might be put through a cookie cutter.

4. Agree on a hard deadline with the editor.

The editor should be able to give you a firm timeline for how long the work will take to be completed. If the editor is unable to give you a reasonable deadline, investigate. If her deadline is months away, then the editor may be taking too many assignments. On the other hand, if the turnaround time is much shorter than your other offers, make sure she isn’t unrealistic.

Know what YOUR deadlines are for the next steps after the manuscript is edited and clearly communicate those expectations to the editor to get it in writing from her that she can work within your timeline.

5. Ask for a sample edit.

This advice would have helped my client the most. I do sample edits on a page or two or a chapter for a small fee, as do most editors. If you have a section of writing that you know could be better, ask the prospective editor to edit that portion so you can get a sense of what her work is like and determine if an editor is interested in your project and understands your goals. You can even add a deadline and give her the opportunity to meet it or not.

When you get the edits, compare the edited version to the original. Do you like her take on your work?

Have you worked with a book editor? What other tips would you give to a writer who needs a manuscript editor? If you are an author looking for a book editor, I would love to hear more about your project and what help you need.