Congratulations! You’re ready for a book editor, but how do you go about finding the right editor for your manuscript? Before you entrust the pages you’ve poured your heart and soul into to your next-door neighbor’s daughter’s mother-in-law who happens to teach third-grade English—the pages you’ve rewritten several times and almost given up on more times than you can count—do a little research and reach out to a few editors.

And then set up a time to chat or correspond via email, and ask the book editors these 10 things before hiring one:

1. What type of editing do they perform?

There are several types of editing, and not every editor performs every type. Some editors only do copy editing, while others only do developmental editing. You should have a basic understanding of the differences among the various types of editing as well as what type of editing you think your manuscript needs before you engage an editor for your project.

2. Do they provide sample edits? If so, is there a charge?

Many editors provide potential clients with a sample edit, usually around 1,000 words or so, that may help you decide whether to hire them. Some editors offer sample edits for free, and others charge for them, so be sure to ask. Some editors will ask for the entire manuscript and will choose a section to edit, while others (myself included) will usually request a chapter or partial chapter of around 1,000 words from somewhere near the middle of the manuscript. If you decide to get sample edits from several editors, make sure you provide them with the same sample to edit. That way you can compare apples to apples.

A sample edit is a great way for you to determine whether the editor can provide the type of edits you need in a way that works for you, and can help the editor assess your level of writing, the type of editing needed for your project, and an estimate for the work. The writer/editor relationship is a partnership, so it’s crucial that you choose an editor whose style aligns with yours.

3. What genre(s) do they edit? Are they experienced in your manuscript’s genre?

You’ll want to make sure the editor you hire has experience working with your genre. Many editors only work on nonfiction. Others only work on sci-fi. And some editors have types of material they will not work on (erotica, memoir, horror, etc.). If you’re not sure what genre your book is, you’ll need to get clear on that. Think about where your book would sit on a bookstore shelf. In the self-help section? Young adult? History? And then ask the editor if they can direct you to any books they’ve edited in that genre. If the editor you’re talking to only edits romance novels and you’re writing a nonfiction book on macroeconomics, it’s probably not a good fit.

4. What is their rate? Do they charge per hour, per word, per page, or per project?

Editing rates will vary. Developmental editing will cost more than a copy edit because it’s much more involved. And editors charge in a variety of ways—per word, per page, per hour, per project—so ask the editor about their rates.

Editing can be expensive, but it’s also a step that shouldn’t be skipped in the process, regardless of whether you’re self-publishing or going the traditional publishing route. If you’re self-publishing, you’ll want to make sure your book is professionally edited before you publish it, and if you’re submitting it to a traditional publisher, you’ll want it as polished as possible even though they will likely have an in-house editor review it somewhere in the process.

5. What is their payment schedule? Do they require a deposit, partial payment up front, or something else?

Does the editor offer any type of payment schedule? Do they require a deposit of any kind? Do they require a partial payment up front? If so, how much? When will final payment be due? These are all questions you’ll need answers to so you know how to budget for professional editing services.

6. What types of payment do they accept, and how do they invoice their clients?

What types of payment does the editor accept? Do they accept personal checks? PayPal? Venmo? Credit cards? Something else? Make sure you know how the editor prefers to be paid and that you can accommodate it. Also inquire about their invoicing process.

7. Can they outline their scope of work and meet your deadline?

This question deals with the editor’s process. How many passes of your manuscript will they perform? What is included in their price? Will they provide you with any additional materials like a style sheet specific to your manuscript or an executive summary of their findings in addition to their edits? what level of engagement do they require from you? And what is their timeframe? Does it align with yours?

8. How do they perform and deliver their edits?

What program does the book editor use for editing? Do they need you to provide them with a Microsoft Word document? Or do they edit in Google docs? Can/will they edit in other formats like InDesign or Adobe? Make sure this is clear and that you can provide the editor with the format they need to perform the edits. And whatever format they use, make sure you’re comfortable with how the editing feature works so you can view and understand their edits. For example, if they edit in Microsoft Word, you should be familiar with that program’s Track Changes feature and how to accept/reject/comment on edits.

9. What are their qualifications?

Does the editor have any other manuscripts or published works they’ve edited that they can point you to? If they have an online presence, do their social media posts and website reflect a solid grasp of language and grammar? Blog posts that speak to their expertise? Are they affiliated with any editing or publishing organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association or the American Copy Editors Society? Does their website list other projects they’ve worked on? Do they have any degrees, certificates, or training in the field of editing?

10. Can they provide any client testimonials or contact information for any current or previous clients who’d be willing to talk to you about working with the editor?

Ask your book editor if they can provide you with a few testimonials from previous or current clients. Or maybe they have some clients you can contact who are willing to talk to you about what it’s like to work with that editor.

That may seem like a lot of information to gather to find an editor, but a professional edit of your manuscript is an investment. And the more comfortable you feel with the editor you choose, the better the experience will be for both of you.

If you’re ready to find an editor, I’d be happy to answer these questions for you. Contact me to see if we’d be a good fit!

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