7 Must-Ask Questions to Find Your Perfect Book Editor – Part I

Today’s post is written by my friend, a book editor, Kristen Hamilton.  She’s going to enlighten us on how to find a perfect editor for our book.

Here’s Kristen…

Imagine this: You’ve finished writing and self-editing your manuscript and are ready to hire an editor. You type in manuscript editor on Google and are overwhelmed by the results—over 95 million. You e-mail several book editors, not really knowing what you’re looking for, and choose one at random, possibly the cheapest one or the one who has the best looking website. Then, after spending thousands of dollars, you’re unhappy with your book and, discouraged and disenchanted, you shelve your book and never publish it.

Just as the market is saturated with books, it’s also saturated with book editors—some good, some not so good. Although every editor has something positive to bring to an author-editor relationship, some editors will undoubtedly be a better fit for your manuscript.

How do you find the right book editor for your manuscript? You just need to ask yourself the right questions.

1. What type of editor are you looking for?

Are you happy with your book’s overall structure? Do you feel like something’s missing in the storyline? Do the sentences have good rhythm and flow? Most books require three distinct stages of editing:

  • Substantive or developmental editing focuses on the big picture of your novel: addressing character development, pacing, plot holes, and loose ends.
  • Line editing looks for improving sentence structure, readability and flow, consistency and clarity, and logic and sense of scenes.
  • Proofreading is the last check for surface errors including spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice, and syntax.

Some editors only provide one or two of these services, while others are specialized in all three. Of course, each editing service will be a separate pass through your manuscript. The more times your editor goes over your manuscript, the more errors that will be caught. A good editor will be able to guide you to choose which editing services are right for your book.

2. Does the editor specialize in your genre?

Once you find a competent developmental editor, line editor, and/or proofreader, narrow down the results a bit more by genre.

Most editors specialize in a specific genre. Cookbooks, crime thrillers, general fiction, or memoirs are all highly different types of books, and need different elements to succeed. Naturally, the more experience the editor has with that specific genre and type of editing, the better hands your book is in. And while there are no guarantees that your perfect editor will transform your book into a bestseller, an adequate and competent editor will certainly improve your manuscript.

3. What is the editor’s experience?

Once you’ve narrowed the pool of editors to a select few who offer the type of editing you need, check that the editor is qualified with a degree in English, writing, or a related field. While years of on-the-job experience will help hone an editor’s skills, nothing can replace the specialized learning that comes with earning a degree in the field. Any qualified editor will also be a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, and you can search the database of editors here.

Unfortunately, uninformed authors can easily choose a really, really terrible editor. Beware of editors who don’t have a lot of experience, who have extremely low prices, or who are just plain…sketchy. There have been countless times I’ve accepted a new client who was burned by their previous “editor,” where the editor took their money, did minimal edits, and left a very dissatisfied author and an incomplete manuscript. Yikes.

4. Does the editor have a portfolio and testimonials?

This one’s easy. Check out the editor’s portfolio and testimonials from previous clients—a reputable editor will have these clearly listed on their website.

Take it a step further and read reviews on the books they have edited. If there are complaints of misspelled words, poor editing, or a confusing storyline, move on to the next editor. Your book is too important to put it in the hands of a sloppy editor. If possible, ask to contact an editor’s previous clients. Were they happy with the editor’s work? Would they hire them again? Previous clients’ testimonials are one of the best ways to vet your future editor.

This is just scratching the surface of what you need to do to find the perfect book editor for your manuscript. Check back next Thursday, where the final three questions will be addressed, helping you to find the perfect editor for your book.

Book manuscript editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of Kristen Corrects, Inc. , which provides manuscript editing services. Working independently allows Kristen the opportunity to interact with clients and provide them personalized service. There is nothing better than communication and friendliness in a business world that is slowly becoming less focused on people.

 Kristen is included in the 2014 Guide to Self-Publishing and the 2015 Guide to Self-Publishing, both published by the prestigious Writer’s Digest. She is also part of the credible Writer’s Market, Publishers Marketplace, and Editorial Freelancers Association and plays a pivotal role as senior editor at Modern Gladiator magazine.

Reading is Kristen’s passion, so when the workday is over, she can usually be found curled up with a good book (alongside her three cats, Sophie, Charlie, and Jack). She loves pizza, cat videos, watching The Bachelor, and traveling, and is likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, Idaho.

What questions do you have about finding an editor?

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