How to Find an Editor in 4 Practical Steps
With more and more experienced editors hitting the freelance market (thanks to online networks like Reedsy) it’s now easier than ever to find suitable, talented, and experienced editors for just about any writing project.
Having overseen thousands of collaborations between authors and editors, we know that finding that perfect professional is straightforward — as long as you clarify your priorities, pay attention to details, and communicate your expectations.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at how you can find a professional editor for your book.
1. Identify the type of editing your manuscript needs
Before you even start looking for an editor, you first need to understand what state your manuscript is in. Do note that an editor comes in at the point where you are no longer able to improve your own work, and have already done your best at editing it yourself.
Professional editing consists of several rounds — layers that get finer and finer the closer you get to publication. To understand our definitions of the services editors offer, head back to the first part of this guide where we explain the five major types of editing. In (more or less) the order you’d need them, these are the services offered by editors:
- Editorial assessment;
- Developmental editing;
- Copy Editing;
- Fact checking.
How you intend to publish your book will determine what kind of editorial services you will need. Weigh up your options in advance by reading our comprehensive guide to the self-publishing vs. traditional publishing dilemma. You can take this short quiz to find out what kind of editing you need at the moment, or read our full descriptions of the two publishing paths and their editing requirements below.
What kind of editing does your book need?
If you’re publishing traditionally, focus on story and queries
If you plan to publish your book traditionally, your first step to securing a book deal involves finding a literary agent. Research relevant professionals in our directory of literary agents — once you’ve found some suitable candidates, you’ll need to send them a personalized query letter and your manuscript sample (the length of which will vary depending on each agent’s guidelines).
In preparation for contacting an agent, you will find it helpful to receive a round of developmental editing or, at the very least, an editorial assessment. It’s possible that this will lead to major plot revisions, but it will leave your manuscript much stronger.
Next, you can get your query letter reviewed by an editor to ensure that it adheres to industry conventions. This editor can help you pitch your work in a way that communicates what’s unique and exciting about it.
Since you’ll be sharing the beginning of your book with agents, you may wish to submit your sample (the first couple of chapters) for a round of copy editing. This is not strictly necessary, but can provide you an assurance that your sample is as good as it can be.
If your agent is successful in getting you a publishing deal, an in-house professional will be in charge of editing your work with you. As part of your deal, you’ll progress to another developmental edit and a full copy edit.
If you haven’t secured a publishing deal and/or would prefer to have complete creative control over your work, read on to understand the process for self-publishing authors.
If you’re self-publishing, give it the works
If you’re planning to self-publish, you won’t need a query letter review, as you won’t require an agent. After your self-edit, you can progress straight to a developmental edit.
Once suggested changes are implemented, reread your manuscript to confirm everything’s in order. After that, move on to a couple rounds of copy editing, fact-checking (if yours is a project that requires it) and a last round of proofreading.
Is self-publishing or traditional publishing right for you?
2. Find book editors with the right experience and referrals
Now you know what your manuscript needs, it’s time to look for some candidates.
Reedsy has done the hard work for you: our selective marketplace features some of the most experienced editors in the industry (think Big 5 publishers and bestselling titles). Only the top 1% of professionals who apply are accepted on our marketplace, and we always verify their work history. With us, you’re leaving very little to chance. To find the most suitable editor for you, filter by the kind of editing service you need, or by genre.
On each editor’s profile, you'll find an overview of their experience and approach. You can see past titles they’ve worked on, and check out reviews left by writers they’ve worked with previously. Why not sign up for free and have a browse? You don’t need to hire an editor to reach out to them for more information!
Beware of amateurs or ill-suited professionals on the web
If you look for editors beyond Reedsy, be wary of amateurs or irrelevant professionals. The internet is crowded with inexperienced editors with slick websites. You’re looking for the best editor for your project, not the editor with the best homepage. It’s a pretty important distinction.
Also, be careful with freelancer sites Upwork and Fiverr. These sites list people who might be totally unsuitable due to their lack of relevant publishing experience. You need to find someone with experience editing books in your genre, not just any editor, as Phillip Goodrich found out when his newspaper editor brother turned him down.
3. Create a shortlist of editors in your genre and price range
Now you’ve understood how to find an editor, it’s time to sift through candidates and put a shortlist together.
Prioritize editors with experience in your niche
Hopefully, the editors you’re looking at all have extensive work histories. To find the best ones for you, whittle them down to editors with experience relevant to your project. Make sure you only contact people who have worked in your genre or at least state an interest in your subject. Relevant experience will always be more important than the number of years of experience — although you ideally want to find someone in the perfect sweet spot of lots of relevant experience.
Don’t choose someone just because they have a lot of reviews or have worked with impressive authors. A fantasy editor may be excellent at editing fantasy, but they’re less likely to be a wizard(!) at editing memoirs or nonfiction books. If you ask a professional to work outside their area of expertise, they likely won’t agree anyway — so save yourself the time and filter these people out early on.
Feedback style matters
An editor’s personality will come through in their bio and description of their professional experience. No editor will shame you for your writing, but some people's style is more blunt and honest, whereas others prefer to be gentle and kind with their edits. It's much like the different personal trainers you see at the gym sometimes: some will yell "DON'T YOU DARE GIVE UP," while others will cheer their clients on with "You're almost there!" Just from looking at an editor's profile, you'll probably get a sense of whether the two of you will get along.
If this is still sounding unclear, the final part of this guide contains some actual examples from our editors' profiles, so head there to see how you respond to those voices!
Reach out to editors with concise, relevant details
When you contact editors on Reedsy, we offer a fill-in-the-blank brief to send potential editors, so you know you're not missing anything important. This includes:
- Your working title;
- The length of your manuscript;
- The editing service you need;
- Your genre;
- A loose timescale for the project;
- A personal introduction to yourself and your project;
- A short excerpt of your project;
- Optional: additional information about your intended target market
If you want to know more about a particular editor’s style, you can request a sample edit. Some editors may be too busy to do this — if this is the case, you can look for information in the “Reviews” section of their Reedsy profiles. Previous clients will usually describe their collaboration with an editor in ways that can be useful to you.
Don’t forget to sell yourself
It’s really important that you make a great impression when you first introduce yourself and your project. Let editors know why your idea is special, why you’re so passionate about it, and why (if applicable) you're particularly qualified to write it.
If you have a particular connection to your story, e.g. you’re a lawyer writing a courtroom thriller, that’s something you should bring up. If nothing biographical makes you stand out, emphasize your love for the genre; explain, for instance, that as a lifelong fantasy reader, you realized that there’s a gap in the market your project would fill. Keep this introduction concise, enthusiastic, and informative; the goal is to offer a first taste that will get an editor excited about your book.
4. Negotiate terms and rates with your book editor
Once you’ve heard back from everyone, it’s time to finally narrow it down to that perfect match. Here are a few more factors you should weigh:
You can see how thorough an editor tends to be from the detail and expansiveness of their ideas. A lot of detail indicates enthusiasm about your project — exactly what you want to see!
Some editors may not be available to devote all of their time to your project right now. They may already be juggling many projects, or simply be on hiatus. If your project is time-sensitive, you’ll have to choose another editor.
You'll likely receive similar quotes, but if your budget is restricted, you may have to factor in small price differences.
That said, if you’re really eager to work with a particular editor, talk to them about alternatives. As Reedsy co-founder Ricardo Fayet advises, “Ask if you can make the payments in installments, or if there’s room to adjust the scope of work to lower the price. Someone you really want to work with usually really wants to work with you too.”
Communicate your expectations clearly
The best collaborations happen when both parties are clear about what they’re expecting. So, circling back to our introductory advice, make sure you establish these expectations early to avoid misunderstandings! Be prompt, professional, and convey your expectations with precision.
On Reedsy, any messages you exchange are saved to make sure you’re always on the same page. In contrast to phone conversations, you’ll have a full record of your communications to fall back on.
For tips on how to get the most out of your collaboration with an editor, check out the final section in this guide.
Remember, editors are incredibly valuable collaborators for both experienced and new writers, so choose yours carefully. Do your research and you’ll see that figuring out how to find an editor is really not that difficult — and once you find them, they’re going to help shape your stories into books that will touch the lives of many readers.
Sounds good, but are you wondering what it’s all going to cost? Head to the next post in this guide for all the answers you need.