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How to Choose an Editor

Last time I helped you locate independent editors and, hopefully, encouraged you to actually use one for your next literary masterpiece. This time, I’d like to help you take the next step to actually choosing and using an editor.

The most important thing to remember is that this relationship is a give and take. Just as you are creative in the writing of your book, so is the editor in helping you to refine it. Depending on the level of your own experience, an editor will gauge how much guidance they feel you need from them. Just as every writer works differently, so does every editor.

Let’s say, for the sake of this exercise, you’ve found a few editors with whom you think you can work. How do you know which one to choose? Which one will work best with you and for you?

That is relatively simple. I told you in my last post that most editors will request a sample of your writing. Just as an editor wants to evaluate you before they accept you as a client, you should evaluate them before you hire them. Remember that you are the employer and you have every right to ask a potential employee for a sample of their work, just as, in a traditional workplace, you might request a resumé.

By reading an editor’s website, you should be able to find out more about their individual approach to their work. You’ll probably also get a feel for the way they write, since most indies write their own copy for their websites/blogs. Don’t be afraid to read samples of the books they’ve edited. This will give you insight as to the quality of the work they produce, or let out of the gate.

But the easiest, most important thing an editor can do to show you how they will handle your individual work is to actually show you. THAT is where your sample works for you. You’ve sent your potential editor(s) a sample of your work. Ask them to edit it and send it back to you.

If you’re trying to decide between two or more editors, comparing their markups of your work and how much you agree is the best way to decide which one will be the better choice for you. Notice I said, “for you.”

I’d like to repeat here that editors are a diverse group, and choosing between them is not always a black and white, “Who has the better resume?” or, “Who has the more impressive body of work?” Make sure you choose one with whom you know you can work, with whom you agree to a point. Consider how much they point out to improve, or to leave alone, and how that impacts what you wish to accomplish with your work.

Do not become defensive about your work; accept that evaluation as that one person’s constructive criticism and let it be your guide to hiring a person who could very well be your editor for years to come. I know authors with whom I’ve worked once or twice and a decision has been made, either by me, by them, or both of us that maybe we don’t mesh as well as we thought we did. Then there are those for whom I’ve done everything from their blogs, to their promotional materials, to every piece in their bibliography.

You may not feel that click immediately, but you will be able to make a more educated decision by looking at their work as it pertains to your work. I really can’t get much more detailed than that except to tell you to trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to tell a potential editor you’ve decided to go with a different editor.

You are embarking on a long-term working relationship. You’re at the start of a great journey. Now get out there and find yourself an editor.


Laurie Laliberte is a freelance fiction editor who specializes in working with independent authors who are new to self-publishing. Further details about her work can be found on her website and you will find much of her bibliography here.


Twitter: @LaliberteLaurie

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