Choosing An Editor

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Choosing An Editor

by Sue A. Fairchild

When a new author contacts me about editing work, I always cringe a bit inside because their first question inevitably is, “How much do you charge?” (Why is everyone’s first thought about money?) Now, I know my worth (especially in the editing realm), but all too often I see that authors will go for the cheapest editor they can find. This is not always the best practice.

I read this blog post from Richard Adin this morning on “The American Editor.” What insightful info! I suggest you read it and take every nuance to heart. What Mr. Adin is saying here is that money is not solely the basis of what you should be considering when picking your editor. And I agree.

Let’s consider this: You want to buy a toaster. (Does anyone still use toasters?) You buy the cheapest one because, well, it’s just for making toast. That makes sense. If it dies next week, you only have to go buy another. And, chances are, it won’t die next week so that’s even better.

BUT. Now think about your novel. Your baby. You’ve spent how long agonizing over it, seeking out the best possible words, and giving up early mornings and nights to write (while avoiding the kids and hubby) just so you could have a manuscript that might actually sell. And now you need an editor, but you have no money (because you’ve spent too long working on this novel and not making any). So you choose an editor who promises to edit the entire 100,000-word manuscript for $100. What a bargain! Soon your masterpiece will be out there in the world for everyone to read!

Every. One.


So when that two-bit editor doesn’t do a good job (because who could do that job correctly for $100?), every single person who reads your baby, your life’s work, will see every misspelled word, every gap in the timeline, and every error that editor left behind. (And don’t think you don’t make errors. We all do. It’s a fact. We are blind to our own mistakes—a novel always needs a second set of professional eyes.)

Do you want a manuscript fraught with errors that people won’t want to read? I don’t think so.

As a legitimate editor, I don’t want that, either. So here is what I do for new clients.

  1. I don’t make promises I’m not sure I can keep. Until I see your work, I have no idea of the quality of your writing. Don’t take that the wrong way—you might be a great story teller, but just a bad speller.
  2. I give my per-hour rate ($50), but I also suggest a small free sample edit of your work. This serves two purposes: 1) You can see how I edit; and 2) I can see how you write.
  3. I give the big picture. When I’ve completed your sample edit (which I time myself for so I can get a good idea of how long your whole story will take), I provide you with a total cost.
  4. I give options. I like to work within an author’s budget and I want to still give them the best possible editing I can. So, if I know the work is going to take a lot and they are low on funds, we spread out the editing (and the billing). After all, it took you two years to write this baby; why should it be edited in less than a week?

Here are some things I want you to consider if you’re looking for an editor:

  1. It’s a relationship. Every person I edit for starts a friendship. I invest in their work just as much as they have and I get to know that author over time. This is essential in keeping an author’s voice. How can I, as an editor, not get to know the author a bit and keep their voice?
  2. It’s not a race. You didn’t write this book overnight. You invested your precious time into it. Let the editor have their time, too.

One last thought…my dad is a carpenter. When he makes something, he first cuts out the wood, then puts the framing of the piece together (your first draft), then he sands it down a few times (your second and third—or more—drafts), then he adds the stain (my first round of editing) and then, finally, the polish or the lacquer that makes it shine (my final editing pass). Good, quality things take time and effort in many different ways. Good books do, too.

* This post was originally published on Sue’s Simple Snippets.


frontalshoteditedSue is a freelance editor and OCD sufferer (which works well for editing). She works with a variety of clients through the Christian Editor Connection as well as a secular online publisher. Her strengths are substantive editing for the Christian market, but she enjoys editing novels and stories of many genres (YA being her current favorite). She can be found at Sue’s Simple Snippets and @suefair48 on Twitter.