- Ask a few different editors to provide sample edits of the same 2 or 3 page sample of your work. Compare their editing. Even if you have to pay for the sample edits, it is worth it if you find an editor who can really meet your particular needs.
- A good editor will usually ask for a representative sample of the writing from your manuscript (between 2 to 6 or 7 pages, usually), so he or she can make sure your work is a good fit for his/her skills. If your work includes things like graphs, maps, and illustrations, and you want those edited too, be sure to include samples. If the sample shows the editor that your manuscript isn’t suited to his/her skill set, the editor will likely refer you to someone else who can do a good job of your type of writing. So sample edits are really a must, both for the author and for the editor.
- Be specific about what you want the editor to do. There are many types of editing. Some of the writing aspects an editor will look for are clarity, cohesiveness, continuity, logic, readability, interesting characterization, a plot that moves the story along, a strong beginning and believable ending, and so on. Editing is not just punctuation, spelling, and grammar – unless you are just looking for a final proof-read.
Send a list of your needs, and ask if the potential editor does that type of editing.
- Go the Editors’ Association of Canada website and look up the “Definitions of Editorial Skills” (http://www.editors.ca/hire/definitions.html). This will help you decide what kind of editing you need. You can also post jobs at the EAC site; it is a good place to find professional editors in Canada.
- Ask other authors who do writing similar to yours for the names of editors they recommend.
- Realize that just as in any industry, there are very qualified editors and less qualified ones – and also there will be editors with whom you are simply not compatible due to personality, ideas about writing, and so on. If you do hire an editor and then find part way through the process that you are unhappy with their work or approach, you may well be better off to pay them for what they have done so far, and then try another editor instead.
- Before you hire an editor, make a list of what you are looking for: not just someone “qualified” and “experienced” in a particular type of editing, but perhaps someone who has a good business sense, who is willing to listen to you and discuss things, who is willing to send you the edited work chapter by chapter so you can see if it is what you are looking for, who will (or won’t) change your story — or whatever aspects and needs are important to you personally. You might also want to find out if the editor has knowledge and experience in your topic area, especially if you are writing non-fiction, or a fictional story that has highly topic-specific information.
- Good editors will be honest with you. They may well give positive feedback about good aspects of your writing, but they will also (constructively) critique those aspects that need more work. Unless an editor is rude, take the advice as an opportunity to improve your writing. Every writer, even those who regularly pump out best-sellers, can improve, and should want to do so. If there is something really “off” about your work, a good editor may even stop line-by-line editing, and simply do a read-through (maybe even just the first chapter), then send the manuscript back to you with notes about areas you need to improve before carrying on with a full edit.
- A good editor will provide the names of books (or other written materials) he or she has edited previously so you can, if you wish, check the work. Also, most editors have a website or blog, and you can check out their blog posts, references, and other materials on the site.
- A good editor will also likely have available a contract form, which you can work through together, and put the specifics of your agreement in writing. The contract will spell out things like pay rate, time commitments, and other aspects of the editing agreement. This protects both of you.
- Consider your audience when you choose an editor. If your audience is primarily American, or Canadian, or British – or from any other English-speaking nation – you would do well to work with an editor who knows that audience’s dialect and cultural distinctions well. Likewise, if you are writing in another language, it would be wise to have an editor who knows that language and culture very well.
For other posts on this site related to editing and writing, check this list.
Learn more about Pen and Paper Mama’s editing services on this page.