Are you asking your editor the right questions?

MichelleOn Writing, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

A potential client sent me an email this morning, after about a week of emails back and forth, and asked me the best question I’ve been asked so far in my career as a professional editor:

What do you love about editing? 

My reaction was something like: Yes! Finally! While I’m usually the one to ask my clients, What do you love about writing?, I was so excited to be on the receiving end of a similar question. I then returned with a (likely) too-long response, but he could not have been more appreciative. Why? Because we had just found a common denominator: we have a passion for our craft. Since we’re about to be working together for the next six to eight weeks, I couldn’t ask for a better start to our working relationship.

Before he asked me this question though, we had to take care of the basics first. When would I be available? How long would it take? How much would it cost? Could I help him with his query letter, too? These are great questions to ask your editor, but don’t stop there. Here are three important follow-up questions you should ask before signing on with any editor:

How can you help me?

No two projects are the same. You have your own style, your own “voice”. Your writing is unique, and your story fits into its genre in a way no other story has – or will. You may need help with a query letter and finding an agent, or you may be more interested in self-publishing. You might expect your editor to know about KDP and CreateSpace and Smashwords, or not. Ask your editor to read some of your work first, and tell her about your specific publishing and/or marketing goals. How many books has she edited in your genre, and does she enjoy it? Can she still help you? HOW?

What are your credentials?

Ask about her education and experience. How long has she been in business for, and who has she worked with? Ask for references or testimonials from her previous clients. Remember that it goes beyond what she looks like on “paper” though; when a good editor isn’t editing, she’s learning how to do it better. Ask her what she does as far as continued education. What books does she read? You can also test her skills by asking for a sample edit or requesting she pass a proofreading test, which are easily accessible online.

And my new favorite: What do you love about editing?

In case you’re wondering, here’s a snippet of how I responded to that one: 

“While I consider myself as having a ‘natural’ desire to help others, I didn’t realize I could have such an enormous impact on other writers until I became a member of peer critiquing groups. For years I was proofreading for my friends and suggesting big story-level changes for their writing, and they started taking my advice! When some of those friends actually published their books – successfully! – I knew I’d found my niche. I stopped critiquing for ‘free’ and officially became a freelancer. The best part is: some of those friends are now coming back to me, on their second or third or fourth books, and hiring me to provide the same service I had offered for free the first time. Pretty cool, huh?”

In addition to asking the right questions, pay attention to the questions your editor asks you as well. Building a solid foundation is key to any working relationship, but especially between authors and editors. Look for an editor who is collaborative and responsive, and remember to set clear expectations – or to ask for hers. Open communication is hugely important, and it starts with the interview.

If and when you are ready to start shopping around for an editor, I’d love to hear from you. Just send an email to, and ask away! I’m an open “book”. 🙂

And now, I leave you with this:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” | Ralph Waldo Emerson

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