Understanding the Author-Editor Relationship: Part 2

MichelleOn Writing, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

The ink hardly dried on my last post before I began receiving inquiries about the specifics of where to find a freelance editor to champion your work, how to approach her, and what to expect as the two of you start working together. As requested, I’ll try to keep this one brief and straight to the point.

Where should I look for a freelance book editor?

  1. The best way to find editors to interview is through word of mouth. Ask your author friends who edited their work, how much they enjoyed working with her, and if their editor actually helped them achieve success with their book. Don’t have any author friends? Join author discussions on social networks like Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. In addition, always ask to see testimonials from freelance editors, or even better, ask each prospective editor for a couple of referrals.
  2. Browse qualified professionals on the Editorial Freelancers Association website: http://www.the-efa.org/. The EFA boasts a huge directory of freelance professionals, making it easy to browse editors by experience, specialty, and location. The EFA is an excellent resource for industry-specific questions, webinars, and learning industry standards. You can also post your job on the site and allow freelancers to email you directly.
  3. Writer.ly is a fantastic new platform for finding editors, book cover designers, formatting help, and marketing/advertising professionals. Simply set up your profile and browse freelancers, or create a detailed, thoughtful post about your project which editors can respond to.
  4. Similarly, oDesk is a great place to look, but there are pros and cons when using oDesk versus Writer.ly. Yes, there are many more freelancers on oDesk—but with that comes a large pool of unqualified “professionals”—many of whom are overseas or may not speak English as their primary language. You could receive dozens of replies when you post a job on oDesk, and will be required to sort through the “slush” to find the right editor for you. This process can be time-consuming and discouraging, but the site is reputable; I have formed great working relationships with new authors through oDesk. If you decide to use oDesk, insist on some back-and-forth correspondence up front—or better yet, a phone call—and always ask for a sample edit.

(Note: oDesk and Elance are joining forces, so it may no longer be necessary to post information about your project on both sites.)

  1. Use Google to search for editors. Most book editors have a website (like this one!) and/or a blog. Some editors are more active on their sites than others. Either way, a website allows you to see information about the editor, her services and pricing, testimonials, etc., without having to ask so many questions up front. Websites should give you a great idea of the editor’s experience and personality, as well as general guidelines for how to inquire about her services. If you find an editor’s website lacks transparency or is difficult to navigate, that could be an indication of her editing style, level of professionalism, and personality—and she is probably not the right editor for you.

How should I approach a freelance book editor?  

If she’s responded to a job you posted, reply with a friendly note detailing why you liked her application and how you think she can help you with your book. If the details of your job post (and thus, her response) were vague, ask for further clarification.

Check to see if she has specific instructions to inquire about her editing services. What details about your project does she want you to include in your email to her? Does she ask you to attach a sample of your writing? Approach an editor just like you would a literary agent: with the information she’s specified, and detailed in a professional, friendly manner. This will ensure your working relationship with her starts off on the right foot. (If she hasn’t outlined a specific inquiry process, simply send her an email introducing yourself and detailing your needs, and ask questions if you have any.)

The “interview” process—which I often discuss in great detail—follows the initial correspondence. This is where you ask clarifying questions, read testimonials and/or referrals, and gauge her level of interest in your project. Ask for a sample edit or a consultation phone call to start, keeping in mind that some editors do charge for this time up front. That’s pretty standard, but up-front costs should be low. I have found the fairest way to charge for this time is to make all up-front costs refundable; that is, my fee for a sample edit is deducted from the author’s final bill if they choose me to edit their full manuscript.

Once you’ve decided on an editor, it’s time to iron out the details. Agree on payment terms and a deadline, and set clear expectations (and understand hers) regarding communication, correspondence, and the level of editing required. If the two of you are a good fit, this process should be painless—and even enjoyable. After all, you’ve written a book and now you’re ready for a professional edit! How exciting!

A final note: it’s important to remember that editing practices do vary. The editor you’ve chosen may be booked months in advance, or she might be able to begin right away. Similarly, your editor may require months to edit your manuscript, or just a couple of weeks. She may use “track changes” in Microsoft Word, or prefer to share the manuscript with you in Google Docs. Style guides may also vary. She might refer to the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook, among others. All of this depends on her editing style, the level of correspondence required between the two of you, and how full she keeps her schedule. An editor is not “good” or “bad” based on these practices, but you should discuss your preferences with her (if you have some) to see if she’ll be a good fit.

If you have additional questions about finding an editor, or you wish to contact me about your project, I’d be more than happy to help! Send an email to michelle@mjbookeditor.com, and I will respond promptly.

Happy Writing!


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