Realistic Expectations: What should you look for in a book editor?

MichelleOn Writing, UncategorizedLeave a Comment

You’ve finally finished the rough draft of your manuscript. Yes! Is there any better feeling in the world??

That rush can be fleeting though if you find yourself shopping for editors, without a clue of what to look for, or what to expect. Will she take the time to really get to know your characters? How involved will she be in your story? Is she qualified? Can you afford it?

To help you get started, here are three things you can expect from your book editor. Remember that these are basic expectations. Meaning: if you find an editor who doesn’t possess these three qualities, then she is not an editor worth your time, your money, or your partnership. You can insist on these:

1. A good editor knows her stuff. She can spot errors because she knows the rules of composition, and she knows how to break them. She combines detail-orientation with creativity to look at your story from a mile above it, as you have had to do. A good editor watches the industry, too. She’s a reader, and she knows what sells.

2. A good editor understands writers. And while writing is a one-man job, editing doesn’t have to be. She empathizes with you because she’s been in your shoes. This shows itself tangibly in her patience with you, her understanding of your process, and the working friendship that develops between the two of you. She is more than an editor – she is a partner.

3. A good editor steps back. Always remember that it is your manuscript, not your editor’s. She knows her place, and you should too. Expect your editor to combine her subjective opinion with objective advice, but in the end, every final decision is yours. The story is yours, and only you can decide to change it.


So you’ve done your research, and you think you’ve narrowed it down, maybe you’ve even found “the one”. Here are a couple ways you can be sure:

1. Always insist on a sample edit. Just as you have your own writing “style”, your editor will have a style of her own as well. For both your sake and hers, ask her to send you a sample edit, and that means you should be ready to share a sample of your writing with her up front. A sample edit is the only way to find out how you and a prospective editor might work together. Notice how long it takes her to complete the sample – a day, a week? See how involved she gets in your story, in your characters. How thorough is she? Did she miss any errors in the line edit? Do her comments open up a dialogue between the two of you?

In other words, is your editor good at what she does, and do the two of you have working chemistry?

2. Agree on a fair price. A full-length edit can range anywhere from $100 to more than $5,000. This price is based on simple economics. The better an editor, the higher her demand will be, the higher the cost of her services. Your editor may have a standard rate, or she may customize her rates for different projects. Don’t allow a prospective editor to bully you into breaking the bank, but remember that a detailed edit is also an investment… after all, your end goal is to sell books, right? Or if not to sell, then at the very least to help make your book the absolute best version of itself it can be.

And as is true with anything, is true with editing: You get what you pay for.

Finding a good book editor can be stressful. Remember to just take it one step at a time, do your research, and ask lots of questions.

Ready to start a discussion with a prospective book editor? Email me at, and I’d be more than happy to chat with you.

Happy writing!


“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.” | Isaac Asimov

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