The challenge of finding an editor for your manuscript comes up in every writing and authors group I have ever seen. In reality, it’s both simple and difficult.

First, the author has to find editors. They may be suprised to discover that we’re lurking everywhere. Various online platforms aggregate freelance services to make finding a ghostwriter, editor, proofreader, book designer, illustrator, or whatever quick and easy. Getting a list of freelancers who offer the service you need is easy; culling them to a short list of viable candidates is not.

Those platforms range from low-bid sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer to sites where you’re more likely to find skilled professionals, such as the Editorial Freelancers Association, ACES (The American Copy Editors Society), LinkedIn, and Reedsy. You will also find writers, editors, and the like lurking in and participating in various Facebook groups, such as I Need a Book Editor and Authors Seeking Editors/Proofreaders.

On any of these platforms, a request for proposals (RFP) generally results in myriad responses, many from low-bid, unskilled vendors and scammers. This is unfortunate, because it makes your job to find a skilled editor who’s a good match for your project more difficult.

To find the right editor, include some basic information in your RFP to avoid wasting your time or wasting a professional editor’s time:

  1. Fiction or nonfiction. Editors specialize. Some only work in fiction and others in nonfiction. If your book is nonfiction, a fiction-only editor will not waste his time submitting a proposal, which means you won’t waste your time reading a proposal from an unsuitable editor.
  2. Genre. Again, editors specialize. Some only work with certain material; others specialize by what they don’t work with. I don’t accept scholarly manuscript or horror manuscripts. By stating the genre of your manuscript, you you won’t waste your time reading a proposal from an unsuitable editor, and an editor won’t waste her time submitting a proposal for work she doesn’t want.
  3. Document length. This refers to word count. Page count means nothing, unless you’re referring to standard manuscript pages (which most authors do not). Word count allows the editor to roughly calculate how long the manuscript will take to edit.
  4. Deadline. Popular editors are usually booked months out. An editor whose schedule is packed may not be able to work in a project on a near deadline. The stated deadline also indicates whether the author has unreasonable expectations for the completion of the project. Having the deadline for completion enables the editor to avoid wasting time submitting a proposal when it won’t fit into his schedule. This means the author won’t waste time reading a proposal from a author who can’t accommodate the project.
  5. Budget. Many authors don’t know how much editing costs or even that different levels of editing command different rates. I steer authors to the EFA’s rates guide for a reasonably current overview of professional writing and editing rates. A lot of authors, upong viewing what professional editors charge, are struck by sticker shock. Yes, Virginia, professional editing and writing get expensive. This means an author may need to save up for the expense, negotiate a payment plan with the editor, accept reduced service to accommodate a tight budget, or do without professional editing (not a good decision). The author’s stated budget indicates whether the author truly values the editor’s work or has unreasonable expectations. If the budget is lower than what the editor will accept, the editor must decide whether to attempt to educate the author, offer an alternative (payment plan or reduced service), or not waste time submitting a proposal.

Once you have a short list of editors from which to choose, you should evaluate their skill and compatibility with your work. This calls for a sample edit.

Some editors will perform a sample edit for free; others require payment. For sentence-level editing, a sample is just that: a small excerpt of the manuscript usually not exceeding 1,000 words. The sample edit demonstrates how the editor will treat your work. The author then decides whether the editor’s treatment of the work is acceptable. The sample edit also informs the editor as to how much work the manuscript really needs, which translates into an adjustment of the editor’s fees for the project. Let’s be candid: a hot mess of a manuscript requires a lot more time, skill, and effort to whip in to shape than does a clean, well-written manuscript.

If you want to serve your book’s best interests, it behooves you to follow the tried and true publishing process and invest in the quality of the product: your book. Your readers expect a high level of professionalism and deserve nothing less.

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