Expert guest articles, Inspiration

I’ve written my book – how do I find an editor?

Jane DeanIf you’ve written your book, don’t take risks and think you need someone to just proofread your work – find an editor. From reading my previous two blog posts – So, you think you don’t need an Editor? Think Again, and Top Ten Tips for Editing like an Editor – you’ll know why.

If you’re self-publishing or hoping to attract an agent – and however brilliant your writing – you will benefit from having a professional look through your work. They can advise not only on the content but also on making your book look professional and polished. A good manuscript editor can advise what front and end pages should be included with your book, and publishing protocols you should be aware of.

A few tips here and there will make your book professional, which makes you, the author, look like a serious writer. All this before anyone looks at the content.

But how do you find that special person as committed to your work as you are, who understands what you are trying to achieve, ‘gets’ your writing voice, and will take as much care over your writing as they would their own?

Not as easy as you think.

Using the following as editors will not help you:

  • Friends, neighbors, and family members – even if they are professional editors they may not specialize in editing manuscripts or fiction/non-fiction. They may not have experience in publishing books or the publishing industry in general. They may not be able to critique your work honestly, or may be brutally honest. You know the adage about not teaching your spouse to drive? Apply the same concept here to anyone you might consider asking to edit.
  • Writing group friends – please don’t go there, it will only end in tears and frustration. Possibly with a dollop of envy or jealousy thrown in if your book is good. Whether we realize it or not we all have our own subconscious agendas, prejudices, and personal opinions. If you try and accommodate everyone’s input you’ll end up confused and lost.
  • Someone who edited the high school yearbook 30 years ago – no disrespect intended here as yearbooks are put together by dedicated, knowledgeable, professional teams. That’s not the same as having the knowledge of editing a manuscript, carrying themes through a book, looking for plotting errors, pace, structure and consistency in language.
  • General readers look purely at the text and checking spelling, grammar etc., when professionals look for so much more – consistency in layout, spelling, spacing, formatting. It’s hard to spot errors if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for.

On the plus side, all the above people are invaluable as readers, reviewers and a general support group – something all of us should have. We all need our cheerleaders when we’re having a bad day or have convinced ourselves we’re not ‘good enough’ and ‘in what universe did we ever think we could ever write a book’?

Having now eliminated practically everyone we know as potential editors, how do we find someone who is professional, great at what they do and will make your book strong, readable, and attractive to readers? In other words, a professional editor who works with book manuscripts and understands the publishing industry – mainstream publishing, self-publishing and independent partner publishing.

The best way, without a doubt, is word of mouth. Unless you’re operating in a vacuum, you will know people you can approach who have worked with editors. Ask anyone who has been published, using every contact you have, and you’ll be amazed how much feedback you get.

If you have been stuck in your ivory tower and feel unable to approach anyone, there are other ways to reach out and find editors:

  • Read the acknowledgements in books, which you thought were well written, and see who edited them. No writer is that good they don’t need an editor. If there are no contact details for the editor, don’t be afraid to contact the author and ask. Spending a lot of time in their own ivory towers, authors are generally very approachable and happy to help, especially when you say you got the information from their book, which, incidentally, you loved.
  • Check out Linkedin – you’ll be amazed who’s out there locally, and the beauty of a LinkedIn profile is you have information available without having to approach the editor initially. You can identify possible candidates and have a lot of your questions answered before you contact them. Email is the best way to make initial contact, with phone/ Skype once you’ve established an introduction.
  • Professional organizations such as the Society of Editors and Proofreaders in the UK, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, USA have listings of available editors. As with anything, ‘buyer beware’ and do your due diligence before hiring someone.
  • The Internet – use this to check out editors’ websites, to see work they’ve done and authors they’ve worked with. There will usually be testimonials from authors – feel free to Google and contact them to ask about their editing experience.

I will add a note of caution to the last point. Please, please, beware websites which offer cheap/ fast editing. I have had clients come to me after using sites offering flat rates fees for an edit of your 70,000 word manuscript which you’ll get back in three days. As my grandmother used to say, “buy cheap, buy twice”. If you’ve spent years working on your masterpiece, don’t spoil it at the last hurdle. You need to know who your editor is and develop a relationship with them – it really is that important.

As a final note I’d like to recommend the following article, Myths and Misinformation About the Editing of Books:Seven Deadly Myths and Three Inspired Truths About Book Editing. I agree with everything it says.

My next blog will be Now I’ve found an Editor, what questions should I ask? Don’t miss it if you want to know what you need to know from your editor, and what your editor needs to know from you to avoid misunderstandings, unmet expectations, and to get the best from the experience.

Jane Dean

BA (Hons) English Literature/ Language (UK)