Home » Editing » The Freelance Editor Dilemma: Hiring a Good One

The Freelance Editor Dilemma: Hiring a Good One

Winter Bayne recently did a post about available freelance editors and kindly mentioned me. At this point, I’m well aware that writers have different views on hiring editors for their work. However, once you choose to find an editor, then some amount of research will inevitably be necessary.

So where can you find freelance editors?

These days, every writer and his mother seems to have an “editor” sign over the door, but are they trustworthy and capable?

The Freelance Editor Dilemme: Hiring a Good OneOne of the first places I’d start looking is the Editorial Freelancers Association. If an editor is remotely serious about editing, then the $145 a year membership fee is a price worth paying. In addition to offering editorial webinars and other continuing education classes, they have sample contracts, price ranges, and a wealth of other useful information. By finding an editor who has willingly paid that fee and invested in those services, you’re more likely to find someone who does quality work — or at least someone who is serious about what they do. I’m not saying that all members of the EFA are good editors, but it’s one way of narrowing down the field.

Also, ask around. Look at the work of other authors you admire and see who edited for them. As with anything, recommendations can go a long way.

What about qualifications? Should your editor have any?

Well, in theory, yes, though most qualifications don’t come in the form of editing degrees or certifications. Many freelance editors, including me, haven’t ever worked in the traditional business. Some of us may have done internships with or worked at publishing houses for a while, but most of us have probably gained experience simply by taking on more clients or by learning from other editors. The fact is that anyone can be an editor, which can make sorting the good from the bad somewhat of an endless chore, and if you’re not careful, you could end up investing in someone who simply can’t do the job.

If you’re looking for a “qualified” individual, consider the following:

  • Find someone who has participated in editing courses — seminars, webinars, classes — anything to suggest that they care about furthering their editorial education. Don’t be afraid to ask for their resume and/or references.
  • Know what kind of edit you’re looking for before hiring an editor. There are many different types of edits, and most editors are probably better at one kind of edit than they are at another. It is essential to find someone who can fit the current needs of your novel.
  • Find an editor who reads what you write, especially for developmental and content edits. A good editor will tell you that they aren’t the best person for your story, but not everyone will be honest, especially if they are just starting out. An editor’s best education, like a writer’s, is from reading what’s out there.
  • Ask for a sample edit. A freelancer should be more than willing to edit a small percentage of your work for free before you have to sign the contract. Use this to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere if they don’t meet your standards.
  • As a former English major, I feel I should mention this: English majors don’t necessarily make good editors. English majors can be exceptional analyzers, but to be honest, we don’t have a lot of experience with “genre” fiction. Most probably never even took a grammar class, either. So I feel it’s fair to advise you to take the “English major” background with a grain of salt.

These are just a few suggestions. Different people have had different experiences. Newer, greener editors will be more affordable, but you will be taking a bigger gamble on their actual editing capabilities. A more experienced editor is doubtlessly going to be more expensive, but you’re paying them for just that: their experience. Either way, no matter your budget, your goals, or your story’s needs, I suggest doing the research to find the editor who works best for you. Best of luck!

What can you tell me about your search for editors? Do you have any to recommend to other SM readers? Do you have any other suggestions?

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5 thoughts on “The Freelance Editor Dilemma: Hiring a Good One

  1. Really thorough and great info, Michelle. My former agent (who quit the biz last year – sigh) was a former NAL/Penguin editor. She put my book through the RINGER, but she helped me make it a better book. I think all the tips you laid out will help TSM readers. Thanks.

    • Sounds like you had a great editor. I definitely put Robyn to work, but she’s still speaking to me, so I guess it all worked out. 🙂 Thank you for taking the time to comment, as always!

  2. I do have a recommendation. YOU! 🙂 If anyone needs to see an example of your work, I’ll give them a free copy of Shadows Wake. The experience was painful at times, but knowing my editor was working for the book made all the difference. Everything was about the story and how best to tell the story and that was in addition to the grammar and line edits. When looking for an editor, look for one that will partner with you to make your book the best it can be.

  3. Pingback: Finding a Freelance Editor: Types of Fiction Edits | The Sarcastic Muse

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