How To Establish A Connection With And Trust A Freelance Editor

I have to start out by saying that hiring a freelance editor is NOT required. You don’t have to ever spend a dime on editing if you don’t want to. Critique partners, alpha and beta readers, editing how-to books, and time can all do wonders for a manuscript.

But if you’re thinking about connecting with an editor, here’s the deal:

Finding an editor starts by looking at yourself and where you are with your own writing.

What type of edit are you looking for? Do you think you’ve got the story basics down but need help deepening the plot? Perhaps a developmental editor is needed. Got the plot perfect but have trouble with those pesky commas? Maybe you only need a proofreader. While some editors wear many hats, they should have a main focus. Consider working with more than one editor on the different types of edits.

What kind of editor are you looking for? Do you need someone that is hands on, back and forth, more of the “teaching” type? Would you prefer a do-it-for-you editor who makes changes and asks questions later? Would you want an editor who will change everything they see, or one who points things out only and lets you make any decisions? Do you need an editor that is challenging or encouraging or a mix of both?

Finding An Editor:

Google “editor” and there are millions of results. Google “YA editor” and there are fewer. Google “YA developmental editor” and there are even fewer. The more specific you can get, the better. But I don’t recommend using Google to find an editor.

Hiring an editor is a business decision. Just like a celebrity surrounds themselves with a team to make them fabulous, your editor should be someone you like and trust to help put your words in the best possible light.

Ask your writing buddies, critique partners, and other authors in your genre, and see who they’ve used and who they recommend. Get a long list of names. Not every editor is going to be a good fit for every author and the more options you have, the better.

Stalk the editors on Twitter. Comb over their websites. Look at portfolios and read testimonials from

past clients. Google them and read interviews and guest posts. Do they seem like someone you would get along with? Some might seem to be a good fit, others you’ll know right away are not for you.

When you’ve narrowed your list down to a few names, talk to them. Send emails, chat with them on Twitter, anything you can do. Ask for a sample edit. While it’s difficult to really do any impressive editing in less than ten pages, it can often reveal an editing style and an edit expectation that don’t match.

Perhaps have a shorter section edited by several editors first, say 25-50 pages for a smaller fee before jumping into a full edit. Don’t be afraid to hop from editor to editor to find the right fit.

Don’t get carried away by a resume; focus on actual skills. Verify what you can. Look up their previous books. Read them. You want to find an editor who is the right fit for you, and for your stage of writing. An editor shouldn’t impose, they should help your book be the best form of itself.

Trusting Strangers:

It’s like leaving your dog at a kennel for the first time. I’d leave my MolliePup with a family member sure, but with a STRANGER? What if they decided she needed a haircut and I come home and she’s bald? Would I trust them to know that a double-coated dog shouldn’t get a buzz cut?

If I’ve done my due diligence, know that they know what they’re doing, there’s that moment when I have to trust the professionals and let them get on with it.

That being said, if there’s ever a red flag for you, it’s perfectly okay to walk away. In some cases, run.

The best advice I can give is GET IT IN WRITING. You’re going to be handing out hundreds, potentially thousands of dollars to a stranger on the internet. It’s everything you’ve been told not to do. Get your expectations, the timeline, their scope of services, the price tag, all of it, in writing. A good contract is essential. Look it over, ask questions, and tweak it until you’re happy.

Sure, there are some nefarious swindlers who set up shop with no experience or qualifications hoping to score a quick buck from the self-publishing boom, but they won’t last long. Same goes for those who are well-intentioned with a love of books or a long teaching career who think that is enough to qualify them. Such people rarely possess the specialized skills and industry knowledge to be useful and they’ll find that their clients are few and far between. This is why word of mouth recommendations are so important.

Be wary of referrals from agents or publishers. While these are not always questionable, there may be kickbacks being handed out. Be sure the referring agent has a sales history and they’re not charging fees for this service. Publishers should provide their own editing at no charge. Editing by a “professional service” should never be a requirement before representation or a book deal.

Don’t fall for assurances or high praises. No one can guarantee anything in this business and there are those who prey on the insecurities of writers who think their book has to be print ready to even have a chance. Your manuscript needs to be as perfect as you can make it–finished, polished, and properly presented, but even that doesn’t guarantee success.

Partnering with an editor is a lot like dating. Keep your guard up and your pepper spray handy but don’t forget to have a good time too.

And I repeat: If there are any red flags for you, walk away.

Then What?

Follow through with your side of the editing. Just saying you’ve had a book edited doesn’t give you a free pass in the query stage. It’s not about “buying your way in” or an expensive foot in the door kind of thing.

One of the best parts of being an editor for me is when I hear back from previous clients when they get good news. I love bouncing ideas around with them and finding new ways to write a scene. I often joke that my clients are stuck with me. I’m known for sending nudge emails asking how things are going or what things I can do to help promote a book when it debuts. Hopefully your chosen editor becomes an ally and you’ll have someone on your side for years to come.

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