The Ultimate Checklist to Find the Right Editor for Your Book

Find the right editor for your book

A book takes its readers on a memorable journey, but in the larger scheme of things, we sometimes forget that it has a journey of its own to complete! From the first draft to a completed novel, it goes through numerous revisions and iterations before it can be appreciated by the readers. An editor is one of the most critical stakeholders in this process, one who adds finishing touches to your book and makes it the best it can be, while preserving the essence of it. In this blog post, we will guide you through necessary checks to keep in mind before you pick an editor or even while you work with one. We will also walk you through what follows once you have a completed manuscript in hand.

1. What exactly happens once you have finished writing your story?

Typically, as an author, you would go through the following sequence once you have a completed manuscript in hand:

  • Give yourself a break from it! 

You have just gone on the literary adventure of writing an entire book from start to finish. So, congratulate yourself for making it to the finish line and set your pen aside with a flourish! Give your eyes and mind sufficient rest before looking at your work again. This way, you will be more capable of viewing it from a different angle and notice or possibly rectify things that you hadn’t before. 

  • Self-edit and proofread your work.

Before passing on your book to an editor, ensure that you have done a few rounds of proofreading and editing yourself. You must believe that your book is the best it can be before you get another person/party to work on it. 

  • Make the book accessible to beta readers/sensitivity readers/fact-checkers.

Once you have inspected your manuscript for typographical or grammatical errors, it is imperative to have a fact-checker confirm the veracity of factual or research-based data that goes into it. Similarly, suppose your story includes a fictional representation of persons belonging to specific communities/ethnicities. In that case, it’s best to have a sensitivity reader peruse it with the sole purpose of pointing out inaccurate portrayals of race, religion, gender, physical disabilities, etc. Here are some tips on how you can include diverse characters in your book. In general, it is good practice to have your book reviewed by beta readers before it gets published. 

  • Get your manuscript edited.

Since the objective of this blog is to address the much-anticipated subjects of editing and editors, we will get into the details shortly. For now, remember that editing is possibly the most crucial step in the whole process, one that truly makes your book ready for the market!

  • Work on the cover design and overall packaging of your book.

Once you’re satisfied with what’s inside the book, divert your attention to the aesthetic aspects of what’s going to be on the outside. Contrary to popular belief, what your book looks like determines whether or not it gets picked up by an interested reader. A good front cover speaks volumes about the intrigue or mystery that the book contains, and closely relates to the contents of the book. Once a reader decides to pick up your book, the next thing they look at, albeit for a few seconds, is the blurb on the back cover. It acts as an elevator pitch for your book, so it is critical to get it right! 

Most books include the following:

– an exciting tagline

– a short yet engaging summary of your book

– an author bio

– words of praise for your book

– an ISBN code and sometimes a barcode

  • Publish! 

There are two primary options when it comes to publishing, namely traditional publishing and self-publishing. The former is a more conventional approach, whereby an author finds a publishing house to approve and publish their book. Self-publishing, on the other hand, is largely independent and allows the author to drive the entire writing and publishing process. Each has its strengths and flaws, but self-publishing is what most writers prefer due to better control over the creative as well as monetary aspects of their book. 

If you wish to go the self-publishing way, consider using a platform like Pencil that can help you publish your work for free and also provide editing and designing services, making the whole process simplified and consolidated. 

2. Why should you hire a professional editor?

A finished manuscript is not necessarily an audience-ready novel. An editor’s role is to bridge that gap by polishing your book in many ways. A knowledgeable editor would not only fix inconsistencies and errors in your book, but also improve the overall quality of your work with an eye for clarity and cohesiveness. Whether you’re a novice or a tenured writer, getting an expert pair of eyes to go over your manuscript, is always recommended. 

3. What do you need to consider before firming up on an editor?

a. The type of editing service that may be required:

  • Developmental or Substantive editing: Development editing focuses on the overall content and structure of your story, and scrutinizes elements like the narrative arc, plotlines, character development, etc. 
  • Line editing: As the name suggests, a line editor speculates every line in the book, and pays particular attention to language consistency, choice of words used, redundancy in content and the overall writing style. 
  • Copy editing: This is possibly the most basic form of editing as it aims to ensure accuracy in grammar, punctuation, syntax, etc. 
  • Proofreading: The final step in the editing process, proofreading is done after the book has been formatted and just before it gets published. A proofreader reviews the book for typos, missing or extra text as well as blank spaces, and issues with the layout and formatting of the book. 

b. Genre-wise editing: 

In literature, there are broadly three genres of writing that encompass all other sub-genres and categories. These are prose (popularly recognized as fiction and non-fiction), poetry and drama. It is wise to choose an editor whose area of expertise lies in the same genre as your book. Every genre requires specific editing techniques that an editor should be aware of. For example, non-fiction requires extensive fact-checking on research-oriented data, whereas editors of fiction must ensure strong, consistent character work. 

c. The cost element: 

Expectedly, a few crucial decisions made by an author are influenced by their budget restrictions and the cost components associated with a service. The following factors usually influence pricing: 

  • level of editing (what type of editing you’re opting for)
  • length and complexity of your book(more the number of pages, higher the cost; a book belonging to a complex genre like medical non-fiction would require more rounds of fact-checking)
  • experience of the editor(more experienced, higher the price charged)

d. You’re looking for an editor, not a ghostwriter!

This one’s more of a word of caution, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Many writers confuse the two roles and expect their editors to make a book out of research notes, story outlines and other pertinent information. Always remember, you and you alone are responsible for amalgamating your plotlines, data points and character arcs into a unified story. An editor only strives to improve your book, not write it altogether!

4. What checks can you use to evaluate an editor?

To find the right editor, you must assess them based on some parameters as listed below:

  • Genre specific editing proficiency: It would be sensible to work with an editor who specializes in your genre or even sub-genre of writing. An author of horror or thriller novels may not be able to adapt to writing romantic fiction all of a sudden, and the same rule applies to editors too. 
  • Editing speciality: As highlighted in an earlier section, developmental, line, and copy editors possess different editing abilities. Find and work with one who has a specific area of expertise that aligns with your requirements. 
  • Style guide know-how: One of the lesser-known ground rules of writing and editing a book, is that of adhering to a style guide. Style guides define some essential guidelines in terms of language, grammar, tonality, etc. They also address some aspects of English that aren’t universal, like colloquialisms, slang, abbreviations, etc. Five commonly used guides are: 

AP style guide which includes standardized best practices for language, spelling, grammar, etc. as used in journalism.

Chicago Manual of Style guide, commonly used by writers of fiction and non-fiction alike, for its detailed instruction on the publishing process and underlying tasks such as proofreading, formatting, and citation.

APA style guide is revered in the academic world, owing to its detailed guidelines on scholarly writing and formatting manuscripts. 

MLA style guide, frequently consulted by students of literature, for citations.

The Economist Style Guide, compiled by the famed news publication and loved by writers and publishers. The guide packages The Economist’s own writing expertise into definitive guidelines and rules and gives writers some broad advice on language, abbreviations, and some lessons in maintaining lucidity and consistency in writing. In addition, it is known for its exhaustive reference material on everything from stock market indices to science and nature, and also for calling out some factors that distinguish the American and English variants of the language. 

An experienced editor must understand the importance of using a single style guide and maintaining consistency throughout the book. 

Besides these, there are two important things you need to keep in mind while identifying the right editor. Find someone who can:

  • Refine your work while preserving the essence of it.
  • Guide you for your future writing pursuits and not just your current manuscript. They should be able to explain their changes so that you can learn from the experience.
5. What process can you follow to find an editor?
  • Join writing communities/Facebook groups/ forums like Goodreads, Pencil, or NaNoWriMo, and look for editors within the network.
  • Seek referrals and recommendations from other writers. You could also scour forums and writing platforms for reviews. 
  • Once you have a few names jotted down, get a sample edit done by these editors to ensure compatibility as well as proficiency. Look at it as a screening process of sorts! Some publishing platforms like Pencil, help you reach out to seasoned editors who can help you shape your work into a masterpiece. A lot of editors also work on a freelance basis, and can be contacted via online networks like Upwork, Fiverr or Freelancer. For example, Upwork allows you to connect with screened, verified editors whose proficiencies and skill sets would already be listed down. You could find a developmental editor or a copy one, a fiction editor or a non-fiction one, and so on. Fiverr is quite similar, except that it’s more freelancer-centric rather than employer-centric. Skilled personnel (editors in this case) would advertise their skills and specify the kind of jobs they’re looking for. What you need to know is that all of these platforms collectively simplify the process of finding, screening and ultimately working with an editor who is the right fit for you and your book. 
  • Circle in on the one who understands and excels at editing books in your genre/sub-genre, and whom you would feel comfortable working with.

So, there you have it, a comprehensive checklist that answers the what, why, how and where of finding and working with the right editor for your book. If there’s one person who is equally dedicated to your book, and can help you become a better writer, it’s most certainly your editor! Trust them with your work, allow them to critique it, but ensure that your book continues to tell the story as you had intended, and in your voice!

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