What to Look for when Choosing an Editor

FF Cover

The Book: Forbidden Future

An Anthology of Time Travel

The Editor: Jeri Walker-Bickett.  JeriWB writes short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. The rough Idaho mining town she grew up in populates her literary landscape. She also works as a freelance editor.

Jeri WB
Jeri WB

Editing is a crucial step in preparing a book for publication. Authors should concern themselves with appropriate editorial assistance at all stages of writing and not just the end of the process. Valuable feedback can come in the form of critique partners and beta readers, but once the author has revised again and again, there really can be so substitute for a the impartial and trained professional eye of an editor. It will certainly be money wisely spent, but only if the editor can truly deliver.

A mutual friend suggested my services to Mark Lee as a possible copy editor for the time travel anthology Forbidden Future. Mark’s approach to the overall process sealed the deal. The short stories arrived in my hands having already been critiqued for content. Because I am growing my client list, I agreed to complete the project for a quarterly percentage of sales. While it’s not likely I’ll recoup the fee I would charge for 23.5 hours of copy editing, what I’ve gained in experience has been priceless.

I now find myself in the precarious position of both editor and writer. Whether a client comes to me or I am the one looking for a suitable fit, please consider these five tips when picking an editor.

Does the editor offer a sample edit?

The best way of gauging whether an editor’s approach fits is to have them complete a sample edit. Be sure to establish the type of editing being sought. Typically, an editor will request about ten pages to help establish a sense of the project. Then they will return a sample edit of the first 500 words or so. Editing is time-consuming, and a small sample is more than enough to offer proof of qualification.

What professional qualifications does the editor possess?

Countless professions require certification, but practically anyone can call themselves an editor. Proofreading is fairly cut and dry for anyone with a keen eye for spelling and grammar, but a copy editor should be able to provide proof of an extensive background in working with multiple texts in varying contexts. Look for a combination of coursework, publishing experience, and workshop participation.

FF Tour ButtonAre quality references and samples available?

Check the editor’s LinkedIn profile and website for references that allow a complete picture to form of the type and level of work the editor has completed in the past. The recommendations should be specific to the given project and not overly generic.

Is a contract signed which outlines the expectations for both parties?

While most contracts are not legally binding, they do help clear up any confusion that could result in the future. How and when is payment due? What length of time will the editing project take? Will the editor receive acknowledgement in the publication? Will feedback be given in a report, within the document or a combination of both? How will multiple files be dealt with?

How professionally do editors present themselves?

Is the initial email answered promptly? How long does it take the sample edit to be returned? Are they available for phone or video consultations? Does their website offer value for their clients and is the design visually appealing and easy to navigate?

Whether self-publishing or querying literary agents, it’s in an author’s best interest to submit the cleanest copy possible. When it comes to price, research professional rates. Depending on their workload, it’s possible the freelance editor’s fees may be open to negotiation. It’s important to find the editor who can deliver the best results within your budget, but always be wary of rock bottom prices.

What other factors in picking an editor would you add to the tips above?

Please click the book cover image to read more about the anthology of  short stories about time travel.

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