Hiring a freelance book editor has become a vital part of the self-publishing process. However, finding a freelance book editor that is right for you and your book is no easy task.
In this article, you'll discover how to find the best freelance editor. You'll also learn what questions you should ask before hiring a freelance editor, and you'll find out how to get the most from that editor.
Types of Editor
You've written your book, and you are now at the start of the publishing process. You've completed your first draught, and you are currently looking to hire a freelance editor.
The first step to take is to decide on the type of editor you need.
In this article, I looked at the different types of editors that are available to writers. However, there are only two types of editor that you should be considering at this point: developmental editor or a copyeditor.
A developmental editor will examine the broader structure, flow, and layouts of your book. They will comment on such issues as how the book is set out and other wider issues such as plot and character development.
This type of editorial feedback will provide you with direction on what you need to change to lift your book to the next level. The editor will provide detailed guidance on what should be changed and how it can be altered. This is the most time consuming and complicated type of editorial feedback. It is also the costliest.
The second type of editor is a copyeditor. The job of the copyeditor is to fix line-level issues within the book. In essence, this means they will be fixing typos, grammatical problems, and applying consistency throughout your novel.
It is foolhardy to publish a book without at least one copyedit. This type of edit will provide a detailed list of changes that need to be made by you. However, it will not address plot and structure issues. This type of editing is less expensive than developmental editing. It also tends to take less time to complete.
When it comes to the picking of an editor, it depends mostly on you and their book. However, it can be beneficial to turn to the traditional publishing world to find a reliable guideline as to the best approach.
During the traditional publishing process, a novel will undergo at least one developmental edit. However, it usually is more than one, and at least one copyedit, though, once again, this is ordinarily multiple edits. Nevertheless, traditional publishers will have a larger publishing budget than a self-publishing writer; this means that a self-publishing writer will often have to look for the most cost-effective approach tp publishing their book.
It is not uncommon to see self-published books that have skipped the developmental editing stage and only undergone a copyedit. This is understandable, though not ideal. Missing the developmental editing stage means that a book will not be the best possible version of itself that it can be.
When it comes to copyediting, a different approach is required. A novel must undergo at least one copyedit before it is published. A book should undergo multiple copyedits, though often, the first two or three will be done either by the writer or friends/family. But it usually means that only one professional copyedit is affordable. If this is the case, then the writer and must take every step they can to ensure that they have removed as many errors before it is edited by a professional.
Things to Consider When Hiring a Freelance Editor
Hiring a freelance editor can be a hit and miss process, but writers can take several steps to ensure that they can find the right editor for their book.
Below are several things that a writer should consider when hiring an editor.
When hiring a freelance editor, qualifications may or may not play an essential role in the decision-making process.
When hiring a developmental editor, you will quickly discover that there is no set qualification for a developmental editor. Anyone can simply declare themselves a developmental editor.
This means that the onus is on the writer to ensure they are employing the best possible freelance editor. Though there is no set qualification for a developmental editor, there are several things you can look out for that will indicate that the editor is suitable for your book.
The most important of these will be that the editor has at least a graduate-level qualification, and most probably, a postgraduate level qualification. It is becoming increasingly common to find editors with degrees in creative writing-related subjects. This is especially true for postgraduate creative writing qualifications such as master's degrees. This is not to say that a degree in creative writing (or equivalent subject) is essential. Still, it is a good indication that the editor has the necessary understanding to provide the type of feedback you need to lift your book to the next level.
Naturally, the experience will outweigh any qualifications. It is not uncommon to find developmental editors with graduate-level education but a considerable amount of relevant on the job experience. A full-time developmental editor can easily edit twenty or thirty books a year. This means it will not take long for them to be in the hundreds. This type of editorial experience is invaluable and outweighs any qualifications.
From a personal viewpoint, I have been editing since 2008, and I recently calculated that I had edited more than 500 books.
In these situations, you should be using this experience as a good indicator that you have the correct book editor.
Regarding copyediting, the situation is different.
Every major English-speaking country has recognized qualifications for copyeditors, and you should not employ a copyeditor that does not have these qualifications.
There are often several bodies providing qualifications.
University certificates are great for getting started from ground level. Still, they often have a more rigid schedule and require students to finish all the classes within a specific time period.
Certificates through professional associations offer a wide range of options. They often provide single courses, which are great if you are only looking for one or two courses on a specific topic.
- Publishing Training Centre
- Society for Editors and Proofreaders
- Editorial Freelancers Association
- Writer's Digest Copyediting Certification Course
- ACES: The Society for Editing
Once again, experience will go a long way to showing you that you have the correct editor, but qualifications are equally important when it comes to copy editors.
You may also find that the most experienced copy editors will have spent at least a small period of their career working for one of the big five publishers. If you can find a copy editor with this type of experience, it is clear that they can provide a competent job.
When employing a freelance editor, you should be looking closely at their testimonials. All good freelance editors will have several satisfied customers. They will also be happy to either put you in touch with those customers or, at the very least, direct you to testimonials.
As an example, at BubbleCow, we have collected all of our testimonials into one place. This means that we have close to 100 happy customers happy to provide feedback on their experiences with our company. We have nothing to hide. We will also direct potential new writers towards writers of similar genres, whose books we have worked on in the past. I say this not to boast, but to show how a reputable editor should act.
If you are interested in employing a freelance editor, ask them for a list of testimonials. Also, ask them for a list of past customers whose book is of a similar genre to your writing. The editor may not be able to provide a complete list, due to privacy issues, but they will almost certainly provide something of note. Reputable freelance editors will keep a record of happy customers just for this type of inquiry.
If you are working with a freelance editor, who either refuses to give testimonials or is very reluctant to allow you to see past customers, then this should be a red flag.
If a freelance editor cannot provide evidence of their previous work, there must be a reason.
It is commonplace for freelance editors to provide a free sample edit for potential writers. These usually consist of the first 1000 to 2000 words of your book. This sample will allow the editor to provide free feedback, showing the writer what they can offer and how they can help improve their book.
If you are considering working with a freelance editor, you should ask them for a free sample of your book. Provide them with a Word document containing the first section of your writing and ask the editor to provide free feedback. Do this for three or four different editors and compare the results.
If a potential freelance editor refuses to provide a free sample edit, then this is another red flag.
It is time-consuming for editors to provide this type of sample, but it is merely part of the sales process. A good editor will be more than happy to show off their work. If an editor refuses, they almost certainly have something to hide or do not have the time or inclination to provide a free sample edit. Whatever the reason, this editor is probably not ideal for you and your book.
What you Will be Getting
When you have found a freelance editor that you feel may be a suitable fit, it is time to ask them for detailed feedback on exactly what they will be providing you and your book. Ask them to outline what they will be giving you.
For example, you need to know if they will be working in Word or another word processing program. You need to understand how they will be communicating; will it be by email or phone? Will the service provide additional editorial feedback? What happens when you have received the edit and have questions? Will the editor be available to talk on the phone? Will they provide additional editorial feedback if you are asked to rewrite sections of the book? What happens if you are not happy with the feedback, is there some kind of system for you to ask questions?
These are just some of the questions you should be considering.
However, do be aware that there is no set process for each editor. You will find that each editor works differently, and some will provide things that other editors are not happy to do. This is no reflection on the editor and their work; this is how they are set up to provide feedback.
What is essential for you, as the writer, is that you are getting what you need to lift your book to the next level.
For example, a face-to-face video chat after the edit maybe something essential to your writing process. If this is the case, you need an editor to provide this at a fair price. However, it may be the case that you were happy to communicate by email and that face-to-face contact is not essential to you. Once again, you will need to find an editor that provides the exact match to your requirements.
Do be aware that this will always be a compromise.
Freelance editors work in a competitive market, and the price they charge based on providing a very set service. It may be that they can provide additional elements, but this may come at a cost. You should be clear from the outset what is essential to you and your book, and then be flexible in what can be achieved within your budget.
It is impossible to put a price on the cost of either developmental editing or copyediting.
You will find that each editor provides a slightly different service and, therefore, a slightly different price. You will discover that some editors will give you a price based on word count, while others base price on page length. You will also find that some editors will quote a price without seeing your book, while others need to know the amount of work required before they can provide a fair price.
You must be comparing prices like-for-like. If you require additional elements to the editorial service, such as face-to-face contact, the pricing may vary from editor to editor. Bear this in mind when comparing prices and editors. Also bear in mind that more experienced editors will almost certainly be charging more than a new and inexperienced editor.
You will also find how editors except payments differ. At BubbleCow, we accept payments upfront before the edit begins. This is because we work with writers from all over the world, and it would make it difficult to accept payment once the edit has been returned.
However, this is not the case for every editor. You will find that some editors, such as BubbleCow, will have some form of payment plan. Some editors will accept half the payment upfront and the rest on delivery. Once again, it comes down to what works for you and your book.
There is one word of warning.
You should be wary of extremely cheap editing. Experienced and qualified editors are often very busy and therefore, can charge a premium price for their service. If you come across an editor offering a very cheap service, you should be asking why? It is probably the case that the editor is inexperienced and has very few clients. However, this may work for you. You may find that you are employing an excellent editor at a very low price. But this is not always the case, and the reverse might be true. You may be paying a cheap price for a lousy editor. If this is the situation, then my suggestion is to ask for a free sample edit and compare it to that of a more expensive editor. If you feel the work is of a high enough quality, go ahead with the cheaper editor.
You should be asking from the start how long the edit will take to complete.
As a rule of thumb, you should be allowing at least one month, but it is not uncommon for edits to take two or even three months. This is especially true for very busy editors. It can take several weeks to edit a book, and it only takes a few books for an editor to become booked up months in advance.
What is important for you, the writer, is that you ask the editor for an honest assessment of when the book will be completed and then decide whether this works for you and your publishing timeline. You may find that some editors have leeway in how they edit, and if you have a very tight deadline, they may be able to work you in with a shorter delivery time. It is always worth asking the question.
There are numerous other less important questions that you should be asking your editor before employing them, below are a few to consider.
If employing a copy editor, you should be asking them about the type of style manual they'll be using. If you are writing in British English, this will probably be Oxford Style Manual. If you are writing in American English, this will be either AP or the Chicago Manual of Style. If the copy editor is unable to answer the question as to the type of style manual, then this should be a huge red flag. Style manuals are essential to the copyediting process.
If you are writing a specialist book, then you should be looking for a specialist editor. For example, if you are writing a highly technical book, you should look for an editor with expertise in that technical area. If you are writing a book that is for academic purposes, you should seek an editor with experience in editing that type of academic book. These types of editors will tend to be more expensive since they are highly specialized. They are also often booked up months in advance. If you need a specialist editor, just keep this in mind.
Finding the perfect editor for your book is a complicated process.
The chances of finding the correct editor, at a price that fits that can complete the work in a time frame that works for both you and your book is a tall order.
This means that any edits you will find will involve a compromise of some kind. What is important is that you understand what elements of the editorial process are essential to you and your book and which elements you are prepared to compromise.
It may be that price is the essential element of finding a freelance editor. If this is the case, be aware that you may be employing less experienced and probably, less competent, editor. However, if your budget cannot stretch to a more experienced editor, this is the compromise.
Overall, if you follow the guidance in his article, you should quickly produce a shortlist of freelance editors that will work for you and your book. It is then a matter of comparing each of these and determining which is best for you.
Free eBook to help you write novels that readers will love.
This free ebook will show you how to write in a way that will keep readers reading until the last page.