How to Find an Editor

After the last few years of using family and friends to edit my novels, I knew it was time to take the plunge and find a professional editor for THE HOUSESITTER. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely lucky for the talent my family and friends bring to the table. One is the self-proclaimed ‘grammar police’, two are past journalists, and my husband is a master with the red pen. 

But I was at the stage in my career where I seriously needed to put my money into action and ‘go pro’. I wasn’t an amateur writer anymore. I wasn’t someone’ dabbling in the waters of authorship’. With four books already published, I an established author. (TIP: Start out with a professional editor. I do not recommend doing as I did. I was lucky with the help I had on hand.)

Finding someone I could trust was not a simple process. I’m a self-published author. Control is my middle name.

So how did I find an editor that I felt comfortable with?  Let me share the journey…

1.         Determine what type of editor is needed.



There are four main types of editors. Some editors encompass all the roles, although most don’t.

Jane Friedman has a great blog post that explains the difference:

Developmental Editor 

“Just get it down on paper, and then we’ll see what to do with it.” —Max Perkins 

A developmental editor will help you answer the big questions: What is this book about? Who is it for? Why am I the right person to write it? What’s the best way to structure my argument? What do I need to make sure is included? What needs to be left out? If you don’t know the answers to those questions, or think you don’t need to, you need a developmental editor.

Substantive Editor 

A substantive editor will edit your complete draft from a 30,000-foot global perspective. Like a developmental editor, they’re going to be focused on the big-picture stuff like genre, theme, character/point of view, structure, pacing, and depth of research. If you want feedback, course correction, and encouragement as you write, you want a developmental editor; if you want to chart your own course and then be shown where and how to improve later, you want a substantive editor.

Copy Editor 

Copy editors are laser-focused on the finer points of your manuscript, such as word choice, syntax, factual accuracy, repetition, inconsistencies, grammar, style, spelling, and repetition. (You’re welcome.)

Proofreader

Proofreaders are the final gatekeepers between your book and the rest of the world. They’re the fresh pair of eyes you need when neither you nor your other editors can see the typos anymore.

For self-publishing on a budget, you are best to have one editor perform the developmental/substantive work, and a second does the copy editing/proofreading.

So, what direction did I take?  

Because I use Beta Readers, I decided a copy editor would give me the best result.  

While I recommend having a development edit when you are just starting out with self-publishing, you can also use a critique writing group. You can find a group locally, through Facebook, or online. I used a critique group for BENEATH THE SURFACE, which took my book from a romance novel to a suspense novel. (Thank goodness for that and trust me, I will be forever grateful to that group for the feedback they provided!)

2.         Research. Research. Research.

I always like to use local talent when I can. (The daily struggle for small businesses is real.)

You can ask local writers for recommendations or check out your local professional editor’s association. In Australia and New Zealand, that’s the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find what I was looking for in my area, but I also know I was picky. I wanted someone who had worked with self-published authors before, who had experience editing suspense/mystery, who was within budget, and someone I wasn’t already friends with. I know, I’m horrible for not supporting my friends, but I didn’t want to make my friendships weird if they had issue with my writing. I value the relationships too much.

So, I started looking through the acknowledgments of books I loved in the genre, as most authors will thank their editors there. I googled the editors listed. I guess I wasn’t surprised that none were taking on new clients.

Then it was on to Reedsy. There is a comprehensive list of over 2000 editors on that international platform. Once I found some I liked, I did more research. Most had websites but I found the majority were either not in my genre, not available, or not clear on what they offered. Most, however, were within budget. Still, I wasn’t convinced I’d found the talent I was looking for, so I continued my search.

Next, I checked out the Institute of Professional Editors, which offered a searchable list of freelance editors (members of the IPEd) in Australia (and New Zealand). I found this to be the best source for me. I wanted to support the Australian industry and find an Australian editor who could capture the essence of Australian culture depicted in my book. Not only could I save time by not having to explain cultural differences, but I also wanted someone who would point those things out if they weren’t clear enough for an international audience. (Although my international beta readers are GREAT in pointing those out to me.)

3.         Request a sample of their work.

Once I found several editors whom I thought would work well, I asked if they could do a sample edit, based of small part of my manuscript. Many of them offer this already. I removed any editors from my list who did not respond, or did not want to take this on. Some charged for this service, the money going toward the larger edit, if I chose them as my editors. Others offer a free sample as part of gaining new clients.

The interesting part of doing this is some editors asked for the first chapter. Others asked for the first three chapters. One asked for a random section in the middle, because it’s usually this section that needs the most work (since most authors polish the first chapters to draw the reader in). I liked this approach the most. It made sense to me.

With this process, I narrowed it down to three editors.

 

4.         Gain clarity for what the services included – and what they didn’t include.


When I had my short list, I gained clarity on the services they included. Where one editor outlined the details – and price – on their website, others offered custom quotes, based on the sample.

To give you an idea of cost at the time of writing (May 2024), you can pay anywhere from $AUD 500–$AUD 5000, depending on the type of editing and experience of the editor.  The average is around 2.5 – 3 cents (AUD) per word.

The quotes between editors were similar, but one of the higher quotes offered a lot more feedback in the sample. One editor sent me the sample but never responded to my request pricing and clarity of services. She was the most experienced of the three, so I assumed she was just too busy to take on more work. Besides, lack of a communication is a major red flag to me. Which brings me to the next point…

5.         Make sure the editor is a good fit for your style.



Finding an editor is like finding a therapist. You need to make sure they are a good fit for you, personally and professionally, for it to be a successful relationship.

I am a stickler for clear communication. If someone doesn’t respond, or if they cannot be clear with what’s involved, I will remove them from my list. It doesn’t matter what it is in life. With people who ghost me, I will only take so much. After that, it’s ‘adios’.

I also get everything in writing. I love a good conversation, but for business transactions, or gaining clarity on what’s involved with a project, everything must be in writing. There are no questions later that way. (It’s a lesson I learned from my corporate days.)

Don’t get me wrong, I am casual with the way I communicate. I appreciate professionalism, but I don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t have a sense of humour or is personable.

An editor should want to get to know you as a writer, so that they can understand your style. That’s going to work better for you than someone than sticking with professional standards to the point of no flexibility. There are many successful authors who don’t stick by the norms, so if you’re a writer who likes to break the rules, you need an editor who’s willing to take that journey with you.

And yes, I eliminated editors based on these factors.

6.         Take the plunge.

With my list down to two editors, it was all up to availability – mine and theirs.

I would have happily gone with either editor. I liked their style. I liked how they communicated. I liked the individual attention they gave to my sample. But it came down to who would be available when I was done with my own edits once the beta readers came back with their feedback.

I found an editor to work with for THE HOUSESITTER, but I am keeping the other editor on file, in case my primary editor is not available for future work.

Have questions about my process? Ask away. How did you find an editor? Leave a comment of what you’ve learned along the way!