It is a truth universally acknowledged that every author needs an editor.
While a good editor will elevate your book to the highest level it can go, other editors will do nothing—or worse—diminish the power of your book.
Not all editors are created equal. Just like writers, they are people, and they have different strengths. Each book will require different abilities, and so you should do your research to make sure you’re giving your book what it deserves.
Here’s a list of 15 questions to ask a editor to find out if they’re right for you and your project.
- What’s your training? There are a lot of people out there who think they’re an editor just because they like to read. Make sure you’re getting someone who knows their stuff!
- What’s your experience? Being an English major is all fine and good, but what companies has the editor worked for? What books have they worked on?
- What type of book is your speciality? Each genre has specific quirks, especially when it comes to formatting. If you’re writing a business book with lots of stylized lists and worksheets, a novel editor might not be the right fit for you.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? A really good editor will know what they’re best at, and what they struggle with. If their speciality fits with what you need, they are probably going to be a good fit!
- What’s your editorial style? Some editors are a bit reserved in their changes. Some like to slash and burn entire chapters down. Some editors will be kind and guide you gently, and others won’t hesitate to hurt your feelings if it’s what you need to take your book to the next level. Think about how you respond best to criticism, and pick accordingly.
- What style guide do you use? Unless you’re writing an academic book, you should never answer an editor who answers with anything other than the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).
- Do you provide a stylesheet? Even though a book follows CMS, there are still some stylistic choices that are unique to your book. If you’re thinking about writing follow-ups, sequels, or companions to this book, you’ll want to keep your choices consistent.
- What do you charge? Is it per page, per word, or by the hour? Industry standard for proofreading is usually about $.005/word. Editing can range between $40-120/hour, depending if it’s a light copyedit, or a really heavy developmental edit.
- What are your services? Some editors only do developmental edits, others run the gamut from critiques to proofreading. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for.
- Do you offer packages and a la carte pricing? If you only need a proofread, you should be able to get only that. A trustworthy editor with your best interests in mind won’t try to sell you on other services if you don’t need them. They will also provide package deals if you do.
- What’s your turnaround? Some editors are great, but they don’t work fast, or they’re all booked up for the month when you need an edit done. Figure out if they fit into your schedule and vice versa.
- Are you available for questions? If you’re doing a big edit and then revising, you’ll want an editor you can call up and run some scenarios by. Make sure they are available and willing to do this. If you like to talk on the phone, or by email, get an editor that matches your style.
- How do you edit? Some editors are old school and use red pen on paper. Others are strict devotees of Word and track changes. Check if their style jibes with yours.
- Will you edit promotional materials? Many writers become attached to their editors, and want to use them for smaller projects, like press releases. If you want that, ask if your editor is willing to do that kind of work.
- Do you have contacts/partners that can help me with promotion/marketing/design/layout/etc.? A well-established editor will have industry contacts they can refer you to and vouch for. These are good networks to take advantage of, but not necessarily a requirement.