Choosing an Editor

If you are a writer, you may be looking for an editor to help bring your manuscript to the next level. Whether you’re looking for a basic assessment and some advice; structural editing; line editing; a copyeditor, or proofreader, how do you choose someone who is right for you?


Apart from the importance of feeling comfortable with the person who’s going to edit your work, and liking the way they approach editing (you should discuss this before you proceed), you should probably choose someone with some experience (at very least one published book).

The more experienced the better because you obviously want to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. Also, if the editor has worked successfully (the book was published and no one was killed or maimed in the process) with different kinds of people and books, this speaks to the editor’s flexibility when dealing with various kinds of subject matter, writing styles and personalities.


If the editor has had many clients, you are well within your rights to ask for references from those clients. You may also ask if it’s possible to contact some of those clients yourself. Some editors are happy for you to chat with other authors they’ve worked with, if this will help you suss out whether or not they are the right fit for you and your mss.


You may also request for a sample of their editing. This will involve you submitting up to three chapters (depends on the editor) of your work for a full edit. You should look out for the following in the editing sample:

  • Comments on errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, word choice, syntax and consistency.
  • Comments on writing style and the use of language.
  • Are the comments clear and constructive? Are they honest? You want an editor who will tell you the truth about your work. You don’t want someone who will sugarcoat stuff, but you don’t want someone snide either.
  • Do the comments and suggested changes take into consideration your voice and style? You don’t want someone who will change your work so that it no longer sounds like something written by you. A good editor should be able to maintain the integrity of the work so that it stays true to the voice and vision of its creator.


The editor’s fee is also something to consider. While it’s important that you choose someone whose services you can afford, do bear in mind that an experienced editor will cost more than one who is just starting out. What you want from the editor will also determine what you are charged. For example, proof reading costs much less than line editing.

One thing you can do is to let your editor know your deadline and your budget. They will then be able to tell you what they can offer within the time frame and according to what you can afford.

Or, you can tell your editor the sort of editing you think your work requires and your deadline, and ask them to quote a fee.


Alternatively, share your manuscript with the editor and get them to advise on what it needs, how long it will take and how much it will cost. They may or may not charge a reading/assessment fee just for going through the whole mss. Check if that’s the case.


A good editor is someone who will help you reach your full potential as a writer. They will help bring out the best in your mss and your writing. But, you have to trust them. This doesn’t mean you have to agree 100% with everything they say, but you need to know that they are not out to get you or to cause you to fail.

It’s fair to tell them what your expectations are and to ask if these expectations are reasonable.

Good luck!



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