How To Become A Freelance Book Editor
If you want to become a freelance book editor, there’s no better time to do so than the present.
Just take a look at the following figures…
Since 2007, the number of books published annually in the United States has increased from around 600,000 to in excess of one million books per year. Of those, around 300,000 books are published annually by publishers, while the remaining 700,000 are self-published by the author.
As mainstream readers have become more and more comfortable with e-books and self-published texts (both paper versions and e-books), thanks to sites like Amazon.com and Scribd, many self-published authors have attempted to increase the quality of their work by hiring book editors, designers, and even “blurb writers” to make their books more professional.
Today, a casual reader browsing on Amazon.com may have a difficult time determining which books come from mainstream book publishers and which have been published by an individual author. Often, that is thanks to the work of a freelance book editor.
As the number of both self-published and traditional books has increased in the United States and across the world, a larger pool of editors has been required to help edit all of these books. Both mainstream publishers and individual authors often seek freelance book editors on websites such as Upwork, Freelancer.com, WriterAccess, and Fiverr.
Mainstream publishers and boutique presses often seek freelance book editors when their in-house editors cannot complete editing of manuscripts before deadlines, or when they need additional editors but do not want to hire full-time employees to whom the company will be required to pay ongoing salary and benefits.
Individual authors frequently seek freelance editors so their manuscript can receive the same type of pre-publishing review and editing that one would from a mainstream publisher, or to have the book simply edited by a professional freelance book editor before it goes on to the publisher’s editors.
Independent authors not publishing with a press or publisher often hire freelance book editors to ensure both a higher quality final product and a higher profit on their book; well-written, properly edited books can gain better consumer reviews on sites like Amazon.com and can thus sell more copies, making more money for the author.
Qualifications Needed To Be A Freelance Book Editor
A lot of people think they are qualified to be a freelance book editor because they know how to write and have a basic grasp of the English language. However, the fact is that most freelance book editors have a bit more to their resume than that. The most basic qualification for a freelance book editor would be a college degree in English (or the language of the book), writing, creative writing, language arts, or a similar field.
On occasion, for particular non-fiction topics such as business, history, or science, a degree or qualifications in the field may take precedence over a degree in English or writing, although most writers or publishers would want a combination of expertise in the field the manuscript is related to as well as writing or language arts.
In addition to a degree and/or specialized field knowledge, someone who wants to be a freelance book editor should be well-read. If you plan to edit science fiction books, you should be up-to-date on the most current literature in the genre, as well as some of the “classics,” or long-term best sellers. If you wish to edit romance novels, you should be well-read in the most current and best-selling romance novels. It is vital for a freelance book editor to be well-read in the genres in which they plan to edit because trends and styles change over time, and it is important to have a grasp on the current styles to provide the author for whom an editor works the best possible completed product.
Even if you possess a degree in English or Writing, you still aren’t fully qualified to be a freelance book editor unless you have an excellent grasp of the English language, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure. Further, if you don’t like going through pages and pages of written word looking for mistakes, even if you possess the actual qualifications to be a freelance book editor, you might want to consider a different freelance occupation to strive for.
How to Get Your First Clients As A Freelance Book Editor
Before jumping in full-force to edit a manuscript, you may first want to take a stab at editing some blog posts, magazine articles, or book chapters primarily so that some solid editing recommendations exist in your portfolio before approaching other authors for work. Use freelance writing sites like Freelancer.com, Upwork.com, WriterAccess, and Fiverr to find people or companies in need of blog posts, articles, or book chapters that need to be edited. Once you’ve amassed five or six references, you can start working to find authors or publishers in need of your services.
So, how does a freshly-minted freelance book editor find authors who need his or her services? There are a myriad of ways such as the following:
Local Writer’s Groups
Local writers’ groups in your area are the first place to start trying to find authors who may need your services. Check with the main branch of the local library for your city or county—as well as outlying branches—and ask if they host or sponsor writer’s clubs, writer’s meet-ups, or similar activities for writers. In large cities, one may find groups that are genre specific. Check websites like MeetUp.com, or apps like GroupSpaces, or WeGoTo to find local writer groups, as well.
When visiting a local writer’s group, make sure not to look like as though the primary purpose of your appearance at the group is to solicit business. Become active in the group as an editor, offer advice during meetings, and generally become a participant in the group. This will help you gain the trust of local writers as they see you interact with other writers and, generally, being helpful to their group.
Visit the websites of independent publishers that are publishing the type of books you would like to edit, and check the FAQ or employment opportunities sections of their websites. Many times, you will find that publishers—including smaller, boutique presses—seek freelance editors through their own websites, or regularly solicit names and contact information of qualified freelance book editors to add to their database of editors.
When contacting independent publishers, there’s no need to email them weekly to ask if the publisher has assignments. Rest assured, once you’ve has managed to get on the publisher’s list of editors, that the publisher will make contact when work is available.
Go to websites like Amazon.com or Scribd and look for self-published authors who are selling multiple titles, and carefully examine the book descriptions and the pages of the book you’re allowed to see via those websites’ preview functions. If mistakes in the manuscript are located—such as errors, run-on sentences, etc.— you may want to politely reach out to the author and offer your book editing services—perhaps offering to edit the book so the author can release a second edition rather quickly without the mistakes you have identified.
This is something that needs to be done delicately, as you don’t not want to insult the potential client, but rather let them know how you can be of service. To entice the author, you could take a few paragraphs from their manuscript online which need some editing (but don’t do more than that due to copyright laws), and send the writer an edited version and their unedited version side-by-side. Sometimes, such a tactic will help the author see how much better their work can be in the hands of an experienced freelance book editor.
Facebook Groups for Writers
Facebook has dozens and dozens of author and writer groups among its hundreds of thousands of groups. Look for groups that are specific to the genre you are seeking to edit, or are in your local area, and become a member. Offer positive contributions to the group, and, as you find individual authors seeking freelance book editors, or offering portions of their manuscript to the group to read, professionally and unobtrusively offer your services as a freelance book editor.
Make sure all of your social media profiles show that you are a freelance book editor as your occupation. Make sure your profiles look professional. Once you’ve done that, use social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to make connections with writers and authors. The search functions native to these platforms will easily help you find individuals who are authors or writers. These connections are what a sales person would call “long-tail” connections, meaning that it will take a while for them to bear fruit as possible clients.
Friending or making connections with a number of authors will allow you to see them in your timeline often, and interact with them on a regular basis. Then, when you see these authors announce they are starting on a new manuscript or are in need of an editor, you’ve already had contact with them, have engaged with them prior, and thus, one has a much easier “in” to send them an email or direct message on a social media platform to offer your services as a freelance book editor.
Sites Like Upwork, Freelancer.com, etc
Set up profiles on websites like Freelancer.com, UpWork, WriterAccess, and Fiverr, Scripted, Remote, and TextBroker. Regularly bid on book editing jobs. A professionally photographed headshot, well-written biography, and portfolio or recommendations will be required for these sites in order for you to put your best foot forward as a freelance book editor to potential clients.
New jobs from across the world are posted to these websites every day. Be sure to regularly check them, update your profile often with new recommendations or portfolio work, and, when you are able, become a professional, paying member of the sites. Authors on the sites looking for freelance book editors will be more likely to consider someone who has made the investment in themselves to pay for an expanded profile on some of these sites. For sites that offer them, make sure to take the proficiency tests that will help highlight your qualifications.
Making The Writers Come To You: Maintaining A Professional Presence
In addition to making efforts to go to where writers are (whether Amazon.com or at a writer’s group at your local library), as a freelance book editor, you need to be ready and have a presence so that writers can find and come to you.
First and foremost, you will need a website. These are inexpensive, and you can obtain one with services like Godaddy.com or SquareSpace. If you don’t have knowledge to set up a site yourself, make sure to hire someone who can design a professional website to advertise your business. A website will be one of the first things that a potential client sees, and it must make a good impression. Your site should include a blog that you regularly update.
Once your website has been established, make sure to link it to a Facebook page (not profile) for your freelance book editing business, and regularly update it by sharing your blog posts or other pertinent material from professional sources you find online. In order to help ensure that writers come to you as a freelance book editor for your services, you may wish to hire a company to help make certain your site is properly search engine optimized.
Consider using ads such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or Bing Advertising to try to get your website and services as a freelance book editor in front of potential writers. These are an economical way to help gain exposure for your website, and thus, your business as a freelance book editor.
As a freelance book editor, you will also need printed business cards and a professional headshot. Carry the business cards with you at all times, as one never knows when you will meet someone who may know someone who needs your editing services.
Nuts And Bolts Of The Business Aspects Of Being A Freelance Book Editor
If you plan to make a living as a freelance book editor, you will want to set up a specific business for that purpose, rather than to simply run all of the expenses and income through your regular bank account. Talk with an accountant in your area to determine the implications of operating as a “DBA” (doing business as) versus as an LLC or other types of corporate structure. The main reason you, as a freelance book editor, would want to do this, is so you will not have difficulty obtaining credit to purchase a home or car. Typically, a lending institution will want to see that any self-employed person has a good track record of earnings, pays their taxes, and has an organized and legally chartered/operating business; this makes you, as a freelance book editor who is self-employed, a better credit risk to financial institutions.
You will want to do all of this—and establish a separate bank account—for your freelance book editor business so that in the event you need strictly business credit, you can apply for it. For example, if you were to get a contract to edit 10-12 manuscripts in a series within a six month period and needed to hire staff, lease computers, and office space, you can do this in the name of your freelance book editing business and not in your personal name. Depending on your state, this may help you with various liability issues as a business owner, and may have beneficial tax implications.
I’m Ready To Be A Freelance Book Editor, What’s Next?
If you have the skills to be a freelance book editor, and follow the steps described in this post, you can become a freelance book editor on a full-time basis to support yourself and your family. However, you must remember that, no matter how good your skills are, or how much money you have for advertising your business, if you don’t treat your freelance book editing like a business, you won’t be successful. Set hours for yourself to be working—in your home office or somewhere else—every day. Set goals for the number of people or publishers you will contact daily, and keep track of them on your calendar. With the proper self-discipline, work ethic, and skills, you can become a full-time freelance book editor.