What to Look For in an Editor of Your Book
Editors don’t get the same kind of name recognition as authors, but if you’ve ever enjoyed reading a book, part of your enjoyment is owed to the work done by an editor. Sometimes, a really good editor is the one that will elevate the quality of a book from what it was in the manuscript, and vice versa – a bad editor will result in an otherwise good manuscript turning out bad in print. So, if you’re going to publish a book, you need to find a really good editor. Here are a few qualities you should look out for in an editor:
First, Find the Right Kind of Editor
Even though a proofreader is meant to go over the draft before it goes to print, editors do some proofreading at their end as well. They are mostly concerned with three kinds of editing: content (where they deal with structural issues like plot holes, character inconsistencies, etc.), copy editing (where they deal with fact checking) and proofreading (which is where they go over the final manuscript and ensure that every punctuation mark is where it should be and every word is used and spelled correctly).
There are editors who specialize in all three, but keep in mind that they charge a premium as they are doing the work of three people. You need to decide which ones are the most important (or which ones you can outsource to other people who charge a lower rate) and then hire an editor that specializes in what you need. Most of the time, there are editors who will only charge for one specialization but will do the others as an extra.
A Sample Edit
Don’t take this to mean that you need to send the editor a small work and have her edit it for you. Only novice editors will do that, as it’s tantamount to getting them to work for free and it might not be representative of what they can really do (think of it as the same reason why lawyers won’t give legal advice without being hired first). Instead, ask for published works that she has already worked on as an editor. It should give you a clear idea of what she can do, without making her invest too much of her time on the mere possibility of getting hired.
The editing process doesn’t really need to be a constant back and forth. You need to let the editor do her work first, and only then should you chime in and voice out any concerns (if there are any, ideally there should be none).
However, be wary of editors who can’t even be bothered to respond to your mails within a day or two. This could mean that she’s either too busy to communicate with a paying customer or she just doesn’t find you important enough to address. With the former, you could say that she probably has too many things on her plate, preventing her from focusing and doing her best on your book. For the latter, well, that’s just unprofessional.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in December 2014.