4 Tips on Finding an Editor: What You Need to Know

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2022-08-30

So, you’re ready to start the editing process and need to find the editor who will be the best fit for you. First of all, congratulations! The time you’ve spent tinkering, drafting, self-editing, and drafting again will be very much appreciated by your editor, and we know how much effort it takes to get to this point.


Second of all…where exactly do you start? How do you know what to ask for? What should you expect? In this blog, I’m going to take you through some of the most common questions authors have before they start the editing process for the first time.



Which Services Do I Need?


Editing. It sounds like a simple process, but there are actually a few types of editing that aim to accomplish different things. There can be several different levels involved in editing a written work, but the main three are copy editing, substantive editing, and proofreading.


Copy Editing

A copy edit is applied when all the text is in place and the writing is completed. This means that the “structural” editing has been done, and the copy editor can now polish the final text.


A copy edit involves a very close reading of the final text for grammatical errors, misplaced or incorrectly used punctuation, and misspelled words. Copy editing also includes steps such as:


* suggesting how to replace misused words and phrases

* checking that headings/subheadings are well placed

* editing tables, figures, and lists

* editing notes, references, and bibliographies, if applicable


Copy editing can move quickly if your writing is clear and sharp. This is called a “light copy edit.” If your work requires more detailed copy editing, it would be a “heavy copy edit” and would take a bit longer.


Substantive Editing

This is a more involved editing process. If copy editing focuses on the smaller details of punctuation and grammar, then substantive/structural editing focuses on the “big picture.” Editing at this stage involves working with what you have written and assessing it for structure and flow. When necessary, the editor will move paragraphs to better connect ideas, shorten sentences that are too long, and carefully remove repeated information. In works of fiction, a substantive edit can also address plot holes, character development, pacing, and plot structure.


A substantive edit can take months to work through, so make sure you give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.



Proofreading involves reading a text for typos, spelling and grammar mistakes, and other production errors such as missing periods and quotation marks, bad breaks, and faulty paragraph indents.


You might have a good idea of what services you are looking for, but it’s always a good idea to discuss things with your editor (once you pick one), because they may see things you do not. You may think your work only needs a copy edit, but in reviewing your sample, your editor may pick up on issues with structuring.


Remember, any editor worth their salt wants the exact same thing you do: for your book to be the very best version of itself it can be. So, if they suggest a more in-depth edit, please consider their suggestion.



Why Do I Need an Editor, Anyway?


Now that you know what different types of editing involve, you may be asking yourself, “Do I need to have my book edited?” Well, even the best writers benefit from having a fresh set of eyes look at their work. After working on your book or article for as long as you have been, you might not be as objective about your work as you might think.


A professional editor can spot patterns in your writing that you might not be able to see, and can assist you in the following ways:


* help you reshape awkward passages

* improve the flow of your narrative or argument

* remove repetition

* rephrase ambiguities

* shorten rambling sentences and paragraphs


We know how hard it is to be a first-time author and to have your writing so closely scrutinized. An editor’s role is to improve the precision, clarity, and meaning of your work as constructively as possible through careful application of editorial skills and insights.


Think of your work as a diamond in the rough that your editor will polish to bring out the best it has to offer.



What to Ask the Editors


There are many good editors out there. They work for publishing houses or editorial services, or as freelancers. Out of all these people you have to choose from, how can you choose the right one for you?


First of all, you want to make sure that you’re going to be working with someone who has the appropriate skills to assist you. There are certain credentials that you can look for to help you weed out editors this way. Obviously, if an editor’s résumé lists years of working for a publishing house as an editor, you can be sure that they are probably up to snuff. But there are other things you can look for too. There are many well-regarded publishing programs offered as post-university certificates for editors looking to start out. These often involve an internship, making it easy for you to call their references and see how they worked out.


You can ask if an editor belongs to an editors’ association. The main one in Canada is Editors Canada, and the United States has a number of similar organizations as well (the Editorial Freelancers Association, the American Copy Editors Society, etc.).


Second, you want an editor who works in your genre. Are you writing a fiction novel? You’ll need an editor who is familiar and experienced with plot and character development and pacing. Or maybe you just completed a cookbook? In that case, you’ll need an editor who specializes in making sure measurements are consistent and instructions are easy to understand and clear. Make sure the editor you select has the skills and experience to match the scope and the unique details of your project.


Third, consider your own personality. Under what conditions do you work best? Do you prefer that someone get straight to the point when discussing issues or concerns, or do you prefer a softer touch? Depending on the length of your work, you could be working with this person for some time, and if you plan on writing more, you might be building a relationship that could continue for several years. So, it’s important to find someone whose working style meshes well with yours. The way you can figure this out is by meeting a potential editor to chat in person (or over Skype/Zoom), or asking for some references and seeing what past clients have to say.



Don’t Rush Things


Finding an editor is a process you don’t want to rush! You’ve worked for months, maybe even years, on this manuscript, and you want to make sure that when it comes time to edit it, you’re working with someone who you can build a great working relationship with.


Don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote you get. Take the time to talk with your prospective editors, at least a little bit, and try to gauge their general vibe. Are they short and to-the-point, or more friendly and chatty? Either is fine, it all just depends on what you are personally looking for!


So, be methodical, avoid rushing, and you’ll likely find an editor who you can really bond with as you work together to bring out the best in your manuscript.


Now that you’re armed with the information you need to know in terms of what to ask your editor, stay tuned for next week’s blog when TEC blogger Michael posts on where to find an editor.


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