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David Antrobus

The Editor’s Fedora Part 2

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keyboard search buttonOkay, after Part 1, you should now have the MS nice and clean. What’s the next step? How do you find an editor? This part isn’t hard, but it’s crucial you find someone who’s right for your book. And there’s no substitute for research. Ask around. Google. If you haven’t already done so, join writers’ groups on Facebook or LinkedIn and talk to editors. Many editors are also writers, so they will be ready and available to answer your questions.

What should those questions include? Here’s a short list for starters:

  1. What experience do you have editing novel manuscripts (MSS)?
  2. What editing qualifications do you have?
  3. How long have you been editing?
  4. Are you primarily a proofreader, a copyeditor or a developmental editor?
  5. Can you provide examples of your work?
  6. Do you have endorsements from other writers you’ve edited?
  7. What genre(s) do you work in?
  8. Can you provide a range for your rates (hourly, by the page, by the word)?
  9. Do you offer a free sample edit and include a second pass in your price?
  10. What is the turnaround time on an xx,xxx-word MS?
  11. What types of English are you familiar with (U.S., U.K., Canadian, etc.)?
  12. What style manuals and dictionaries do you typically use for fiction?
  13. Do you create a style sheet?
  14. Do you offer an instalment option for payments?
  15. Do you draw up a contract?

I’m not saying editors need to answer in the affirmative for every single one of these, but their answers will give you, the writer, a far better insight into their background and how they operate. Quick note: Some editors insist on a contract and it’s probably a good idea. I tend to use the honour system and cover all expectations in the initial emails, establishing a sense of mutual trust as I go through the initial preparations, but I still think a standard contract is good practice.

The reality is that in-house editors are becoming more scarce as the publishing industry continues to react to a changing landscape, so an increasing number of freelance editors are filling the vacuum. As with the explosion of independent authors, this can have its positive and its negative aspects. Freelancers tend to do a number of jobs that were once very much divided up. A proofreader performed a very different role from a copyeditor (or, ha, copy editor or copy-editor), whereas many freelancers now do both. This has its risks; some types of editing are all about the forest, others all about the trees, and it can be very difficult to catch problems in one area when the brain is engaged with the other. That’s why it’s essential editors provide more than one pass of the manuscript.

Please share your experiences — as a freelance editor or as a writer dealing with an editor — in the comments section.


Look for Part 3 of 4 on March 11, where we’ll delve into the costs involved in a professional edit.

Note: A version of this post appeared on Indies Unlimited on Dec. 3, 2013.

Previous post: The Editor’s Fedora Part 1



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