Vetting Your Editor

STOP-sign_OpThis article was written by Jessica Swift Eldridge and originally published on Naomi Blackburn’s wonderful website, The Author CEO. Editing is an important element of our craft and our process, and if we get it wrong and choose an inexperienced or unqualified person, our books and our careers can suffer. The ladies gave me permission to re-blog. Enjoy!

Naomi Blackburn, Author CEO
There are many wonderful things about indie publishing. As in life, though, the bad periodically comes with the good. My series on Vetting Vendors is intended to help weed out the bad, so indie publishing can continue to be the amazing, ever-changing community of creative people it has come to be, full of people who strive to produce the best work that they can.

Unfortunately, there are many so-called “service providers” who will offer services to Indie authors though they lack the experience and/or credibility to complete the job effectively. Another unfortunate truth is that some have no intention of doing so. In response to this, The Author CEO has asked some tried and true seasoned professionals to offer up tips to help readers and writers find the best – and most reliable – vendors. This article’s focus is on how to choose an editor, by Jessica Swift.

Jessica Swift Eldridge, Swift Ink Editorial Services
So, you are now the proud owner of a finished manuscript . . . Or at least as “finished” as you can make it. You know you need an editor, but you have no idea what to look for, what to ask, or what you even need. Well, I’m here to help.

A note about cost, before we get started: costs vary from editor to editor, and often depend on the type of edit you’re getting (a full content edit that addresses structure, plot holes, narrative, etc. is less expensive than a copyedit, which looks at each word to ensure that the best choices are being made). While I know cost is important, this article is intended to help you look beyond that to find other criteria you should use to best determine if an editor is right for you.

I think of my clients’ manuscripts as their babies. My writers have invested their time, energy, love, and dedication into creating something that they are very close to and, sometimes, have a hard time trusting with someone else. I get that. And this is why you shouldn’t just pass off your manuscript to the first person who comes along and says, “I’m an editor.” You wouldn’t leave your child with just anyone who hangs out a shingle offering child care, right? Same goes with your manuscript.

Working with an editor can be fulfilling, educational, inspiring, and just plain fun (TRUST ME). But how do you decide who’s “good” and who will be the best for you? Below I’ve outlined some steps you can take to vet an editor. I answer questions like, “What should I look for?” “What questions should I ask?” and “What else?” So, onward!

1. References
When it comes to any service provider (yes, editors are providing a service), it’s always important to ask for references. Don’t feel like you’re insulting the editor by asking for this information. I am always happy to offer names of my clients—I’m proud of them! How many to ask for? I suggest three. And I encourage you to specify the kind of references you’d like. Former clients? Current clients? Colleagues? Go for it! Don’t be shy!

2. Social media
Nowadays, everyone is on social media, and your prospective editor should be as well. Check ’em out! Visit their Facebook page(s). Do you like what they post? Go to Twitter. Are their Tweets interesting to you? Do you feel like you’d want to engage with this person? Yes, it’s work, but the more investment of time you make into finding the perfect editor for you, the better the experience will be. (And, this seems like a no-brainer, but I’m seeing it more and more. Make sure their tweets/posts/updates are spelled right. We all make mistakes, yes, but . . . Sigh . . .)

3. Consultations
This one is very important to me. I recently had a plumber come to my house. He reviewed what I wanted done, laid out the costs for me, and answered all of my questions. And he didn’t charge me a dime. He was thorough, honest, and available. Just what I want to see in someone I’m going to hire to do work for me. And that should be important to you, too. Is the editor willing to discuss with you what service you might need? Is s/he willing to answer your questions early on? I’m not saying you should take advantage of free consultations, but I am saying that since I expect this from the people I pay for services, I’m happy to offer consultations to my prospective clients, and I encourage you to use the consultation as a gauge to determine if you want to work with that editor. Did you “click” when you chatted (via phone, Skype, whatever)? Can you see yourself talking to this person again? Do you want to?

You must ask questions. This is another effective tool to determine how well you and the editor click. After you’ve asked and gotten the answers, how did you feel about the interview? Were the answers honest and straightforward? Or, were you more confused after you got the answer? The answers to the questions you ask yourself are an important barometer against which you can measure how you might feel about working with that editor. Not sure what to ask? Here, I’ll help you (hey, that’s what I’m here for!):

  • How long have you been in the industry? How long have you been freelancing? (Yes, there’s a difference. He or she may have been in the publishing industry for twenty years, but may have been freelancing for five of them.)
  • What’s your editorial process?
  • What’s your normal turnaround time?
  • What happens after I get my manuscript back?

And there you have it. Some ways to help you find the best editor for YOU. It takes communication, research, and diligence for you to find the person you trust with your baby. After all, you shouldn’t trust just anyone with your baby, now should you?

Jessica-Swift_OpJessica owns Swift Ink Editorial Services and has provided editorial services for many award-winning and Amazon bestselling authors, as well as for traditional publishing houses, including W.W. Norton. Prior to going freelance, she was the managing editor for a publishing house with three imprints.

Readers, do you have any questions for Jessica?

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15 Responses to Vetting Your Editor

  1. Jon Jefferson February 10, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    People seem to forget how important a good editor is. These questions and this process is important in finding the editor that will work with your personality and process.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • Molly Greene February 10, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      Thanks so much, Jon!

    • Jessica Swift February 10, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      You’re welcome, Jon. Glad you like the post. It’s true, vetting an editor can be hard-but it doesn’t have to be! Editors are INTEGRAL to the writing process and finding one you click with is critical to the success of both the writer/editor relationship AND the manuscript itself.

  2. Belinda Pollard February 10, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Useful stuff. It’s very hard choosing a good editor. I know many people who have been burnt, and it’s especially sad when someone’s limited finances go on a job that isn’t what they actually needed or wanted. Thanks for this, Molly, Naomi and Jessica.

    I’d agree that lots of questions and interactions are the best way to check someone out.

    I have a question about the references… Do your former clients agree to receive phone calls/emails from enquiring authors?

    • Jessica Swift February 11, 2014 at 7:10 am #

      Hi Belinda,

      So glad you found the information helpful. I loathe hearing stories from writers and clients who tell me of their bad experiences with and “editor” who, frankly, just took advantage of them.

      To answer your question, YES! My clients have been very happy to serve as references for me. They let me know what method of contact they prefer and off they go. I don’t have secrets and I’m not out to fool anybody into thinking I’m something I’m not, so I have no problem when a prospective client wants to contact some of my current or former ones.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and happy writing!

    • Tim November 13, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

      Funny you should talk about having a bad editor because I could speak chapter,line and verse about that. Check any references the perspective editor gives you. Negotiate the fee as the BS they give you about a standard rate is just that. Set expectations, set deadlines and follow up.Don’t let a poor editor who is better suited to being a conartist scam you.

      • Molly Greene November 14, 2014 at 7:57 am #

        Thanks, Tim, and I’m so, so sorry you had a bad experience. Sadly, many editors who are hanging out their shingles right now are no more qualified that we are. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Debbie A. McClure February 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Excellent piece here, Molly. I love it when posts are informative and give real, detailed how to’s. Thank you

    • Molly Greene February 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      Thanks, Debbie – it’s all Naomi and Jessica though, not me!

  4. Dannie Hill February 12, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    Great article. To me, as a writer, an editor is my most important step in taking something I’ve written and getting it completely ready for the reader. Many people call themselves writer’s and editor’s, but if you’re serious about being a good writer you must take the steps necessary: Write a good story and have it well edited!

    • Molly Greene February 12, 2014 at 9:01 am #

      Hi Dannie! Thanks for your comment. I agree that “many people call themselves editors,” even though they don’t exhibit professional conduct, good writing chops, or appropriate credentials. That’s a big problem for us, and the one of the main reasons we need to vet potential candidates carefully. Hope all is well with you!

  5. Jane Riddell February 12, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    What a brilliant blog, Molly. So full of relevant information for writers.

    • Molly Greene February 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

      Jane!! Thank you so much. Made my day!

  6. Tara Thompson November 14, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

    What about people who, although good writers, simply cannot afford an editor? Does that mean they will never be published?

    • Molly Greene November 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      Hi Tara, that’s a tough one. A lot of people would say you can’t afford NOT to use an editor. There are many steps you can take to catch typos and grammatical errors yourself, thus bringing down the cost. Bottom line, if you publish a book that’s full of typos and mistakes, you’ll get bad reviews and sales will be nil. Find a way!