Updated: Jan 14
The editing stage is a crucial step in your journey as a writer, and that means actually investing in a professional editor after you have self-edited your novel. Please, please, please don’t just depend on Grammarly or ProWritingAid. If anything, relying on artificial intelligence to polish your book will cause more harm than good. You know why? Because these types of programs lack the knowledge and understanding of the literary world, which a human book editor, like me, possesses.
So, if you’re serious about attracting your dream literary agent or finding success as a self-published author, you need to find an editor for your book. However, I understand that finding the right editor for your novel can be challenging for some writers – I’ve had a few clients at Stand Corrected Editing who have told me that their previous editors made a mess of their manuscript, which left them out of pocket and back at square one. I’ve been happy to help these writers to get their stories back on track, but if they knew how to find the right editor from the start, they wouldn’t have needed to part with more money and waste more time.
So, to help you avoid the same mistake, I’m going to walk you through how to find the right editor for your book in 7 easy steps.
1. Understand What Type of Editing Your Book Needs
Some writers have no idea which type of editor they need for their book. Many often believe that they should hire a proofreader after they have finished writing their manuscript, but they couldn’t be more wrong. As a result, they end up wasting their hard-earned cash on a service they don’t need, so it’s essential that you research the different types of editors before you hire and spend your money.
As there is so much confusion about what different editors do, I have written a detailed glossary to help you find the right editor for your book.
Unfortunately, many writers decide against hiring a professional editor before they query literary agents due to the belief that the agent will edit their manuscript for free upon representation. While this is partly true, you need to impress the literary agent first, and that is less likely to happen if your book is riddled with errors and inconsistencies. You may wonder how this information links to the role of an acquisition editor, but there couldn’t be more of a connection.
You see, many writers believe that the editors who read through the unsolicited pile at literary agencies are the same editors who will polish their manuscript to perfection, which is why they refuse to hire one, but this really isn’t the case.
In contrast to editors like myself who perfect the copy or development of a manuscript, an acquisition editor seeks sellable stories for their agency or publishing house. If they are an acquisition editor at a literary agency, they are the ones who read through the ‘slush pile’ in search of the best novels, and if they are based at a publishing house, they will read the novels sent in by agents. As a result, they will most likely possess extensive knowledge of what type of books will sell, so if your book has even the smallest plot hole, character inconsistency or language error from the start, they will likely reject it, which is why it is imperative to hire a professional editor before you query an agent.
As well as taking care of the unsolicited manuscripts, acquisition editors may also converse and negotiate with agents and publishers, depending on where they’re based, while attending various conferences to meet different authors in person. Consequently, they do not have the time to edit an error-riddled manuscript; they will only accept the ones that are the most polished, providing it matches the genre and style their agency or house is looking for. To make more sense of an acquisition editor’s role, here is a brief list of their role:
Reading the ‘slush pile’ for upcoming talent.
Communicating with agents and publishers.
Attending conferences to meet authors face-to-face.
Overseeing the development of a represented manuscript.
So, if you’re someone who relies on the belief that an acquisition editor will simply edit your unedited novel, please reconsider your thoughts and think about investing in one of the following professionals.
Developmental editing focuses on the “bigger picture” of a manuscript and is usually carried out before line editing, copy editing and proofreading. It wouldn’t make much sense to tackle the content of your story after adding and cutting scenes and polishing the language, so if you feel that your manuscript needs a developmental edit, make sure this is the first type of editing you invest in.
To give you more of an insight into what developmental editing involves, here is a list of areas a developmental editor will focus on:
Character Development: Are the characters believable and likeable? Are they relatable and realistic enough for the genre and target audience? Has the reader provided enough detail about them?
Plot: Is the story believable? Is the ultimate goal realistic and achievable? Is it engaging? Are there any plot holes that need to be addressed? Does the plot suit the genre and target audience?
Subplots: Do the subplots enhance the main story? Are they relevant to the main plot? Are they exciting or too complicated?
Dialogue: Is the dialogue believable and realistic to each character? Has each character got a unique voice? Does the dialect match and reflect the time or geographic area? Is the dialogue appropriate for the age of the characters?
Chapters: Do the chapter titles match the content? Are they all a similar length? Are they in the correct order? Could any chapters be cut or merged to tighten the overall structure?
Structure: Is the manuscript structured correctly? Does it follow the three-act structure? Is there a strong beginning, middle and end?
These are all questions a developmental editor may think about when editing a manuscript, but it’s always helpful to keep them in mind yourself when revising your work.
If you're currently looking for a developmental editor, I'd be more than happy to work with you and help you with your manuscript! If you're interested in learning more about my developmental editing services, please click here to discover my Manuscript Evaluation package.
Many often believe that copy editors only check for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and typos. While that is an integral part of their role, this is a false assumption.
A copy editor is often responsible for the overall context of a manuscript and is in charge of revising a new, rough draft. It is up to a copy editor to make sure that the writer’s manuscript is readable, clear, and coherent. However, this does not mean that writers can send a load of gobbledegook to professional copy editors and expect them to make sense of it – if an editor cannot comprehend what you have written, they will be unable to polish it.
Here is a short list of areas a copy editor will likely focus on when editing your manuscript:
Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, punctuation misplacement, and typos.
Incorrect homophones such as weather and whether, farther and further, or there, they’re and there.
Clunky, lengthy or over-complicated sentences.
Inappropriate or offensive words and phrases (unless using this type of language is relevant to your character or plot.)
The consistency of spelling (UK versus US spelling), capitalisation, numbering, and font.
The consistency of the plot, setting, and characterisation.
The consistency of your writing style, character voice, and tone.
Possible plagiarism or copyright infringement (if you haven’t actively copied another author, you will most likely be fine, but make sure you check to be safe.)
Facts and statistics – if you have used any within your fiction novel, especially if you are writing in the historical genre, make sure everything is correct and accurate.
Transitions, such as time jumps, scene changes, location changes, flashbacks, and visions – a copy editor will ensure they are correctly paragraphed.
The order of your chapters, and how relevant your chapter titles are to your text.
If you're currently looking for a copy editor, I'd be more than happy to work with you and help you with your manuscript! If you're interested in learning more about my copy editing services, please click here to discover my packages.
Copy-editing and line-editing are incredibly similar, so it’s no wonder that many people confuse the two, but copy-editing is a little lighter than line-editing. As listed in the previous chapter, copy-editing mainly focuses on the writer’s language, consistency, and structure of a manuscript, while checking for mistakes in your syntax, grammar, and writing style.
A line editor will likely revise the same areas as a copy editor, but will also spend extra time on the pace and flow of your writing, your writing style and your tense consistency. They may also rewrite individual sections to give your work that extra shine. To provide you with more of an insight, here are a few questions a line editor may ask when editing your novel:
Is the point of view consistent in this scene, or does it jump all over the place and make things confusing?
Does each sentence flow smoothly from one to the next, or are they clunky and tricky to read and digest?
What is the intended tone of this scene or chapter, and does the author’s language match it well?
Is the writer’s language and style clear, concise and free of boring clichés?
Are there any unnecessary words or phrases that could be cut to help the flow and pace of the manuscript?
As line-editing improves the overall language of a piece of written content, this type of editing is ideal for writers who are self-publishing. Line-editing is also beneficial for non-native speakers and people with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.
If you're currently looking for a line editor, I'd be more than happy to work with you and help you with your manuscript! If you're interested in learning more about my line editing services, please click here to discover my packages.
In contrast to developmental editors, line editors and copy editors, proofreaders carry out the final tweaks before publication. It's not a proofreader’s job to revise your language or plot, that's the job of a copy or line-editor, which explains why proofreading is usually the final step before publication. It would be a waste of time for a proofreader to tweak a manuscript that's still riddled with character issues or language errors, so avoid hiring a proofreader until your manuscript is almost ready for literary agents of self-publishing.
Anyway, unlike the other types of editors we have explored throughout this article, a proofreader will correct your grammar, spelling, punctuation mistakes and any typos that have found their way into your work. To give you more detail, a proofreader is the one who will spot and remove the extra space after a full stop, who will remove unnecessary commas, and who will correct your homophones. Ultimately, by the time they have finished with your manuscript, it will be free of errors and easier to read.
However, you may think that proofreading is easy compared to line-editing, but this far from the truth. Being the second pair of eyes to polish a piece of writing creates a lot of pressure, and it requires a real skill to remain focused enough to catch the mistakes that have slipped through the net.
If you're currently looking for a proofreader, I'd be more than happy to work with you and help you with your manuscript! If you're interested in learning more about my proofreading services, please click here to discover my packages.
Although beta readers aren’t required to have any knowledge of editing or publishing, they can be beneficial when you have finished your manuscript. If you haven’t heard of the term before, beta readers are ordinary people, often avid readers and writers, who agree to review a manuscript for free and provide honest feedback on what works and what needs to be improved.
Some writers skip the beta reading stage due to the fear of critique or having work stolen, but having a few extra eyes on your book can really help you to pinpoint which type of editor you need. For example, if your writing style, syntax and grammar is fine, but you have some issues with your plot or characters, you will likely benefit more from a developmental editor than a line or copy editor.
So there we have it – six different areas to consider before you part with any money whatsoever! I offer 5 out of 6 of these services at Stand Corrected Editing (all bar the service of an acquisition editor, because like I said, they work for literary agencies) so feel free to take a look at my editorial packages here to see if I have the service you need! If you can’t see the service you require on my website, please still get in touch and I may be able to sort something out for you, or refer you to someone who offers what you need!
2. Consider the Additional Services You May Need
Once you understand the different types of editors and what they do, you may want to consider which other professional services you would benefit from on top of editorial work. Some literary consultancies and independent editors possess more than just editing skills, so you may be able to grab an all-inclusive package. For example, you may decide that you could use editorial feedback alongside the professional edits, or you may need someone who can help you with formatting your book to a publishable standard. Furthermore, some editors also specialise in book cover design and illustrations, or at least work with someone who does, and many literary consultancies help you to find a literary agent if you agree to give them a small percentage of royalties if your book sells.
So, before you invest in an editor for your book, it’s important to consider the additional services you may need, which will help you to seriously narrow down your options. Plus, you may end up saving money by searching for all-inclusive services for your book.
If you would like your manuscript edited AND have help marketing your book once you have self-published, I can help with that at Stand Corrected Editing. Of course, I specialise in the editorial side of books by getting them ready for literary agents and self-publishing, but I also understand how bloody difficult it is for indie authors to market and sell their books. So, I offer free book marketing and promotion for clients who have used my services, which involves having your book on my website (see my author page), being interviewed for my blog (see this author interview here), and having your novel promoted on my social media platforms!
3. Consider an Editor Who Specialises in Your Genre
When you are searching for the right editor for your book, it may be a good idea to find someone who specialises in the genre you have written, or at least has experience editing your genre. For example, some independent editors specialise in romance novels, while others accept fantasy, adventure and science fiction, so you may feel more comfortable hiring an editor who has previously edited an abundance of novels just like yours. However, it’s not absolutely necessary to hire an editor in your niche – if you find an editor you like the look of and their website jumps out at you, you can always trial them.
For the record, I have previously edited fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, crime, thriller, romance, women’s fiction, erotica, contemporary fiction, poetry, short stories, memoirs, self-help books and non-fiction, so if you’ve have a manuscript that falls into one of these genres, I’d be very happy to work with you! If you have a manuscript that falls into a different genre, I’d also love to work with you if you’re not specifically looking for an editor who specialises in your genre!
4. Get a Free Sample
Most literary consultancies and independent editors provide a free sample edit for writers to view their editing style and to compare their work with other editors, so make the most of their free consultations! Once you have found a few editors who appeal to you the most, check to see if they offer a sample edit. If they do, fantastic, get in touch with them! But if they don’t advertise any free services on their website, there’s no harm in emailing them to enquire. However, if they are not willing to edit a few pages for free, I advise you to avoid them. Life is too short to waste time on unprofessional editors, and money is too precious to gamble without trust, so always, always, always choose an editor who is willing to show their skills for free!
If you’d like me to provide a free sample for you at Stand Corrected Editing, visit my free consultation page here and feel free to get in touch!
5. Read Reviews and Testimonials
Most editors ask their previous clients for a testimonial that they can display on their website to show their experience and legitimacy to new clients like you, so it’s always a good idea to read through an editor’s testimonials on their website. However, I understand the worry that some testimonials aren’t legitimate and are falsely created, so here is a short list of other ways you can discover what previous clients have said about a particular editor or consultancy:
Do they have a Google review page that displays real reviews? You can view mine here!
Have they written any articles or guest posts that have been well-received? You can usually find these just by typing the editor’s name into Google as most guest articles give credit to the author.
Do they have a social media presence? How many followers do they have? Do they post regularly? Who engages with them on these platforms?
Is there an up-to-date blog on their website? Although their blog won’t directly show you what other writers think of them, it will certainly enlighten you on how committed they are to their work, how consistent they are, how they write, and how many people engage with their posts.
What published books have they edited? Are they well-written and well-edited? Are they of the standard you want your book to be? (Here’s a selection of published books and stories I’ve edited so far!)
Some editors may not have every single one of these, but that’s okay, you can still find a great editor for your book who only has two or three of them, but it’s up to you to do as much research as possible to gather a decent amount of information.
6. Know the Standard Industry Rate for a Book of Your Length and Genre
Knowing the standard industry rate can save you a ton of money without even realising. You may wonder why you would need to know the average rates and prices, but having this knowledge will prevent you from being scammed or fooled into spending more money that necessary. For example, you and me both know that the average retail price for a paperback book in somewhere like Waterstones or WHSmith is around £7.99-£9.99, so you wouldn’t buy the same book for £79.99, would you?
Well, it’s the same with the editing industry. You may think this price jump is extreme – of course you wouldn’t pay £79.99 for a paperback, but many writers fall for ridiculously expensive services because they haven’t researched the standard industry rate.
For instance, I recently spoke to a writer on Twitter who had been charged $3000 for a line edit of 112,000 words. Now, a professional line edit will always be more expensive than a copy edit or a proofread, but $3000 is extortionate for 112,000 words. The standard industry rate at the top literary consultancies in the UK charge around £1300, which is about $1700 – way over a grand less!! I charge even less than that again at Stand Corrected Editing as I like to remain below the standard industry rate for writers who may not afford the top prices. For 112,000 words, I charge around £728 for a thorough line edit plus a free editorial report, which converts to about $962 USD.
So, please, please PLEASE make sure you research the standard prices for the editing service you need to avoid being scammed!
7. Give New Editors a Chance to Shine
Many of the top literary consultancies are incredible at what they do, but like a lot of other writers, you may not have the money to pay for their expensive services. You may think that the dearer the editor, the better they are, but that’s really not the case all the time. Of course, a big editing company that has been around for 30 years may well have more experience and more literary contacts than a newer editor like myself, but you could receive a high-quality edit for a third of the price if you give a new editor the chance to shine. Heck, if no one gave me a chance when I launched Stand Corrected Editing, I would never have gained the privilege to help more writers like you for a fraction of the price of the bigger companies. So, don’t be afraid to try newer editors who are just as professional, especially if you’ve got in touch with them and you’re happy with their sample edit!
So, there you have it – 7 important steps that will help you to find the right editor for your book! It may take a while to find an editor you can truly trust, but once you have found them, the entire experience will be absolutely worth it and you’ll be on your way to achieving your author dream!
Thank you so much for reading my article – I really hope I’ve helped you in some way and you can use my tips to find the right editor for your book! Please get in touch with me if you’d like me to edit your manuscript or provide a free sample to help you decide whether I’m the editor for you!
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm the book editor and proofreader at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent literary consultancy in the UK. I help passionate writers and authors to get their novels ready for literary agents or self-publishing.
In weekly blog posts, online courses and daily Instagram posts, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!
Let me ask you something...
Do you seriously want to pursue your passion of writing and publishing books people actually want to read?
Are you currently planning, writing, or editing your manuscript?
Are you ready to become a successful author?