As self-publishing continues to grow into a beast of an industry, more writers are seeking independent editors. Indie editors are individuals or companies that have no affiliation with a particular literary agent or publishing house. Whether you’re a new writer or a seasoned author, seeking unbiased, professional critiques (and recommended changes) are an important part of the writing and publishing process.
It’s great that anyone can set up an independent shop nowadays, but I’ve seen a lot of indie editors who, quite frankly, are not qualified to be professional editors. Professional editing, while an essential step before publication, is not cheap, and choosing an unqualified editor isn’t ideal for your time or budget.
So, how does an author find the right, qualified indie editor from them? How do you tell the hobbyists from the professionals? I’ve compiled a list of things to look out for when hiring an editor to ensure you don’t lose precious time or resources.
When to Avoid an Editor
No resume, CV, or Verifiable Experience Provided
This pretty much goes for any professional you’re looking to hire. If someone applied for a job at your company and didn’t provide a resume, job experience, or education, and just said, “trust me, I’m a professional,” would you hire them? I didn’t think so!
If the editor has a website, click around and look for a resume or portfolio. Whether they list prior corporate editing experience, blogs they’ve worked on, manuscripts, whatever – examples of work are really important. If you can’t find these things but still want to work with this person, reach out and ask for the information. If they don’t have any, go elsewhere.
Crappy grammar, writing, etc.
I feel like this is a given, but you’d be surprised. I’ve seen a lot of indie editor sites with poor grammar, spelling, and overall writing style. If an editor can’t be bothered to fix up their own writing and website, why would you pay them to fix up yours? One or two errors shouldn’t disqualify them; everyone makes mistakes and it’s hard to catch your own errors. But if errors are rampant, move on!
Extraordinarily Low (or High) Rates
As an indie editor myself, I know that it can be hard to set competitive rates that still pay the bills. But when you’re looking at an editor’s rates or quotes, be realistic.
If you’ve asked for a quote on a 700,000 word epic fantasy manuscript and they quote you $200, this should be a red flag. Nobody in their right mind would work full-time on a manuscript of that length for so little money. Chances are, they’ll rush through your manuscript or run a spelling and grammar check in Word and collect their money. If it seems to be too good to be true, then it is. That’s also the problem with websites like Fiverr and other content mills. The prices are low, but you get what you pay for.
On the flip side, if you’ve requested a quote on a 10,000 word e-book and they come back with $2500, that’s as ridiculous as the first example.
Use your judgement on this one, but don’t be tempted by super low prices or fooled by astronomical rates!
Other Factors to Consider
Your Genre vs. Their Specialization
If you’re a blogger looking to have your e-book edited, you probably don’t want an editor who specializes in mystery novels. On the flip side, if you have that 700,000 word fantasy manuscript, you don’t want an editor who specializes in editing e-books for bloggers!
This is another opportunity to exercise your judgement. While I do edit blog posts for several websites, and I do corporate editing during the day, I have experience (and a passion for) editing science fiction and fantasy novels. Still, notice that I don’t say, “I can edit anything and everything!”
Nobody can specialize in everything, and if you need a serious developmental edit on your novel, look for someone with experience working in a similar genre. But, if you need basic copyedits for your blog, you might be ok with an editor who dabbles in a few different genres/forms.
When you reach out to an editor, pay attention to their responses. What is their language like in an e-mail? What do they post on social media? Do they come off as super organized? If you meet them in person, what’s their body language?
No matter what project you need edits on, working with an editor is an intimate process. I’m currently working with an author on her science fiction manuscript and we’ve discussed everything from her strengths to her “problem” areas to plot to how she wants to publish her book. Having someone critique and correct your manuscript or project is a very personal experience and it’s important that your editor understands your needs and personality.
Their Attitude and Philosophy
On a similar note, is this editor someone who will criticize all day because they want to give an “honest opinion?” I’m not saying an editor should only praise you–that’s not the point of an edit–but I was taught and firmly believe that an editor is there to help an author grow, not to tear them down for mistakes! Find someone kind who can still dish out tough love on your project when it’s necessary.
- Don’t hire an editor if they make tons of grammar or spelling mistakes, charge very low or high prices, and have no examples or experience to show.
- Do consider your personality(s), their attitude, and their specialization when choosing an editor.
I hope that helps! If you have any questions about choosing an indie editor, let me know in the comments below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join my Between the Lines Facebook group for more support from other writers!
Have you ever worked with an indie editor? What was your experience? Would you change anything next time?