How to Choose an Editor

You’ve spent weeks, months, or even years struggling to pound out your book, and now it is time to polish that manuscript before submitting it for publication. You may have proofread the work yourself, but a writer often sees his or her own text as it ought to be, not as it is. And you don’t want to expose that manuscript to the scrutiny of a reader who will immediately notice the one glaring homonym you missed.

But there are hundreds of editors offering proofreading services. How can you choose the one that is best for you? As a freelance editor myself, I can give you some inside tips on navigating that ominous ocean.

1. Determine the scope of services you will require.

Some editors provide simple proofreading services, correcting only the most obvious mistakes of grammar and spelling. Others go a step further and offer basic suggestions on word choice and style. And then there are those who will extensively revise your manuscript, even rewriting large portions. Obviously, the more services you require, the more expensive the editor. You don’t want to pay for revision when all you need is a second set of eyes, and you don’t want to fork out a couple hundred dollars for proofreading when your work needs more serious honing.

2. Shop around.

Obtain contact information for editors and editing services from the classified ad sections of magazines like The Writer, or consult one of the many online resources contain information about freelance editors, such as Write or e-mail each editor to obtain details about services and pricing.

3. Make sure you know who will do the actual editing.

This is especially important if you choose to contract with an editing company rather than a single freelance editor. You don’t want to choose an editor based on his or her reputation, only to have your manuscript farmed out to another proofreader who is being paid a low hourly wage.

4. Consider the cost.

Find out how much an editor will charge you per page, and whether his rates are based on a single-spaced page or double-spaced page (most editors charge per double-spaced page). If the editor charges an hourly rate, ask her if she will commit to a quote based on the total number of pages you need edited; otherwise, you could end up with a surprising bill. Most editors charge $2 or more per double-spaced page. It is commonly believed that editors who charge less are less competent, but this is not necessarily true. They may simply be less well known. Published authors or former editors of big named publications are able to charge more based on their reputations alone, but that doesn’t mean they are any more likely to identify a misplaced modifier than someone who has taught high school English for 27 years. How then can you determine if an editor is capable? That question brings us to tip five.

5. Request a sample edit.

While you should request an editor’s resume in order to evaluate her experience, that is not nearly as important as requiring that she provide you with a free sample of her services. If you make the request, most editors will edit the first two pages of your manuscript for free. If an editor is unwilling to do so, you may want to consider another service. A sample edit will not only reveal whether the editor is capable of catching mistakes, but it will also give you an idea of the scope of his services. You may even want to make an intentional error or two, just to see if the editor will catch the mistakes. Choose an error that isn’t likely to be caught by the spellchecker or grammar checker, such as substituting their for there: “I went their yesterday, and I loved it.”

You’ve invested a lot of time in your book, but don’t neglect that important step of choosing the editor who is best for you.

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