If you don’t already work with an editor, hiring a freelance editor for the first time can be daunting. How do you work with an editor? What is expected of you? And, of course – what if you don’t like the edits made on your work? All these questions (and their potential answers) can be difficult to ask and even more difficult to answer – in theory. Many of these pressing questions regarding working with an editor are actually quite straightforward, and their answers will, we hope, reduce any anxiety you have surrounding the editorial process!
Today, we’re going to highlight some key points from the editorial process that can often be intimidating or confusing to new(er) indie authors or to those who have never hired an editor before. Read on for answers to these all-important editing questions.
Make sure your manuscript is ready to be edited before you even reach out to an editor – this is crucial. Make sure to contact any and all potential freelance editors AFTER your manuscript is complete. An editor is not there to help you finish errant paragraphs or guide you through the writing of whole chapters; their primary (and only) purpose is to help you mold your manuscript into a publishable shape. Sure, an editor may help you fill in plot holes, develop character arcs, organize chapters, and maybe work on smaller world-building details such as renaming characters or places, as well as work at a line-editing level – but what they won’t do is write for you. Your manuscript must be complete before you reach out to anyone!
Find an editor who is familiar with your genre – this may seem obvious, but sometimes, it can be tempting to reach out to an editor who has rates within your budget or a timeline you can work with even if they DON’T work within your genre. However, we’re going to advise against this.
Find an editor who is familiar with your genre. An avid editor (and reader) of romance is going to be able to apply their knowledge and skills best when it comes to romance rather than, say, your latest psychological thriller. Of course, many editors work in multiple genres – but try and find an editor whose primary focus is on editing books in your genre. Your manuscript – and readers – will thank you later!
Work out your editing scheduling with your editor – you may want your book completely edited and ready to go in 3 months or less, but more than likely, the editor you hired has multiple projects on the go. Don’t expect any editor to be able to fit your manuscript into their schedule without discussing a timeline and your deadline first.
Negotiate your deadline and see what time your editor has available. If they can get it done in 3 months, great! If not, be flexible. If you can’t be flexible, seek out another editor. Compromising on an editing timeline will not only benefit both you and the editor, but your book as well.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – your editor won’t bite! Ask as many questions as you need before, during, and after the process. If your editor has a FAQ section on their website, however, be sure to read that first to ensure you aren’t asking the same question twice. Remember, editing is a collaborative effort: your editor will be asking you tons of questions, too.
Offer your editor supplementary materials – did you make handwritten notes in a notebook? Create a plot graph? A playlist? Pinterest moodboard? Offer any and all of this ephemera to your editor. They may find it extremely helpful during the editing process, as it grants them a deeper understanding of your vision for the novel.
However, be aware that some editors may only want the manuscript, as this gives them straightforward access to the text. Be sure to offer these helpful materials to your editor rather than send them on ahead without warning.
Be open to constructive criticism – it can be hard to hear that writing you thought was excellent needs some work, or even worse, must be removed entirely, but before you balk at the suggestion, sit with it a while. Read over your editor’s comments, ask questions, and consider their expert reasoning for why something should be changed or removed.
Your editor is here to help develop your book into the best version of it that it can be, not tear it down into something unrecognizable. A change in your vision for the story can be hard to stomach at times, but again, ultimately, it will most likely result in a huge improvement overall. And remember – you don’t have to approve absolutely everything! But take that instinct to resist change and push back against deletion with a grain of salt. Carefully consider the constructive criticism before coming to a conclusion.
Don’t tell your editor how to do their job – as a writer, you probably self-edit often, and may even have a pretty good grasp on how to edit an entire novel. But when you hand over your manuscript to your editor, take a step back. When they return their first round of edits, don’t edit their edits – accept, reject, or question their editorial decisions, sparking a discussion.
If you have issues with any edits they may have made, ask for an explanation and reasoning if they haven’t given one. Be open to conversations about the choices they make and the suggestions they have. Ultimately, you have the final say on what isn’t and is changed, but an editor is an expert at their craft. As mentioned, you’ll want to listen to them before making the final call!
Ask your editor for advice on next steps – after the editing process is done, ask your editor what they suggest you do next. Many will say you should go ahead and publish – but most, I suspect, would suggest hiring a copyeditor to catch any formatting mistakes, such as punctuation issues, spelling errors, bad breaks, missed headings, and so on. Copyediting can also be completed by you yourself – however, be prepared to read through your text not once, not twice, but three times to ensure you didn’t miss anything!
An editor may also suggest hiring a sensitivity reader. A sensitivity reader is a great choice for authors who work with subject matter or craft characters who have experiences outside of the author’s own lived experiences. Listen to our podcast episode on sensitivity readers here for some great suggestions and words of advice.
Editors may also suggest adding a content warning at the beginning of your book for readers who may want to be aware of difficult subject matter, or an author’s note section at the end for anything that might require more context.
They may even have suggestions on the cover if you don’t have one ready to go yet! Don’t be afraid to ask for their aesthetic input, too.
As with any other part of the publishing process, editing and working with an editor is an important and time-consuming effort. But – of course – it’s also extremely rewarding and will benefit your book in the long run! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, negotiate timelines, engage in conversation, and appreciate the constructive criticism and suggestions you receive. Happy editing!