Finding and Working With A Professional Editor

The definition of copy editorOf all the things that make or break a title, the editing is arguably one of the most influential.  Editors can help you dive deeper in the characters in your manuscript, tell you if your plot is plausible and help you decide if that sketchy character needs to be deleted.  If you want your book to have any chance of success on the market, you should seriously think of investing in a good editor.

Who You Shouldn’t Choose As Your Editor

Self-publishing is a hard road.  Authors are using whatever is available to them and for the most part they’re doing a lot of things on their own.  It’s tempting to ask anyone with even a pinch of experience (or none at all) with editing to look at your manuscript.  The people you should avoid editing your title include:

  • Your family (unless they are editors)
  • Your friends (unless they are editors)
  • Yourself (even if you are an editor)
  • Someone you found in a craigslist ad
  • An automated machine

The idea is good editing is an art and it’s rare for just anyone to be good at it.  Invest the time and money in someone who is actually good at editing and you will thank yourself for it.  A good editor can make the foundation your title needs to succeed in the real world.

Types of Editors

It’s worth pointing out that there are different kinds of editors.  Make sure you pick the right kind for your particular stage in the process.

Developmental Editors

This is a person who can carry you through the entire process.  They sit with you from the beginning and help you develop your story, your characters, your plot and all the different elements of your book.  You don’t even need to have anything written for them to start helping you.

Find a developmental editor that you can work well with.  This is the person that will carry you through the tough and frustrating times when you want to give up.  They should be able to help you keep the ball rolling.

Copy Editors

This is more of a technical role.  They will check your manuscript for grammar, spelling, structure and other kinds of errors and issues.  A copy editor will also make sure you don’t look like a fool by missing errors of fact in your writing.

Even the best writers make mistakes and the more time you spend with your manuscript, the greater the chance you’ll miss mistakes.  Copy editors are sort of like the guardian angels of the publishing business.


These are even less involved in the overall process than a copy editor.  Generally this may be the last professional to look at your work once all design pieces are in place.  They serve as the final check that all suggestions by the copy editor are in place and that everything looks good.

For self-publishing authors who may have limited resources, finding a good copy editor is enough to make sure a title is ready for consumers.  But where do you find these professionals if you don’t know someone already.

Finding an Editor

Before you go looking online for someone, try and tap your sphere of influence.  Get referrals from other writers you know.  Ask industry professionals whom you’ve worked with if they have some suggestions.

If those channels don’t work for you, there are a variety of resources online that you can try.

You’ll find methods for contacting these organizations on their sites.  Check out more than one resource when getting advice on your title.  There are also some tips to keep in mind when talking details.

  • Be clear about your goals:  Every book is different.  Every author is different.  There isn’t one process that works for everyone.  Make sure the editor has experience with your genre.
  • Make sure you understand the fee structure:  Some editors charge by the project while others by the page and still others by the hour.  It helps to understand their scope of work so you aren’t asking for things that they really shouldn’t be doing.
  • Be an active participant:  When you find an experienced editor, it’s tempting to feel like your opinion isn’t as valuable as theirs.  Just keep in mind that your book is still yours.  You can choose what direction it takes.  Definitely listen to experience but don’t compromise your vision if you think it’s right.

What tips do you have for finding and working with a professional editor?  Join in the conversation by commenting below. 

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