acm323's picture
acm323 from California September 24, 2014 - 2:17pm

Hi there!  I'm about to hire an editor for my first novel.  I'm self-publishing this book.  Do you guys have any advice on what I should look for in an editor?  It's a 65,000 word document.  How much should I pay this person?  What specific qualities should I look for?  Any advice would be great.  Thank you!

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami September 24, 2014 - 11:12pm

Enough wisdom to give me advice I know would improve the work, without placing their own style within the work. And obviously, to make it less confusing.

How that is further defined, is dependant on the individual.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal September 27, 2014 - 7:29am


because i'd like to hear peoples' thoughts on this too

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs September 28, 2014 - 12:31am

I work as a freelance editor. The best advice that I can give you is to ask for a sample edit before you hire anyone. The first five pages of your manuscript works. Usually they'll tell you how much it will cost instead of the other way around.

acm323's picture
acm323 from California September 28, 2014 - 3:42am

Thanks.  :-)

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck September 29, 2014 - 1:49pm

This may seem a little trite, but I like someone that can really take the place of the audience, which isn't as simple as it seems when one reads for a living.  I like editors to focus on: pointing out places where the story gets contradictory (you say this here, but do this there), or where they don't quite get what I'm saying, or where imagery gets confusing, without being so meticulous the big picture gets lost in the process.  Basically, to point out any flaw they see.  From there, I can look at their feedback and decide how to approach it (since, of course, not all feedback is good feedback).  There needs to be a balance.  

For instance, I try to avoid using other writers as editors, first and foremost.  It can be beneficial sometimes, but I always proceed with caution, as they (shit, we) tend to overthink things when putting on the editing hat, and reading as a writer and reading as a reader are two different things - it can be hard to separate the two (especially since doing so involves getting over oneself, which is a weak point for many creative types).  Writers have a way of going through things with such a fine comb that the process ends up pointless.  Personally, I edit my own stuff best I can, they give it to a test reader to give me feedback.  I go to people I know who are  a) intelligent, b) insanely avid readers, c) not writers themselves, and d) won't try to spare my feelings.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 2, 2014 - 11:06am

I think it's very rare to find an editor of fiction who isn't also a writer. Or at least they were a writer at one point of their life before editing took precedence over it.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami October 2, 2014 - 12:06pm

The big thing is in finding one that doesn't want to place their image over the work, they focus on helping you use the best work to communicate your piece.

Which sounds like the same, but it's really not. Especially they are only familiar with rules, and not like the exceptions to them. Even a story written in first person, has totally different rules from something that is told in third person. That's if your not going for like a collection of letters.

How many letters have you seen, show and don't tell if it's an actual letter? A person doesn't have time to specifically show their aunt berrating them. That's if your not doing like a diary approach, which really is the writer talking to their journal.

I want to start hearing about better approaches, not rules.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies October 3, 2014 - 8:58am

Couple of thoughts. 

First, I'm an author and editor, here's my blog which shows my rates and information on what I do. Bradley is an excellent author and editor, as well. Big fan of his writing.

I'd love to hire an editor, ideally, that either writes in the same genres as you, or reads the same genres as you. I personally wouldn't want somebody editing my story or novel who wasn't familiar with what I was doing, what had come before, what was going on. Not that a romance editor couldn't edit a horror novel, but ideally, if I had a speculative novel, I'd want an editor that was writing or familiar with F/SF/H.

Look at testimonials, and get references from other authors that have worked with that editor.

Look at what has happened with the work they've edited—have books and stories sold? To presses and publications that you enjoy, or have heard of, at least?

The rates of course are important. The best editor in the world may offer to help, but if they charge $2,000 that may make it impossible. Of course, there's the other side of the coin—you get what you pay for, too, right? Find that sweet spot.

I agree that you should seek an editor that won't just try to make you sound like them. One way you can figure that out is to look at the variety of clients they've worked with—where the stories or novels are being sold—is it a mix of horror, fantasy, SF, crime, and literary? Then it shows they have range. If they only work on horror, and you write horror, then that's okay, too. But not if you write YA or romance, for example.

Also, I like to see what they're doing with their own writing. Are they writing, publishing, doing well? Do you LIKE their writing? Doesn't have to be the exact genre or voice, but if you really hate what they're doing, then maybe that's not a good fit. Likewise, if you really LOVE their voice, that's a plus. Could be a good influence. Much like an agent, you want to be on the same page, or at least, in the same general area, to benefit from their expertise.

Hope this helps! And best of luck. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. October 11, 2014 - 7:43am

It depends on what you want from an editor.  For me, I want an editor that can cut out the bullshit words and combine sentences to make them more powerful without messing with the story.  I like a brave editor that isn't afraid to suggest additional sentences or rewrites.  I want an editor that can kick my ass.

A good editor like this can do a lot of genres, because they don't give a shit about your genre.  They are just interested in getting your words to be more clear and powerful.  

If you want an editor that helps with plot and character development, then I think you should use the workshop at the litreactor to edit your work.  You'll get so much good advice from so many different points of view that it can be overwhelming, but this site has the best workshopping of any group I've ever been involved in.

And, as always, be prepared to say no.  Keep what you want from an editor and a workshop.  The story is yours to let loose on the world when you're ready.  But, don't be afraid to say yes and try a suggestion that might make you rewrite more than you were prepared for.

Jake Leroy's picture
Jake Leroy from Kansas City is reading Jesus' Son, by Denis Johnson, and Hot Water Music, by Charles Bukowski October 17, 2014 - 8:16am

In my experience there are two kinds of editors and you seldom get both in the same person: Line editors, who are sticklers for grammar, syntax and sentence construction, and content editors, who understand style, plotting, continuity, pacing, forshadowing and other qualitative aspects of storytelling.

If you've been working on a piece for years through multiple revisions and critique groups, your need for a line editor has probably been lessened, unless you are weak in sentence construction or have a problem with wordiness. A good content editor should be able to work across multiple genres.

I've only had good experiences with my editors, but from the horror stories I've heard, I would ask for references from published authors who have worked extensively with this person, and clearly define expectations for things like response times to emails and costs for everything and anything.

Editing is a non-regulated field; anyone can call themselves an editor. There are a lot of people floating around out there (many of them ex-English teachers) who are non-writers and terrible editors. My belief is that there are a lot more of those than good ones, so I would advise treading carefully.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 14, 2014 - 2:59pm

I do both content editing and line editing at the same time, but I focus more on line editing. I think it would be difficult to focus equally on both. Like how it's impossible to do a good line edit and a good proofread at the same time.