There are several considerations to keep in mind when you are evaluating editors, and every author will have a different arrangement of priorities. Some people have a strict budget they must adhere to while others may want to focus on the personality of the editor they will be working with. There is no right or wrong answer on which aspect is most important, there’s only the issue(s) that is most critical for you.
Regardless of the order, these are the points I suggest you examine.
Your editor should be experienced editing in your genre. Each style of book – romance, memoir, thriller, essay – is packed with conventions that, if ignored or overlooked, can result in bad reviews, poor word-of-mouth, and low sales. An editor who is well-versed in your particular genre will help ensure that you’re not blindly missing or trampling over any reader expectations.
Editing can be expensive. A developmental edit on a 75,000-word manuscript could run anywhere from $300 to $3,000 depending on the editor you’re working with. The Editorial Freelancers Association has a page of recommended rates, but there are certainly editors out there charging way more and way less. To be honest, the romance community often charges on the lower end of the scale, but there are still huge variances even in our genre. Know your budget and be realistic about what you can afford.
How and when does the editor take payment? Do they require a deposit? Do you pay in full, or half when you submit the manuscript and the other half when the edits are complete? Is any portion refundable? What if you aren’t happy with your edits? Do they offer a payment plan? Do they take payment via PayPal or Transferwise or check or bank transfer or credit card or gold bullion?
Some editors present contracts or agreements for authors to sign and others use the emails you’ve exchanged as an informal statement of work. What are you comfortable with? Would you prefer to sign a contract or would you consider that a hassle?
5. Editing process
Proofreading and copy editing are pretty straightforward, and the vast majority of editors will edit in Word with Track Changes on or in Editing mode in Google Docs. Both applications allow you to see the changes that have been made and either accept or reject each individual edit. Line edits could include an editorial letter, or they may only have inline changes in the document. A developmental edit and a critique may be detailed completely in an editorial letter or might include comments in the document. Some authors appreciate a phone call after the edits have been delivered to talk through the changes and take the opportunity to ask questions. Others want a few days or weeks to process the suggestions and revise on their own without any additional input from the editor. If you aren’t sure of your process yet, ask the editor what their availability is after the manuscript is delivered for you to follow up with questions or requests.
If you have a specific timeline that you’ll need your edits completed by, then I suggest finding your editor well in advance. It’s not uncommon for editors to be booked out three, six, or even twelve months in advance. Rush jobs may be available but are often significantly more expensive. Also be sure to ask what the turnaround time is for an edit. Once you deliver the manuscript, does your editor plan to get it back to you in four days, two weeks, or a month? And don’t forget to schedule enough time for your own revisions before the next round of edits. I have a couple clients who can churn out a second draft on a developmental edit in four or five days, but the majority of my clients take anywhere from one to three months to fully revise their manuscript.
Evaluate the personality and communication style of editors through their websites and their emails with you. Do you want to spend hours of your day reading this person’s thoughts about your manuscript? If you get a sample edit from them, do their suggestions feel empathetic, implementable, and realistic? Do they offer encouragement and explanations or examples? Are their responses to your emails timely and professional?
As I mentioned earlier, these aren’t in a particular order of most or least important. You’ll make that determination based on your own needs. But each point is important to consider in your overall evaluation of editors.