Part 2: Editors in the wild (AKA – Where to find them)
So you understand the different types of edits a manuscript may need and that there are lots of editing skill sets to choose from because you read part 1 of this article.
But how do you track down one of these mythical beings? Read on, my friend, and I’ll tell you where we hang out. (Hint: it’s the bar at writing conferences.)
The best way to find an editor? Ask your writing buddies for referrals. Just like when looking for a new doctor or a new job, referrals from friends and colleagues are indispensable. Though not every author-editor pairing will be a match made in writerly heaven, asking friends for recommendations gives you the chance to learn more about the working and communication style of the editor before you ever contact them.
If the referral track isn’t working for you, then next I recommend checking out the copyright and acknowledgments pages of the books you love and respect. Often, authors thank their editors for the work they’ve done, and some indie authors will list their editors (and cover artists and formatters!) on the copyright page.
Still looking? Facebook has approximately eleventy bajillion groups for writers. Join some! Make some new author friends. Ask in the groups if people have editors they recommend. If you write romance, check out the Romance Editor Q&A group to get started.
Online searches work too! I probably get one inquiry a week through my website where the author says they simply googled some combination of romance+edit/coach and my site came up.
As you’re looking for editors, be sure to find professionals who know your genre. There are lots of unspoken “rules” in genre fiction that you simply don’t know if you don’t read widely in that genre. And though it’s okay to break rules in writing, it’s best done when you know what the expectation is and flout it intentionally. Ignorance of the standards often just angers readers and makes them throw your book at the wall or – worse – leave a bad review.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential editors down to your top three or so, ask them for samples! This will give you a chance to see how they work, evaluate their communication style, and decide if you mesh as a team. Some editors charge for samples, some charge and put that amount toward your final invoice if you book with them, and some will do a sample for free. Some proofreaders won’t offer sample edits because proofreading is relatively clear cut, but other types of editors usually will. Some editors will request pages from the middle of your manuscript since that’s usually been through fewer rounds of perfecting than the first chapters, but some will take first pages also. There’s a lot of flexibility around samples.
A compassionate editor will always give you positive feedback about your story as well as making clear, actionable recommendations on what can be improved. Avoid anyone who only tells you what you’re doing wrong.
And there’s my two-part series on finding an editor for your novel. Stay tuned for more posts about working with editors, things to consider (like cost and schedule), and the emotional gut punch that your first editorial letter will probably be.