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What Should Authors Look for in an Editor?

Updated: Sep 2, 2020





You’ve spent months or even years pouring your heart and soul into your manuscript / article. Once you’re done writing, you realize that you have to tread on the convoluted path of finding a literary agent and / or a publisher. At this stage, it’s important to have a fresh pair of eyes go over your work. Once you start querying literary agents or approaching publishers, they might ask you to submit excerpts / sample chapters of your work. While it’s understandable that no manuscript can be completely free of proofreading errors, it’s vital that the sample chapters or extracts you submit do not have these errors. After all, you’ve got only a few pages to make an impression with a compelling plot and well-written story. This is where an editor comes into the picture. However, finding a suitable editor can be extremely daunting and is no piece of cake. Today, the market is inundated with a plethora of editors, proofreaders, and alpha/beta readers. So how do you know which one would be the best fit for you and your painstaking efforts? I’ve received so many questions concerning how to find a suitable editor and what to look for in an editor, so I’ve put together some points that authors / writers might find useful!


1. First, identify what your editorial needs are; whether you’d like an alpha/beta reader, a content/developmental editor or a copy-editor and/or proofreader, or a combination of these.


2. It’s good to have a chat with the prospective editor to discuss your work and make sure that the editor can connect with your voice. I can’t stress how important it is that the editor is able to resonate with your voice and story.


3. Request a sample edit of an extract from your book/chapter for free. The extract/chapter you provide as a sample really depends on your editorial needs. For instance, if you’re looking for a content/developmental editor to help with the story, plot, and conceptualization, it’s good to provide a chapter/extract from the beginning of your book, so that the editor is able to get the full picture and read with continuity. If you’re looking mainly for a copy-editor or proofreader, then it’s helpful to provide a sample extract/chapter from the middle of your book. This is because proofreading and copy-editing errors usually tend to occur more frequently in the latter chapters of a novel. By providing an extract from the middle of the book, you’ll be able to see a noticeable difference!


4. Every writer has an authorial voice, which reflects their personality, perspective, opinions and emotions. It’s important that the editor does not change your voice or the essence of your writing. A skilled editor will enhance and strengthen the author’s voice by removing aspects that dilute the author’s voice, while retaining the author’s original language, tone and expression. When you receive a sample edit from the prospective editor, this is something to look out for!


5. Once you’ve zeroed in on an editor, it’s important to be in contact with them through the entire process. I personally prefer dividing the manuscript into sections, and having a discussion with the author after editing each section, to make sure that we’re both on the same page. I also like to think of any stylistic edits I make as mere suggestions, which the author is free to incorporate. After all, we must remember that the author trusts the editor with their oeuvres, so it’s important that the editor’s suggestions are gentle and non-invasive.


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