Whether you’re an independent author or the editorial coordinator at a publishing house, you’re probably aware of the advantages of a good edit. To get good editing, however, you need to find a good editor. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

While editors are a dime a dozen these days, it can be difficult to find truly great editors in the bunch. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to find the best of the best when you need someone to edit your book project.

The camera peers through the leaves of a houseplant to focus on a man looking at his computer screen. You shouldn't feel like you're hunting to find a good editor.
You shouldn’t feel like you’re out in the weeds trying to find a good editor. (RF._.studio / Pexels.com)

1. Check Professional Associations to Find a Good Editor

Many editors will take the time and spend the money to join a professional editorial association. This helps separate them from the riffraff. It also gives them access to numerous community resources, including other editors.

Some professional associations offer certification and testing, which can help the best editors stand out from the crowd. Check out their member listings. Most maintain a database of current members. Many editors will list their areas of expertise and how long they’ve been editing.

2. Look for Credentials

You’ve asked around and someone recommended an editor to you. How do you know if they’re any good? You can always ask for the person’s CV or see if you can find it online. Most editors are more than pleased to make their credentials, education, and experience known to others.

What kinds of credentials should you look for? Association membership and certification is one thing. Diplomas and certificates are other factors to look for. Some editors may even have degrees in publishing. Others may have certification in particular kinds of editing, such as copy editing or proofreading.

A woman in a white dress shirt reviews a resume. Could she be trying to find a good editor?
You’re the boss when you hire an editor, so check out their resume! (RODNAE Productions / Pexels.com)

If an editor’s CV lacks in the way of certification or education, you may want to check for experience. Editorial certificates and programs are still relatively new, so many older editors who have been in the game for a long time don’t necessarily have them. They should have plenty of experience instead. If both are lacking, you might want to steer clear.

3. Check Their Editing Pedigree

Who has this person worked for or with? This is important for two reasons. One, it tells you whether you’ll be able to afford this person. Some very experienced editors are great, but they charge top dollar for their services. If you’re on a shoestring budget, booking the same copy editor as Margaret Atwood may not be realistic.

Most editors should be willing to share some of their experience. They may tell you which publishers or authors they’ve worked with. They might list specific projects, which you can then look up online. (If it’s available, a Google Books or Amazon preview can even give you a sneak peek at their work!)

Relatively new editors may not have a lot of experience or may not have worked with very prestigious clients. That’s okay too. They should have some experience, however, and they should have the educational credentials to back it up.

4. Ask for a Recommendation

If you know someone in publishing or are involved in publishing yourself, ask around for recommendations. If you’re part of author groups on Facebook or you’re on Twitter or LinkedIn, you can ask there. You can also search for people. If you’re working for a publisher, you can always ask editors you do work with for their recommendations.

Keep in mind recommendations aren’t always worth their weight in gold. Since editors vary in style, one person’s recommendation may not lead you to the right editor for your project, even if the editor is technically very capable.

You should also watch out for recommendations from friends and family or other authors who endorse “friends” who are “good at English.” While these people may be able to spot missing periods and spelling mistakes, they probably aren’t trained as editors. There’s more to editing than running spell check!

5. Search LinkedIn (or Other Social Media) to Find a Good Editor

A phone screen showing a variety of social media icons, including Skype, Whatsapp, Vimeo, YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest.
Plenty of good editors use social media to get the word out about their services. (Pixabay / Pexels.com)

Facebook groups are full of recommendations, and you can find editors scattered across LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also just search any of these sites for editors. LinkedIn is great because editors will post their CVs and other job-related information to their professional profile. Facebook is also often good, since it can link you to the pages of editorial companies and freelance editors.

6. Ask for an Assessment or Quote

If you think you’ve found someone or even a few someones, be sure to ask them for a sample or assessment. This will give you much more insight than even the most glowing endorsement on the editor’s website or a gushing recommendation from your best friend or colleague.

First and foremost, any editor should be professional and courteous in their correspondence to you. If they’re rude or take a very long time to reply, don’t waste your time here. This person isn’t interested in your manuscript, and they will either turn down the project or won’t do a good job.

Next, the editor should give you a clear idea of what, exactly, their editing process for your manuscript would entail. Are they going to tidy up spelling and grammar and not much more? Or are they going to tear it to shreds? You want to know what they’re proposing before you ship your manuscript off to them.

Communication is key. The editor should also lay out how they work and the fundamentals of their approach to editing. Here at Inkwell’s, we see editing as a collaborative process between editors and authors. As much as we’re here to correct mistakes, we’re also here to help you make your book the best book it can possibly be. This sometimes means making suggestions or changes, challenging you to think more deeply about these points in the manuscript. Disagreement is common and promoted!

If the editor doesn’t make you feel comfortable and confident, move along. Writing is a deeply personal venture, and editing can sometimes feel like a personal attack. While you may not like everything the editor does and they may challenge you, you should never feel threatened or that the editor is taking advantage of you.

7. Ask for a Sample

A sample allows you to see the editor in action. If you work for a publishing house, you may have a test to administer to new editors before you sign them. This helps you weed out people who may not be ready to tackle the kinds of projects you need them to do.

Authors also shouldn’t be afraid to ask for samples. You can ask the editor to show you their work on a sample of a previous project, or you could also ask them to do a sample edit of a small portion of your own manuscript. If you like what you see, this editor could be the right fit!

Find a Good Editor for Your Next Project

Finding an editor is easy enough. Finding a good editor can be challenging! With these tips in hand, however, you can make booking a great editor for your next project easier than ever before.

If you’re still looking for the right editorial match, give us a shout. We’re happy to provide a free estimate or sample for your project.