New authors are sometimes overwhelmed by the publishing process and the publishing world. There are many options today, and many different companies and services vying for your attention and your hard-earned dollars. While you can publish a book for almost nothing these days, it’s still a good idea to invest in your book if you want to sell it. People like high-quality products, and books are no exception.

A man with dark, curly hair looks to the left of the frame. He is wearing a black sweater sits in a chair with a pile of books on a table in front of him. In the foreground, out of focus, are a couple of audience members. He might be an author meeting some fans of his work.
(cottonbro /

That means you should be investing in editing. Some authors scoff at the idea, but there are many reasons working with a professional editor is beneficial for you, even if you have great grammar!

To get the most out of your editorial relationship, however, you need to find the right editor. Unfortunately, that’s getting trickier and trickier to do.

Who Is a Professional Editor?

One of the reasons it’s so difficult to find a good editor is because there’s little to no regulation of the profession. Almost anyone can call themselves an editor and start selling their services. While some people are relatively good at finding grammatical errors or hunting down spelling mistakes, this doesn’t necessarily make them a top-notch editor!

A woman with long, dark hair sits at a desk and looks at a paper she appears to be editing. She is wearing a black jacket over a white button-down shirt. She might be a professional editor.
(cottonbro /

You want to be on the hunt for a professional editor in these cases. Again, it can be difficult to identify the true professionals from those who have given themselves the title because they can. There are a few hallmark signs you can look for when you’re searching for editors. These tips will help you find the professionals and leave the fakes behind.

The Education of a Professional Editor

Education is not the be-all, end-all of an editor’s training, but it sure helps to put them on a solid footing. Many professional editors have a university education with either a BA or MA degree. Some may even have specializations in publishing or post-graduate or college diplomas in publishing-specific programs.

Why do you want an editor with this type of background? The publishing programs and copy editing, proofreading, and other editorial courses are often accessible only if you have a university degree. From there, these student learn the basics of the trade—things they don’t teach in high school or university English classrooms.

A sample of text showing proofreaders marks, which a professional editor would use. The text reads "The brown quick Fox jummps over the la zy dog dog."
Yeah, they don’t teach these marks in high school English classes.

Editors enrolled in these programs have hands-on training, often provided by publishing professionals. This training shows them the ins and outs of actually editing something. Without this basic training, an editor isn’t much of an editor at all.

Many Pro Editors Have Experience

Experience is possibly more important than education. Editorial programs and publishing programs are a relatively recent invention, so if your editor claims for have thirty-five or forty years of experience, they may not have the academic credentials and educational attainments of younger editors.

What they lack in degrees, however, is more than made up for in experience. Younger editors often have a mix of education and experience.

Two women discuss across a table with paper and pens on it. The woman closest to the right hand side of the frame appears to be speaking. They could be discussing a job interview and the candidate's experience.
Lots of us get experience from working with our peers in school, so even fresh-out-of-school editors have some experience. (mentatdgt /

Some editors may have plenty of years of experience without any formal training. In some cases, their experience will make up for their lack of training. They trained on the job. So how can you use experience to sort out the professionals from the would-be editors of the world?

The first thing is to look at their experience. Most editors will post projects they’ve worked on to their website, social media, or even send you their CV. What makes up the bulk of their work? If you’re looking for a business editor but see this person has worked primarily on fiction, you might want to rethink hiring them for your business proposal. If this editor has primarily worked on student papers and no published books, you might question their skills.

A Professional Editor Might Have Certification

There are a few certifications an editor can obtain. Here in Canada, Editors Canada administers tests to professional editors. Those who pass are awarded certification and can advertise such. A certified editor has passed tests, so you know someone has vetted their ability!

Not every professional editor has certification. The tests can be expensive, and there aren’t many certifications available. At this point, not having certification isn’t a true hindrance to an editor either. As the profession continues to become more organized and formalized, however, expect to see increasing demands for certification.

Membership in a Professional Editors Association

Although anyone can buy a membership in an association, the people who fork for the memberships are typically professionals themselves. Whether they have more experience or education, they see membership as one way of legitimating themselves in the eyes of clients. Combined with certification, this is a good way to know you’re working with someone who takes the profession of editing seriously.

A Combination of All of the Above

A professional editor should have some combination of education, training, continuing education, and experience. They may also have certification and membership in professional associations. A professional should be able to tell you about other clients they do work for and point you to publications they’ve worked on. They should have testimonials from satisfied clients.

Who Is a “Fake” Editor?

As mentioned above, almost anyone can give themselves the title of editor. Even with educational training and certification available, it’s still possible for a person to wake up tomorrow, say, “I’m going to be an editor,” and put out a call for manuscripts. Whether or not they’re any good at editing is another story!

A “fake” editor is someone who bills themselves as a professional editor with relatively little evidence to back that claim up. And there are many of them out there. Most of them have no formal training, and while they may claim years of experience, their clients are often students and friends.

While these people often mean well and have some ability, they do not have the skills of a professional editor. Knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” does not an editor make.

Scams and Other Dangers

Another thing you need to watch out for is editorial scams. There are many editorial companies out there. Many of them are legitimate businesses run by legitimate editors, or at least well-meaning people. Others are not; they are a front for fraudsters bilking authors out of their hard-earned money.

Always be leery of an editorial company with poor grammar. Another red flag is a lack of information. Legitimate editorial companies will tell you about their editors, who they are, and what kind of training and experience they have. Also ask about past projects and clients. Most editors will tell you! If the company refuses to name their editors or their clients and projects, it’s probably a scam.

A Professional Attitude

Perhaps more than anything else, a professional editor should have a professional attitude! If you ever contact an editor and they don’t seem interested in your work or they’re rude to you, you’re probably better off not working with them, no matter their experience or education level.

Working with an editor can be terrifying for authors, but it shouldn’t be. In fact, working with an editor should be one of the most rewarding experiences an author can have. You experience hinges on choosing the right editor. Pick an editor with experience and you likely won’t go wrong.

Always Shop Around

It can be tough to sort out professional editors from those who merely call themselves editors. You can look for these signs, and always trust your gut. If you just don’t like someone, then they’re not a good fit for your manuscript!

Even a highly recommended professional may not be the right fit for you. Don’t be afraid to shop around and find an editor who “clicks” with you.

If you think the Inkwell’s team could be a good fit, then get in touch! We’d love to have the chance to talk to you about your project.

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