How to Find an Editor for Your Novel

I plan on self-publishing my novel, and I want it to look as clean as possible. So, I’ve decided to hire a freelance editor to help me hit the bulls-eye on this story.

I am going through as many rounds of edits as I can endure before I send it to my editor so that she is getting something polished, versus wasting both our time and money cleaning up a mess I could have cleaned up on my own.



My plan is to send out my best version to beta readers, get feedback and apply any needed changes, then hand off to the editor. My timeline is to start editing with a professional come January.

I’ve already decided on an editor, but it wasn’t an easy search or choice. However, I’d like to share some insights with you I’ve discovered along the way.

You can find a qualified freelance editor at the website for the Editorial Freelancers Association. Their search allows you to narrow down specifically, such as location and genre. I was looking for someone who did developmental editing for fantasy and lived in the Seattle area so I could meet with them. There are different levels of editing, so you’ll want to research which types you need depending on how far along your manuscript is.

In a nutshell, these are the different types of editing you’ll find available for novels, and not all editors offer them:

Developmental Editing – A heavy edit on the entire story which includes plot, characters, and structure.

Substantive Editing – Fine-tuning changes made after a developmental edit has been done which includes rewriting or reordering content.

Line Editing – Improves on a more granular level, taking a look at resolving issues on a sentence level such as awkwardness, word choice, and overused words.

Copy-editing – Corrects grammar, word usage, style, etc.

Proofreading – Double-checking for minor errors such as punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

I will need two editors – one to do my developmental and line edits, and another to do the final proofread since they will have distance from the manuscript to make a final sweep that my editor and I may have missed.

Depending on what type of editing you need, your cost for editing could vary greatly. I received quotes from anywhere between $1500-$12,000. I evaluated what I could reasonably afford to budget and set out on my search.

I sent emails to a list of editors I curated from the EFA website. I didn’t know what to ask other than what their price was. As I received emails back and asked around more, my questions became more plentiful and specific.

The list of questions I eventually asked potential editors were these:

Do you offer developmental editing?
Or whichever type of editing you require.

Do you charge separately for each type of editing?
Ideally, I wanted someone who did a package of edits, such as line edits and a developmental edit, for one price.

Do you charge hourly or per word?
Hourly charges don’t seem like a fair or budget-friendly way to do things to me, so I was looking specifically for someone who charged per word.

Do you provide a sample edit?
While I knew this wouldn’t include a sample of developmental editing, I wanted to be able to get a feel of how the editor gave feedback and if it meshed with my style.

Do you offer multiple rounds for one flat price?
I wanted an editor that wouldn’t continue to charge me needlessly for multiple rounds of edits, and I didn’t want to feel stressed about needing multiple rounds and paying more than anticipated. In general, editors should not charge per round.

How far out are you booked?
I wanted availability within about 3-4 months. Too much availability wasn’t a good sign, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t signing up with someone that was in such high demand that they would be difficult to communicate with.

What deposit is required?
This varies greatly, but I wanted to be able to plan so I had the cash on hand.

What payment do you accept?
This is useful to know, especially if they are using PayPal. Some editors will cover or split fees with you for PayPal, and some will accept personal checks as well with no fee.

Do you have examples of work you’ve edited?
It was a red flag to me if I had to dig too hard for their work or if they didn’t have a website readily available with testimonies and samples. I wanted to be assured they had adequate experience in my chosen genre, which is fantasy. I already weeded out the folks who didn’t do fantasy in my initial search, but it’s still good to review what they’ve edited as well.

These are the general questions I asked, but you will have your own unique needs and will be able to figure out how to interview an editor.

Ultimately, I chose my editor because she checked off everything on my list and because I was able to communicate with her well. I paid attention to how long it took her to respond to me, how personable she was, and how willing she was to answer all of my questions.

I was able to meet with my editor in person, and I made the decision then to hire her. I hugged her afterward, excited to be working with someone who seemed excited about my ideas and had ideas of her own to offer.

What are some questions you would ask an editor? Let me know in the comments!




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