How to choose an editor for your writing project
7 things to consider before hiring an editor
Choosing an editor for your writing project is no easy task. When you’ve worked for weeks, months or years, you want to find an editor who will care about your project almost as much as you do.
You also need an editor with the skills and experience to do your hard work justice. The right editor will enhance your writing and present it to publication standard. However, the wrong editor can do more harm than good – and cost you time, stress and money.
To help you make the right choice, here are seven questions to ask before hiring an editor.
1. Do they specialise in your field?
When choosing an editor, beware of “jack-of-all-trade” providers. They’re often masters of none. Instead, look for an editor who specialises in your field.
If you need an academic editor, for example, find someone who knows how to correctly format and present your work. Bonus points if they have experience editing in your subject area. Similarly, if you need a manuscript editor, look for someone who enjoys editing books in your genre.
Editing is a specific skill, with requirements that differ across formats and fields. You’re more likely to find your match if you hire an editor in your niche.
2. Do they offer the editing service you need?
Did you know there are three distinct stages of the editing process? Substantive editing (also called developmental editing or structural editing) shapes and improves content and structure. It’s the first step of the process and is important for ensuring your writing aligns with your intended audience and purpose. Copyediting (also called line editing) smooths and corrects text, considering every line in detail. Proofreading is the final stage, which involves perfecting presentation and checking for errors.
While some editors offer all three services, most focus on one or two. Once you’ve found a specialist editor, ensure they provide the service you need before you start working together.
3. Are they an accredited editor?
There are hundreds of editors in Australia. If you search Google, you might be surprised by the number of options out there. So, how do you know which editors will live up to their website claims? Accreditation is one way to be sure that an editor knows their stuff.
The Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) is the peak professional body for editors in Australia and New Zealand. To become an IPEd Accredited Editor, applicants must pass a rigorous test that demonstrates their competence. There are currently about 50 IPEd Accredited Editors in Queensland and 370 in Australia and New Zealand. If you check the Accredited Editors page on the IPEd website, you’ll find me there.
4. Do they provide a tailored quote?
When it comes to editing fees, there’s no such thing as “one size fits all”. Or, at least, there shouldn’t be. Many factors influence how much it will cost to edit a project. These include length, degree of difficulty and the type of editing required.
While many editors include ballpark prices or fee estimates on their website, beware of anyone who provides a firm quote without seeing your draft. An experienced editor will ask to see your work so they can assess what’s required. Then they’ll come back with a quote that’s tailored to your project.
5. Will they edit a sample or small piece of work?
If you’re working on a large project, like a PhD thesis or a manuscript, it’s normal to feel nervous about hiring an editor. What if they’re not the right fit? What if you waste your money? Instead of committing to a full edit, start with a smaller piece of work. That could be a few pages from different sections or one chapter of your thesis or book. Once you’re happy with the editor’s work, you can hand over the whole project. But don’t be pressured into committing before you feel comfortable.
6. Do they have a strong portfolio and reviews?
One of the best ways to choose an editor is to look at their portfolio and testimonials. Look at recent projects they’ve done. See what other clients are saying. As well as getting a feel for their work, you’ll feel more confident hiring an editor who has a proven track record.
7. Do you like and trust them?
If you follow the six tips above, you’ll be well on your way to choosing an editor. However, no matter how good an editor is or how many boxes they tick, the bottom line is: you have to like them. The right editor will share your vision, communicate clearly and fill you with confidence.
Even in the enquiry stages, you should be able to tell if you “click”. Do they respond to your emails promptly? Are they happy to answer your questions? Do they seem genuinely excited to work on your project? If you answer “yes” to these questions, you may have found the right editor.
Need an editor with an eye for detail?
I hope the tips above help you choose the right editor. If you’re looking for an editor with an eye for detail, I’d love to hear more about your project. I’m an IPEd Accredited Editor who specialises in copyediting and formatting documents for academics, students, independent authors and business owners. Read about my services and experience to see if I’m the right fit for you.
Last updated: 17 March 2023