How to Hire a Manuscript Editor

Attend any writing conference and you’ll hear agents and editors advising (sometimes pleading!) yet-to-be-published writers to have the manuscript professionally edited BEFORE they begin the submission process. Is this just another scheme to part unsuspecting writers from their money? Or do you really need a pro editor before you shop that manuscript?
Writing Tip for Today: Here are some important things to consider when you’re ready for a professional edit prior to publishing:

  • No License Required. When they begin searching for the right editor, writers often get confused. Who should they trust? The fact is, there are no licensing requirements for editors. Anyone can call himself an editor.When you begin shopping for an editor–especially online–you often don’t know what level of editing your book needs, much less which editor to choose. Word of mouth is always a good strategy–ask around at that conference. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 on up for a full manuscript critique. This does not usually include copy editing, but rather story development, arcs, plot and the “big picture” items. A full manuscript critique also does not include rewriting but you can find some editors who will do some rewriting for additional fees. If you choose to work with an editor you know only online or by mail/phone, ask for a few pages to be done as a sample of their work before you sign on.
  • Get an Evaluation. For a first book, I think you should find an editor who does MANUSCRIPT EVALUATIONS. This editor reads your mss. and normally has a list of criteria to check your work against. This editor doesn’t necessarily FIX your book, but can be very helpful in identifying its strengths and weaknesses. Evaluations can be less expensive than the full critique and are valuable tools to help you decide if your work is ready for the submission process. Again, if you hire an online/phone/by mail editor for this, ask for a few pages of sample editing before you jump in. A good evaluation should tell you if your book is ready for prime time or if you need a BOOK DOCTOR.
  • Be a Pro Writer Too. You want a professional edit, but you need to act like a pro too. Vet potential editors by obtaining recommendations from others, asking for a crit sample and contacting references. Don’t think you can get by with your mother-in-law who taught English for 30 years (unless she’s also an editor!). Writing for high school or even college English is much different than editing for publication. And beware the editor who takes your mss. and then stalls you off for weeks or months. Use editors who have proven track records and your manuscript will probably be better and worth the money spent.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “How to Hire a Manuscript Editor

  1. Great tips, Linda! Thanks so much for posting these. As a freelance editor myself (for nearly 15 years), I greatly appreciate your getting the word out about the need for writers (especially new ones) to get professional editing as well as your excellent suggestions for finding the right one. I have some further tips on my Christian Editor Network website ( CEN serves to connect authors with established, professional editors based on their unique needs.

    • Kathy,
      Thanks so much for your link! It really can be an editing jungle out there–I’ve seen people get ripped-off, teary writers who thought the editor could magically change a poor book into a great one, and editors whose clients never seem to get what the editors are there to do! Maybe I’ll do another post on book doctors. Thanks for commenting! Write On! Linda

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