Look for a shared sense of humor. The writer needs to be open to possibility and try to find an editor who looks like they can challenge you and help you learn. This is actually very similar in finding a music or dance teacher.
And on top of these points, I choose my writers usually from their email styles—how wordy they are, how do they use punctuation, how do they introduce themselves, and are they professional? I’m cool with being called “Alice,” but I’m doubly impressed when a future client calls me “Ms. Osborn.” It goes without saying that writers should try not to have any typos or major grammar issues in their initial email to an editor.
I got an email last week from a “Harry in the USA” (real name not used) who wanted me to help take his three completed novels to the next level. Harry had a very conversational style and offered that he had had several agents interested in his work, but no bites. At the end of the email he offered to send me sample pages.
My instinct told me to offer him a time to have a phone chat since he was not a novice at writing a book and submitting to agents. I wanted to see how he would be on the phone and if we would click and I didn’t want to take my time reading his pages before I spoke briefly with him. As an editor, you could spend your whole day reading for free! It was curious that his signature line was “Harry in the USA” and that he was so verbose and conversational with me. He used many parentheses.
Then I got his lengthy reply which went on for a while telling me how in the past he had freelance editors waste his time on the phone and he found it rude that I didn’t want to see his pages. Then he said that I shouldn’t reply since he can’t risk wasting any more time. Well, now. Don’t we sound like a great pair? I’m SO grateful we found that out now instead of later. That’s why I need to talk to potential clients on the phone if I don’t know them in person—it doesn’t always work, but it usually we’ve laid the groundwork for a positive partnership. So, thank you, Harry in the USA for my blog post material and for your lack of humor.
When you’re hunting for the right editor, look beyond their fancy website, Facebook Page and testimonials. Try to find someone through referrals and not through an ad. Find someone who has experience with editing in your genre. Study their Google trail and their blog and social media posts. You can find out a lot about a person this way. Check out what books they like to read and what movies they like to see (if you can). See if you can find someone who teaches or who has previous teaching experience. Check out their publication credits. Are these credits recent? Ask for references and check out their former clients. You may not receive all of your answers, but you will get a feel for this person before you invest your valuable time and money.
Once you have told your potential editor the genre of book you have and your page count/word count, you are ready to set up a phone conference and/or meet this person for the first time. Come prepared with questions and while you get to know your future editor, try to get a feel for their personality and work ethic. Is this someone you can trust? Do they seem to be reliable (you can check this if they respond well to phone calls or emails). When you are satisfied, ask for a contract and a deadline. Try to negotiate a flat fee if possible so you know exactly what you are paying. Ask to have your work edited in Word Track Changes so you can see exactly what you need to fix. After your editor completes your work ask for a follow-up meeting to answer any questions you have about their editing marks or their thought process.
When you find the right person to edit your work, you will see your writing grow. Try to keep this relationship for as long as possible. A good editor, like a good mechanic or hair stylist or music teacher is hard to find and necessary to hold on to! If you and your editor collaborate on more books, both the writing and editing will get easier and smoother, which will probably lead to more publication success.
Question for you: How did YOU choose your editor?