—(A version of this column originally appeared in Publishers Weekly)—
The author-editor relationship is fundamental to the success of one's book. BookWorks founder and veteran editor, Betty Kelly Sargent, shares her list of what to look for when you're ready to hire a freelance editor for your manuscript.
What qualities should I look for in a freelance editor? This is my first novel so I'm not sure what to expect.
“To write is human, to edit is divine.” That’s what Stephen King wrote when thanking his editor in On Writing. I’m not sure about divine, but I am sure that working with a talented editor who gets you and your work is just about the most important thing you can do to ensure your book is a contender in today's crowded market.
[Note: There is more than one kind of freelance editor that you'll likely require depending on where you are in your process. BW's own Indie Editor-at-Large, Karen Conlin, explains the roles of editors in publishing in her Spellcheck Cannot Save You! column..]
A Great Freelance Editor Should...
1. Respond immediately to your query, even if only to let you know they are swamped and won’t be able to read your manuscript for several weeks.
2. Listen to you carefully and understand who you are, why you are writing your book, and what you want to achieve with it. They appreciate your strengths and recognize your limitations, help you clarify, sweep away the clutter and find your voice—not substitute theirs. They show you the tools you need to help make your manuscript the very best it can be.
3. Begin their editorial critique by telling you what they like about your work before moving on to suggestions on how to improve it.
4. Be absolutely clear about what they expect from you—their fees, preferred method of communication, deadlines (yours and theirs), what happens if there is failure to perform, and, what you can expect from them—a polished, professional manuscript ready to be submitted to the proofreader for a final check for typos.
[Note: See Karen's excellent list of do's & don'ts for hiring and working with editors.]
Where to Find a Top Freelance Editor
Where do you find a top freelance editor? Search online, ask for recommendations from writer friends, and check the acknowledgments pages in books you love.