Finding a Good Pre-Submission Editor is Not Easy

I'm thinking about hiring an editor for my current manuscript. Would you recommend that? How would I find a reputable editor? What are the price ranges?

Do you need an editor?
Some writers need pre-submission editors, others only need readers to help with content flow and to catch a few typos here and there. To determine if you need one, ask yourself these questions:
  • Am I getting rejected a lot? Have any of the rejections mentioned that your book needs editing?

  • If accepted, does my publisher require many rewrites? (This isn't always accurate as some publishers should require rewrites, but don't.)

  • How are you on grammar skills? Do you laugh when you read Annette Lyon's Word Nerd posts because you "get it"? Or do you think, "Gee, I didn't know that?"

  • Do your readers send back lots of comments and questions about your story line?
If you're thinking you need an edit, it might be something you'd want to try. (Although, many writers who could benefit from it the most don't realize they need it.)

Finding a good editor.
Finding a reputable editor can be difficult. It's sort of like buying your first computer—you don't know what you don't know, so you take a lot on faith. Sometimes that faith is misplaced, skills are misrepresented, and prices are inflated.

I rejected a book once because it needed soooo many edits. (Incomplete sentences, mis-matched subject/verb, story line jumped all over the place, misspelled words, wrong words.) The author was quite upset because they'd paid $2,000 for a professional edit.

I'd recommend talking to people you know who've had editing done and see who they recommend as good. (Again though, if they really need editing, they may not know a good edit from a bad edit.)

Look at their experience and portfolio.
You're looking for someone who edits books like yours—not newspapers or magazines or scholarly papers. You want someone who is current with the trends, who reads a lot, and who loves words and stories. High school English teachers are not necessarily your best bet, even if they are very strong in grammar.

Find someone who has a few years of experience and who has happy, successful repeat customers. Many editors will have their clients posted on their website. If not, ask for their client list and contact the people who they've edited.

Ask to see a sample of what they'd do with your book.
Many editors will give new clients a free edit of their first chapter or first few pages. If they don't tell you right off, ask them what their sample edit would have cost you, so you can see what you'll get for your money.

Look at what they've done. Does it make sense? Does it make your book better? You may want to share their edits with other authors or people who read a lot. Get their feedback. Again, be careful because some readers will be emotionally attached to you and will tell you they like the unedited version best. Make sure those you get advice from are more concerned with helping you create a good book than with sparing your feelings.

As to price, it's all over the place. Some editors charge by the hour, others list their prices by page. A per page price is going to give you a better idea of how much it will cost you.

This isn't always a get-what-you-pay-for industry. I've seen really good editors who only charge $1 per page, and really bad editors who charge $10 a page.

The cost also depends on the level of edit they do—whether they're doing a basic proof-reading or a complete, in-depth content edit. Don't be surprised if they ask to see your mss before giving you a quote.

When you do decide on an editor, ask for a price guarantee on the job so you won't be caught off guard by the final bill.

As I read through this, I realize it may not be very helpful. It only gives you a ballpark and cautions about what to look out for. I'm sorry about that. Ethically, I can't really recommend specific people or companies here. (Although, readers, you're welcome to do that in the comments.)

Good luck.


Rebecca Irvine said...

Love Annette Lyon's WNW.

Good editors are truly hard to come by and can be costly.

Anonymous said...

Considering the low profits made on LDS books. Can you ever break even in royalties to make up for the cost of paying an editor?

Melanie Jacobson said...

I won an edit from Precision Editing Group in the Whitney Auction last year. I was extremely happy with my experience. I'm a fairly strong writer and I have a sister with an eagle eye for grammar/typo issues, but a couple of the content suggestions I received in that edit have had a permanent and lasting impact on my writing. They were points that even my most discerning "beta" readers wouldn't have been experienced enough to make. They were subtle elements but I truly believe they've made a huge difference for me and I think only a trained eye could have recognized the flaws AND offered fixes that made sense without disrupting my voice as a writer.

Anonymous said...

Annette's WNW's make me laugh but they're always followed by a contented sigh. No, I'm not perfect but it delights me to read those posts all the same!

I'm glad Melanie mentioned Precision Editing. I'd reccomend them!

Moriah Jovan said...

FWIW, Th. is an exceptional editor.

Charlie Moore said...

I believe just having someone else read your ms prior to submission can be invaluable. Even if it isn't a respected editor, you can learn so much. Readers pick up on things whether they're professional or not. I'm in no way saying skip editors if you feel you need one, but if you can find someone who'll just read a ms for you who you can trust to be objective it should be considered.

If it is pre-submission, then all an editor is really doing is offering suggestions and it is still your choice as the writer to accept or reject the advice. Personally, I often implement advice received, but sometimes I feel what I've written make sense and feels good to me. Sometimes you must go with your gut even if publication for that piece of work doesn't happen.


Tristi Pinkston said...

I wouldn't pay more than $3 a page for a good edit ... the poor man who paid $2000 got royally fleeced.

Heather Moore said...

Excellent advice. I agree that if you are receiving a lot of rejections, then it's time to rethink who your alpha readers are. Not necessarily that you have to find a professional editor, but maybe you need someone who reads with a more critical eye. Critique groups are great because you can get several opinions (sometimes conflicting), but it's good to get multiple viewpoints. Editing can be very subjective, but there are some things that are considered strengths and weaknesses across the board.

Annette Lyon said...

Thanks for the nod! This post brought me joy just for bullet #3. :)