How To Find A Professional Editor

Since there are no global professional standards for becoming an editor, anyone can “hang out a shingle” and call themselves an editor. While finding any old editor is easy-peasy, finding a professional is a little more difficult.

By the way—start looking three to six months before you need an editor. Just because you finished your book yesterday doesn’t mean the person you ultimately choose will have an immediate opening!

There are editing organizations with member databases you can search, but in some, anyone can join and there are no testing standards to be met for inclusion. The Editorial Freelancer’s Association and Editors Canada are two such sites. They’re excellent places to start since they’re well known, offer excellent editorial training, and most professional editors absorb the expense of joining. Other organizations, such as the SfEP, also offer editorial training programs and certify that their members meet certain standards. Their site also contains a member directory. There may be other organizations, but these are the top three.

Once you’ve picked out several editors to review—10 is a good place to start—check out their websites and other social media profiles carefully. While there are some good editors who don’t have a website, the cost of maintaining a website (both financially and in time spent designing and updating one) is a standard business expense. Professional editors treat editing as a business. If all you can find is a simple Facebook page, they either haven’t been in business very long, or perhaps do not treat their business professionally.

Keep in mind that how long someone has been in business or how much or how little they charge are not indicators of how good an editor they are. You may be lucky to find an excellent new freelancer at a relatively low price, or you may be unfortunate enough to hire a “big name” without looking any further and pay a lot of money for a very poor edit.

Here is an example of a ranking system that you can use to score potential editors (the highest results are the best). You can create your own ranking system by choosing which qualifications are important to you:

  • Are they a member of one (or more) of the top three editing organizations mentioned above? (Yes, 10 pts; no, 0 pts)
  • Do they have a full website with a personal domain name? (Yes, 10 pts; a free website, 5 pts; only social media profiles, 0 pts)
  • Are their social media profiles fully filled out? (Yes, 10 pts; sparse, 5 pts; the bare minimum, 0 pts)
  • Do they list the books they’ve edited in some manner? (Yes, 10 pts; no, 0 pts)
  • Do they list quotes from happy, satisfied customers (aka testimonials)? (Yes, 10 pts; no, 0 pts)
  • Do they offer a sample edit (free or paid)? (Yes, 10 pts; no, 0 pts)
  • Run an Internet search with their name plus the words “scam,” “problems,” or “review.” Do you find any legitimate posts against them? (No, 10 pts; yes, 0 pts) Be aware that trolls target professionals just like they target authors, so review any complaints you find to see if they contain real information. I have a couple of troll review out there myself that comment on how poor my “video editing” is. I don’t edit videos.

Things that probably don’t matter in potential editors unless they are a personal requirement for you include:

  • What their photo looks like (or if they don’t have one).
  • Where they live.
  • Whether they have an MFA.
  • Whether they’re a writer themselves.
  • Whether they have a college degree.
  • If they agree to speak with you on the phone or Skype, or meet personally (if this is possible).

Professionals can edit perfectly well without those things, but as I said, they may be important to you.

There will be a continuation of this scoring example in the next section.

So, adding up the scoring above, or on another system you design, will narrow your list down to two or three potential editors.

What are your method(s) for finding an editor?

On next week’s blog, you’ll learn how to hire an editor.