MF 237 : Questions to ask potential book editors
Updated: Apr 14
On this bonus episode, I share some important questions to ask potential editors before hiring one for your book. More at www.bemovingforward.com.
The editor-for-hire checklist
When it comes to hiring or vetting editor candidates for your book, here are some questions that I found to be critical for a successful editor-writer relationship. Some of these I asked Megan, others she addressed without us thinking or asking them, and yet others I realized with hindsight. I’ll break these down into categories as follows.
One of the first and most important considerations is the experience of your editor-candidate. This doesn’t necessarily mean which or how many publishing houses they used to work for. Remember, freelance editors that worked for big publishers are often expensive and may not be a good fit for your book. Moreover, editorial experience can come in many forms. Although Megan had never edited a book before, she was an English and philosophy major in college and wrote a lot of poetry. I worked with her in business school, where I got to see first hand her editing prowess on the many group papers we wrote together. Megan also does a fair amount of writing in her day job. I knew going in that she would be the perfect editor.
I covered this on yesterday’s episode so refer back to 236. When it comes to workflow, think of your editor as a project manager and your book as the project. Some considerations to look at when asking about workflow.
Process: Does he or she use highlighting? Notes? What’s the pace and exactly how does this person approach the editing process?
Reading: This is a basic but your editor should be actively reading your manuscript several times; first for an overview and understanding of the book, then throughout the editing process and before publication for that important once-over.
Communication: How accessible is this editor? Can you communicate with him or her by email or phone? Given my experience, I wouldn’t work with an editor that does not take phone calls as I credit this aspect to Megan’s workflow as a key cornerstone for our successful editor-writer relationship and a successful book launch.
Content: Did he or she enjoy the book? Can the editor identify who the target audience is? Can they envision the book on shelves or online and readers actually buying it? As a writer, you should be able to immediately tell your editor a one-sentence logline or elevator pitch for your book. If you can’t, that’s something you’ll need to flesh out or it may indicate an area to work on in your manuscript.
Cost: How much does this editor charge? If you’re going the traditionally published route (check out episode 226 with Alissa Carpenter), publishers will often supply you with an editor in-house. However, if you’re self-publishing the cost will be on you. Consider your budget and the fees of the candidates you’re vetting. Some editors bill by project, others by time and yet others by word. Really understand the cost of working with this person and make sure it’s doable and mutually satisfactory for both of you. You don’t need a super expensive editor and most of you probably won’t be able to spend tens of thousands on an editor with great credentials. So be flexible and open-minded. You may have to give a hungry first-time editor their shot at editing your book if you’re on a limited budget. Take your time to ask these and other important questions to make sure he or she is the right fit.
Contract: This relates to everything above. What are the terms of the contract? How are fees structure? And what happens if things don’t work out? What are the terms and costs for early separation or work cancellation?
Credit: As you work with a great editor, that person becomes an integral part of your book. Make sure that you give proper acknowledgment to the person or persons editing your book. At a minimum, write a separate thank you to your editor in the acknowledgments section. You may also want to put his or her contact information in the back matter of your book so you can help market them, especially if they’re new. For Making Fake Star Trek, I had such a positive working experience that I gave her a byline credit on the cover.
Remember, it’s not about how expensive an editor is or which big publishing house(s) he or she previously worked in. What matters is whether the person is the right fit for your book in terms of process, workflow, communication, and cost. This takes time so find out as much as you can and view it as an important relationship, one that will be hopefully become a long term one.
Work with Megan
Scrivener (available for Mac, Win, IOS) is a book writing program that auto formats for self-publishing on Amazon’s KDP and other platforms. It’s a great tool with rich features that allow co-writers to collaborate through Dropbox. Scrivener has a bit of a learning curve but I’ve been a fan since 2017 and have talked to many authors who use it as their go-to. If you’re interested in Scrivener, you can use the coupon code MOVINGFORWARD to get 20% off your purchase (for Mac or Win). It’s a one-time license fee and available for Mac, Win, IOS.
Note: this section contains affiliate links and coupon codes for which the author may receive some compensation.
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