4 Tips to Find the Right Editor for Your Novel


One of the most rewarding parts of the editing process can be working with a developmental editor. But if you’ve never worked with an editor before, it can also be the most scary and intimidating part of the process.

Never fear—I have four tips to help you find and work with the right editor for your novel.

There is just no substitute for getting expert outside feedback on your writing.

Here on the podcast, I share all the tips and tricks and strategies I use to edit novels so you can put them to use in your own editing process. And your own ability to self-edit your manuscript is a really important skill, and one I want every writer to develop.

That said, no matter how good you are at self-editing, you are never able to bring an outside perspective to your writing. You’re never able to look at your writing as though you weren’t the person who wrote it.

(I suppose you could set your manuscript down and walk away for years until one day a decade from now you randomly stumble across it tucked in the back of your sock drawer. Then you’d have forgotten all about it and could read it with distance and detachment. But that’s not a very efficient way to edit a novel.)

The more efficient way to get expert outside feedback on your novel . . . is to hire an editor. Like me!

The Scary Editing Milestone

If you’ve never worked with an editor before, this can be a really scary step.

I mean, there’s a first time for everything, right? There are all kinds of things that are new to us, things we won’t know how to do until we’ve done them.

But some milestones are scarier than others. And handing off your manuscript—your book that you’ve worked really, really hard on and that is so personal and important to you—handing that off to a complete stranger and asking them to tell you all the things that aren’t working in it?

Well, that’s a pretty scary and vulnerable prospect. Your manuscript is so personal and meaningful to you, and you’re handing it over to a stranger you met on the internet.

It’s no wonder that writers can get a little nervous about this!

So in today’s episode, I want to give you a little guidance to help you as you work with an editor for the first time. I want to set you up for success so that you have the best experience possible with your editor right out of the gate.

4 Tips to Find the Right Editor for You

In this episode, I’m going to share four tips to help you find the right editor for your book. And in the next episode, I’ll share four more tips for how to work with that editor, even if you’ve never worked with an editor before.

I want you to feel informed and confident as you seek out an editor to support you in your writing and you share your manuscript and work with them.

And if you have worked with an editor, but maybe you had a bumpy or unpleasant experience, I hope these tips will help you feel a little more confident about giving it another go, maybe with a new editor.

When you find the right editor for your book, the developmental editing process can be so incredibly rewarding. My coaching clients often tell me that the hour we spend together on calls is their favorite hour of the week.

But if you don’t know how any of this works, you might feel a little lost. So let’s make it a little clearer and easier, shall we?

Here are my top tips to help you navigate the world of developmental editing and get the feedback and support that will most help you edit your book.

Let’s dive in.

1. Consider what you value, want, and need.

Before you do anything else—before you hire an editor, before you send them your manuscript, before you even start researching editors—I recommend you take some time to think about what you value, want, and need.

What exactly do you want to get out of working with an editor? What are your goals for your writing?

Two big goals to consider are your timeline and your definition of “success” for your book.

Do you have a timeline that you’re aiming for? Do you have a deadline for when you want your draft to be finished or your book to be published?

And how do you define success? Do you want your book to be an absolute masterpiece, and the time it takes to edit is less important to you than knowing that you’ve created your absolute best possible work?

While you’re at it, also think about the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript.

What do you think is not working in your story? What areas are you concerned about or want help with? What needs shoring up?

Maybe it’s plot, or character development, or point of view, or theme, or dialogue, or show don’t tell, or something else.

The more you know about what you need and what you want and what you value, the better equipped you’ll be to find an editor who can provide exactly the type of support and feedback that will best help you.

So take some time to think through what you’re looking for before you start looking for an editor.

Then, when you do start looking for editors, keep in mind tip number two:

2. Vet the editors you’re considering.

Vet the editors you’re considering to make sure they can meet your needs.

Here’s the quick list of things you can look for:

  • Do they have a professional website?
  • Do they mention any training? What’s their experience?
  • Do they specialize in any particular genre or work with a particular type of writer? Do they edit books in your genre and for your audience?
  • Do they have positive testimonials?
  • Do they have any content where you can get a feel for their work? Developmental editors often don’t offer sample edits, but you can get a sense of their editorial approach on a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, newsletter, or other content.

And if they offer a free consultation, definitely get on a call with them to ask them all your questions and feel out whether this is a person you’d like to work with.

And on that call, you can tackle tip number three:

3. Tell your editor what you want feedback on.

When I open a manuscript, I have a whole list of things in my mind that I’m looking for. I know how to evaluate a story. I could pick up some pages with absolutely zero context and put together helpful feedback for a writer.

But if a writer I’m working with has particular concerns in mind, I want to know what they want feedback on! If there’s a specific area of the manuscript that you’re struggling with, tell your editor, and we’ll keep it in mind as we read.

I’ll make sure that I make note of it in my feedback, either to tell you where it’s stuck and what to do with it next, or to tell you that it’s actually really working and you can keep doing what you’re doing and don’t have to worry about it.

You’ll empower both yourself and your editor to get you the best support by telling your editor what you see as strengths and weaknesses in your manuscript.

Which brings me to my fourth tip:

4. Get clarity about your editor’s process.

Get clear on your editor’s process, the way they’ll structure their work with you, and the expectations you can have for how you’ll work together.

One big thing to know about the book services world is that there is no standardization or regulation in this industry. That means you’re not going to find a standard set of packages that all editors will offer or a standard way in which editors work with writers.

When you work with an editor like me who runs an independent editing business, you’re working with an individual who has honed a process that they’ve found works with them and their writers.

Personally, I’ve found that I share my best feedback on zoom calls, so my editing is based around a lot of conversations with the writer and not a lot of written feedback.

Other editors have more written feedback and fewer calls, or only written feedback and no calls. The timeline, the process, the format of feedback, the amount of communication you can expect, the end goal for the editing package—all of that varies from editor to editor.

Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What’s the goal of the feedback you’ll receive? Will the editor focus mainly on identifying the areas where your manuscript needs work, or will they also include solutions?
  • What’s the format of the feedback? Will it come via Zoom calls, an editorial letter, in-line comments, or other deliverables?
  • What’s the timeline for feedback? How many weeks should you expect to wait?
  • What communication can you expect during the edit? Will the editor collaborate with you during the process, or will they take some time to prepare their feedback and then reach out to share it with you?
  • What kind of follow-up is available after the feedback is delivered? Does the editor include a Zoom call or email support to answer questions after you get your feedback?

Every editor is different, so make sure you know what to expect when working with the editor you choose.

The great thing about this is, this means there’s an editor out there for every type of writer! Whether you prefer written or verbal feedback, whether you want a collaborative process or someone who will hand you a clear to-do list, there’s an editor who works in that style and who might be a great fit for you.

Find Your Best-Fit Editor

So there you go: my first four tips on how to find a great editor for you. Here they are again:

  1. Get really clear on what you want, what you need and what you value.
  2. Vet your editor to make sure that they’re an expert in their field and that they can meet those specific needs and values that you have.
  3. Tell them what kind of feedback you’re looking for so they can look for those things specifically as they edit your manuscript. And of course, tell them any deadlines you’re working towards as well.
  4. Get really clear what it is they offer. Find out exactly how you can expect to work with them.

In the next episode, I’ll bring you four more tips for what to do when you’re working with an editor for the first time.

I hope all of that helps you navigate the world of finding and hiring and working with the right editor for you with more confidence and clarity and knowing what to expect. I hope that you have an incredibly rewarding partnership with whoever you decide to work with.

And if That Editor Is Me, Let’s Talk!

Of course, I myself am a developmental editor. So if you’re wondering whether I’m a good fit for you and what it would look like to work with me, take a look around this site and see what you think!

Check out my manuscript wishlist to see whether I’m a good fit for the story you’re working on.

And if you like what you see, fill out this form to tell me about your book and how I can help you.

Regardless of the editor you work with, know that I am cheering you on all the way. I’ll be back next episode with more tips to help you have an amazing experience working with your editor. And I am so excited for you to share your book with the world!

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