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3 All-Important Aspects of Finding a Manuscript Editor

Oh, the fun of finding a manuscript editor.

Back on February 26, we talked about how to handle feedback from a manuscript editor. So we’re not going to repeat that information so soon.

But we are still going to discuss the process of selecting one, since Step #7 of the Getting to the Publishable Point Process is to send your manuscript to a professional.

Not just any professional though. We're talking about finding a manuscript editor who's right for you. Someone who’s affordable, reliable and respectful.

Some editors just aren’t. Or they’re a great match for someone else but not for you. So let’s go over each one of those key factors just mentioned.

Affordable: You may very well have no idea how expensive getting an editor can be. We’re talking as much as $4,000 for a professional to read over even a perfectly healthy manuscript.

On the one hand, that’s pretty steep considering how you might not be able to recoup any of that in book sales after you’re published. On the other hand, some people genuinely feel as if they get better quality paying that much.

Now, that’s not always true. But it’s also not always untrue either.

It's much more reliable to flip it around and look at the "cheap" route. If you're interested in finding a manuscript editor who charges $20 an hour or less, they're probably going to give you low-quality or uninvolved work.


Because when we’re not properly compensated for our efforts, abilities and education, every single one of us – editors included – has the tendency to put in less effort than if we got paid what we’re worth. It’s just part of human nature.

Personally, I charge $25 an hour. Some people can’t afford that. Others think it’s suspiciously low. And either way of looking at it is fine when finding a manuscript editor should come down to a personal decision based on two questions:

  • What amount can you afford?

  • What amount are you comfortable with?

Reliable: Not every editor is going to catch what you want them to catch on the time schedule you’ve given them. They might just focus on spelling and grammar when you’ve asked them to make sure the plot or theme stays strong from start to finish.

Or they might take longer than your agreed-upon time when you’re on a deadline, self-imposed or not.

Those are both problems, so here are some pointers to avoid them…

  • If you’re paying less than $20 an hour, you’re probably going to just get a copyeditor or proofreader – in other words, someone who just looks for spelling and grammar.

  • Unless you truly trust a person, ask for a contract that specifies what your chosen editor is working on. And over what period of time. A good contract is designed to protect both parties, of course, so there will be language in there for the editor’s benefit too. But you’ll be much better assured of not being swindled for that legal language.

Respectful: To me, this is the biggest issue when it comes to hiring an editor.

Put bluntly, editors have a bad habit of being utterly pushy with their opinions, putting themselves up on a pedestal that replaces the actual author’s role of being in charge of his or her manuscript.

That’s unacceptable.

When it comes to properly preparing a manuscript for publication, you should be the boss. You should have the authority over how your book-to-be reads.

Yes, editors are supposed to know more grammatical rules than you do. They’re trained to notice mistakes you don’t notice. And they’re being paid to strengthen your book-to-be.

But they’re not the end-all and be-all of your manuscript. You’re still a step above them in the process. So don’t let an editor boss you around.

To make sure that the editor you hire is affordable, reliable and respectful, ask them as many questions as you want to before you sign on board with them. Ask them what their process is and what they look for. Tell them what you’re looking to get out of their professional opinion.

And if you at all feel uncomfortable with their answers at any point during that vetting stage, feel free to walk away.

This is your “book baby,” as my fellow author friend Lia Mack puts it. You’re its parent. And whatever editor you choose should abide by that fact.

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