Finding a decent editor

I’ve been wanting to write a post on this topic for a while now; because of some of the struggles I’ve faced with my own story and the publishing industry. I think might be of some help to all of you writers out there. I’ve been turned down by around a dozen agencies since I began to send my story into literary agencies back in mid December. If I had known then what I know now, there’s no way in hell I would’ve sent my story out at that time.

The next step after completing your story is perhaps the most crucial; because it’s what separates you from that fine line between published and unpublished.

Finding an editor

An editor is literally a god send and if you find the right one then you will see a dramatic improvement in your story, but if you find the wrong one… Disaster. When you’re searching for an editor write down a list of things you would like help with.

For example: Grammar, punctuation, copy editing and substantive editing.

For you new/unpublished writers out there I strongly recommend Substantive editing; because they’ll see and help you fix any issue with your story. Trust me if you don’t see the problem before sending your work into an agent, you will be at risk for rejection. Also when an agent gets a story in his or her hands they want to see the finished product, not flaws. If they do see flaws they will think that you don’t care about your work, and that your sloppy. It’s happened to me before, and you don’t want to make the wrong impression. Think of your book is like getting that dream job you really want if you approach an agent in that way, you’ll see better results and won’t mind going that extra mile to make your resume perfect.

Here’s some tips on how to avoid bad editors.

1 If you write an editor asking for help and when they write you back discussing fees, or how much they charge. Move on. A decent editor will not mention money. They will jump right in to help. (A lesson I learned the hard way.) However it should be noted that they will want to discuss pricing, but this most likely won’t happen until after the editor’s seen your work.

2 If you write an editor and they seem very eager to help, but they take forever to get back to you, or say you emailed them back answering questions they might have, and they never reply Again move on. A proper editor is quick to write you back and when working with you they never just keep you hanging; because they’re professional.

and finally…

3 If you’re talking with an editor and they say that they’ll help you with you project, but never email, call, or read your work when they say that their going to and they always have an excuse. Move on. When it is a professional they aren’t lazy and when they say they’ll get back to you by a certain date they will.

To find professional editors I suggest going to  you can find fantastic professional editors on this site.

Oh and one last tip DO NOT go to an amateur editor professionals are your best bet; because you want somebody who knows not only what they’re doing, but who also knows the publishing industry.


22 thoughts on “Finding a decent editor

  1. It should be noted that, while editors are totally happy to help you, we WILL at some point discuss money, whether right away or not—professional editors do not work for free. I will always go over my fees after the initial question phase but before I start working on a project so that writers aren’t surprised by the bill.


  2. I agree with almost everything you say here, but I would respectfully disagree with the part about an editor’s fees. I do some freelance editing (I am both a professional writer and editor) and I ask to see the writer’s work first to determine what kind of editing and how much editing needs to be done (proofreading, substantive editing, etc.) I then negotiate with the writer to come up with a fee that’s reasonable and fair to both of us. It’s a system that’s worked well with the writers who have sent me their work to edit.


  3. Hi, Chelsea! Thanks for writing this blog. Literally, thank you. Editors can often get a bad rep for destroying or hating writers, as if we get some sort of demented joy out of desecrating someone’s work. When the results editors strive for are the exact opposite of desecration. When the suggestions we make, as you’ve mentioned here, are there to guide and clarify–to help the author’s story be as true to their vision as possible, and set up for the best possible reception. And having said that, I have to admit that I take something of an issue with your first tip on finding a decent editor.

    Money is always a complicated issue in the publishing business–when some folks have to wait til the royalties come in to get paid. Both of us are only trying to make a living doing what we love. And cost is something that should be discussed up front and rationally, where both people can reach an agreement so the author feels she’s getting what she’s paying for, and the editor feels compensated for her effort. There are professional editors who charge a “reading” or “consulting” fee just for a sample chapter before they begin editing. These, generally, are editors who have some publications under their belt and are actively being sought by agencies or publishing houses: their time and advice is worth the pretty penny. Maybe include conducting research on an editor who sounds too good to be true as a handy piece of advice to your first tip? Call and double-check references and former employers–it’s your right. You’re hiring someone for a service…

    And I didn’t mean to get long-winded. I did enjoy the rest of your article and agree totally with the other two tips! Thanks for writing this! 😀


  4. Glad that you did a post on this. I know too many who never give an editor a second thought. It’s a must, especially for those going into self-pub. In fact, for self-pub I say it should be a requirement. Thanks for posting this. Great advice.


  5. Thanks for this great article Chelsea. I have a question about using inexperienced editors. First a quick comment about it too. My first reaction to your point “DO NOT” use an inexperienced editor was a quick gasp as my daughter is in college studying to be an editor, and once she graduates she will be one of those newbies. So, my question, does it hurt to let someone new to the field, working for less money than the seasoned pros, do an edit? I have to admit I am a new writer so I might be misguided in my thinking. I just thought that it could be a win-win in that the editor gets experience and the author gets an initial edit that might save a few dollars.


    1. Using a college student is recommended for say grammar, punctuation etc. Basically if your story is good except for a few writing errors here or there. However if you needed an editor for something like substantive editing you’ll want a pro. What I meant when I said “Don’t use an amateur.” Was not to use someone you know who claims their good at editing and they’re really not. I did that with a relative for free and it wound up worse than it was before she started. I hope I’ve answered all of your questions.


    1. I actually wrote a post about how I needed to find an editor; because I had no idea where to begin, and a reader suggested So I reached out to a few editors on the site and was able to find a great one.


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