When to Hire an Editor

There’s a lot of talk in the indie world about hiring editors. I have published without an editor’s advice, and I have published with an editor’s advice.

My advice to all other indie writers out there is to hire an editor.

But when? How much should I pay? How do I find one?

These are all questions I asked myself. The “when” is dependent on what you want out of an editor’s help. Are you looking for a second pair of eyes to give feedback on plot and character? Are you looking for someone to help smooth sentences and give feedback on the flow?

Turns out, a lot of the freelancing editors out there will cater to your needs at all stages of writing a novel.

Personally, I wait until I consider the MS finished before I pay for an editor. I hire an editor for the “finished” draft, when I am certain than the story will not change and the characters are solid. I hire an editor to help find the little plot holes that I’ve missed, sentence clarity, and pesky typos.

If you’re looking for some feedback on a first draft, I’d start looking for a beta reader first. Those are people who read it for free. Sound too good to be true? There are plenty of online communities out there full of people with MS’s looking for beta readers to swap with. One site that I’ve used is Agent Query Connect. They have a special forum just for people looking to swap MS’s. It’s a “I’ll read yours if you read mine,” deal. There are also forums on Goodreads’ Indie Group, Support for Indie Authors.

I’ve also used a critique website, Critters, in which you submit your short story/novel chapter into the queue. In order to get your submission into the queue, you must also critique others’ submissions. Personally, I like Agent Query Connect better. It’s less demanding, and the people are generally nicer. But, Critters has something called “Request for Dedicated Readers” for those with novel-length works they want beta read. For more information, check out the site via the link.

How much should you pay for an editor?

That depends on what you want done. For example, I offer a basic beta read which is just me reading your MS and telling you my thoughts. I also offer a in-text commentary to better point out chunkiness, strange phrase, or whatever. Each freelance editor does it a bit differently. (That’s why you should check them out before you hand over your hard-earned money.) I charge by the word – because otherwise it doesn’t seem far. I dislike editors that charge by the page. Why should you pay the same amount for a piece of paper full of short dialog as for a page full of narration? You shouldn’t.

The “professional” editors, like those offered through companies, are often more expensive. That doesn’t make them better or worse than a freelance editor. It’s all about experience. Who is the editor? What makes them qualified? The editor I hired is an author of science fiction and fantasy and has a good number of edits under her belt.

Before you hire an editor, always look at their qualifications. Any freelance editor should proudly tell you what makes them qualified – if not, take that as a sign that they’re not very qualified. Likewise, check out the professional editors, too, because sometimes they’re no more qualified than the freelance editors.

How does a freelance writer find a freelance editor?

It’s not like they’re in the yellow pages. I found mine through Agent Query Connect. She updated her status and said she was looking for MS’s to edit. I investigated her site, asked a few questions, and decided that I liked her. She’s edited two MS’s for me and I greatly appreciate how she works and what she has to say and how she says it.

I would look for editors on these online forums. I would check out the editor’s website. If I was interested, send an email with some questions. Any decent editor should be glad to answer any questions you have. They’re trying to get paid after all. (If you email one and they spam-email you back, ditch them. They’re being rude.)

There’s also plenty of other writers out there who’ve hired editors. Ask around. Someone is bound to lead you to a good editor.

Never, ever self-publish without getting an editor’s eyes on it first. Especially fiction.


2 thoughts on “When to Hire an Editor

  1. Fantastic tips. I’ve never used an editor before—I’m yet to finish my manuscript—but I’ve often wondered about things like pricing, qualifications, and where to look. I’ve bookmarked this for future reference! Thanks a million!


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