4 Ways to Find the Right Freelance Editor

Local Japan Times / Flickr

Local Japan Times / Flickr

Today’s guest post is from author and copyeditor C.S. Lakin.

Whether you plan to submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher, or intend to self-publish, you’ve probably heard considerable advice about hiring an editor. (If you’re still wondering if the investment is worth it, read Jane’s post on the matter.)

This post assumes you’ve decided you DO need an editor. Here’s how you can find the best one for you.

1. Get a referral.

Getting a personal recommendation from a trusted author is usually the best way to go. But even in those instances, you may find one author’s choice may not be your best choice, especially if you write in different genres. Also, personality comes into play, and sometimes the fit just isn’t right.

Personality aside, any editor that doesn’t answer your e-mail, ignores your specific questions, or pushes you to hire her should set off red flags.

2. Look for testimonials and ask for references.

If you have no means of getting a personal recommendation, you can post to online discussion boards—or put out a call on your social networks—that you’re looking to hire editorial assistance. When you have some candidates, look for testimonials on their site, then ask any editor you’re considering for a few references.

A great editor doesn’t need to have a lot of letters after their name, nor do they need to be able to give you a list of New York Times best-selling authors they’ve edited for. But they should have background or experience that makes them suitable to edit the type of work you have.

3. Ask professional agents and editors who they would use.

Some literary agents offer a list of recommended editors, such as this list on agent Rachelle Gardner’s site. If you know any agents or editors, or have the opportunity to speak with them at a writers’ conference, they can often refer you to someone they’ve worked with or can recommend. And speaking of writers’ conferences—what better place to chat with lots of authors and ask them for an editor recommendation?

You can also look for independent editors at Publishers Marketplace, a book industry news and community hub ($20/month). Because it requires members to pay a monthly or annual fee, it’s a good way to quickly access a high-quality list of industry freelancers.

4. Go through an established and reputable editing organization.

Editcetera, in Berkeley, CA, is one example of a group of very proficient and experienced editors that not only teach online and on-site workshops on editing, they also have a pool of editors who have gone through rigorous testing and application to become approved as their editors for hire. Some companies allow you to specifically choose the editor you want to work with; others do not. So be sure to read up on what they offer and how their service works.

How job cost is determined

Some editors charge by the hour, while others charge either by the page or word. I would opt for editors who charge by the hour, and here’s why. When an editor sets a rate per page or word, they are usually figuring an average regarding the time they will spend editing a page or a certain number of words. That means if you are a proficient writer and self-edit your material well, you get charged the same as a sloppy or inexperienced writer who may require a complete rewrite of every sentence.

The flip side to this, of course, is if you are truly inexperienced and feel your book is a train wreck, and an editor is willing to do massive reworking of your material for a reasonable price. In that case, paying by the word or page may be a great deal for you.

However, you may wonder if an editor faced with a lot of messy material might rush to make his hourly rate. Surely he’s not going to spend an hour on a page or two when he aims to edit eight pages an hour. An editor paid by the hour will not feel rushed and will spend just the right amount of time needed without that clock ticking in the back of his head. I may be generalizing here, but the professional editors I know charge by the hour.

A final note

If you’ve found someone who might be the right editor for you, but you’re still hesitant, hire her to edit a few chapters. See how it goes—not just the editing but the overall communication and support. If the results are favorable, give her the rest of your manuscript to edit. Clearly tell her your concerns and needs, and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of a great friendship as well as a professional relationship.

Posted in Guest Post, Writing Advice and tagged , , .

C.S. Lakin is an editor, award-winning blogger, and author of twenty novels and the Writer's Toolbox series of instructional books for novelists. She edits and critiques more than 200 manuscripts a year and teaches workshops and boot camps to help writers craft masterful novels.

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Matt Gartland

Hi Susanne- I really liked this compilation, especially your points on referrals and testimonials. I find the matter of “job cost” a bit of a conundrum, personally. I am an editor too, and have worked with both pricing models. I appreciate both sides of the pro-hour, pro-word debate as you do. I have found that the per-word (or per-page, for that matter) variable presents a more “concrete” metric for clients to “get their head around” and feel comfortable with. The hour, sadly, I feel is more open to abuse by would-be shysters, and thus presents more concern and doubt for… Read more »

Ally E. Peltier

This is a useful post that will surely help guide many new writers in need of editorial assistance. Like Matt, I am an editor who has worked under several different pricing models in my eight years of freelancing: I’ve done hourly, per project rates, and by the word/page. There are many pros and cons for each, but I don’t think it’s fair to say one is more professional than another given the wide variety of freelancers out there and also the various types of editing each may do (for example, your remarks re: how long it takes to clean up… Read more »

Dana K Cassell
Dana K Cassell

We also have many experienced freelance book editors at http://www.Writers-Editors.com Network


Pricing is the most difficult problem for me. I usually offer a per-page range and ask for 20 pages from the middle of the book for a set fee. The first pages are often polished and not typical of the rest of the book, so taking pages from the middle allows both me and the writer to see if we’re a good fit. It also lets me settle on a price. If the manuscript is going to take a great deal of time, I set the fee at the top of my range. If it looks good, I use the… Read more »


CS, you thoroughly covered the salient points here—good stuff! I too have offered by the page, by the hour and by the project bids, and have found that some clients gravitate much more toward one than the other. Some clients fear that by-hour charges could wildly escalate from under their control, while some, as you mention, have suspicions on the effort expended by by-the-pagers.  Like Ellis, I often request a sample manuscript (though she is more clever than me in thinking of a middle-of-the-project sample) to gauge the level of editing necessary, and the fee that makes sense. I too… Read more »


[…] 4 Ways to Find the Right Freelance Editor by C.S.Lakin. […]

Sarah Allen

My roommate is working towards a freelance career, I’m definitely going to point her here. Thanks for the advice!

Sarah Allen: http://fromsarahwithjoy.blogspot.com/


Jane your insight on per word vs hourly is brilliant and saved me thank you

John Wiswell

The advice to hire for only a few chapters to test your intuition about their ability is a great one. Wouldn’t have thought of that.

John Wiswell

The advice to hire for only a few chapters to test your intuition about their ability is a great one. Wouldn’t have thought of that.

Link dump » fritz freiheit.com blog

[…] 4 Ways to Find the Right Freelance Editor | Jane Friedman (Writing, Find, HowTo, Editor) […]

Rajeev Pundir
Rajeev Pundir

Good hints are provided.



I edit if I can get it when I need more work.  Mainly I’m a writer, which means I do a lot of editing.  


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