The Ins and Outs of Hiring a Freelance Editor

Needing to hire someone to edit your manuscript can be a stressful task. It’s stressful enough to worry about whether you can afford it. Then on top of that, you worry whether the person you hire will actually be any good. Before you know it, you’re wondering if any of your choices are the right ones for you and your book.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The truth is, you are the boss in this situation, hiring someone to work for YOU. Therefore, you are the one in complete control of what happens. Embracing this fact puts you in the power seat and gives you the peace of mind that nothing can harm your hiring experience as long as you are guarding it.

So how do you use this power?

Firstly, set a standard for who you are willing to hire. Write out your preferences and needs and decide now not to compromise. These standards can include:

– a maximum service fee for your budget

– minimum years experience

– familiarity with your genre

– notable reputation

– whatever you feel is necessary to meet your needs

Then, go on the hunt. Look for someone that fits your standards. You can do this via recommendations from other authors, searching service keywords on social media (such as #amediting #editing #editors), or browsing online databases (such as Editorial Freelancers Association). You can also advertise your needs and see who comes to you.

When you have finally compiled a list of potentials, approach them with your manuscript!

What does approaching a potential hire look like?

Editors most often have written guidelines for those submitting manuscripts. Look on your potential’s website or inquire directly as to how you should go about requesting services.

Once communication is initiated, they are going to have questions for you. They may ask you a whole host of things, ranging from what your story is about to what it is you hope to gain from the editing experience.

Why do they do this?

Personally, I volley these sorts of questions at writers because-

Editing is a working relationship. And like any relationship, it’s important for two people and their work to be compatible.

I like to know how receptive a writer will be to my suggestions, how experienced they are with the editing process, and how much work their manuscript will need. I’m investing my time and efforts and want to make sure they’re not wasted.

The thing about this is it becomes all too easy for you, the writer, to feel like you’re interviewing for a deluxe spot in an editor’s busy schedule. Suddenly you feel like you have to prove yourself and work hard to earn a spot with the person that you sought out for help.

This is not how you want to feel, nor is it how your editing experience should be.

Take back control

After you answer questions but before you say yes, take back control and ask questions yourself.

The editor is bringing the expertise but you are bringing the change purse. That still leaves you in charge of whether this hire becomes official.

As the person paying for the service, it is your right to interview the editor as well. Remember those standards you set for yourself? Now is the time to put the editor to the test and see if they measure up to what you expect for your time, pay, and work.

Some information may already be answered for you on a potential’s website. Other information may need to be asked directly. However you find the information, these are the things you definitely want to know before you sign an agreement:

– How long have you been a freelance editor?

Typically, the more years, the better. If you are worried they have not been freelancing long enough, ask what experience they have in publishing or editing prior to offering freelance. Chances are they’ve spent time in a related field which you can add to their qualifications.

– What genres do you work with?

Most editors have a rather wide range of genre they are willing to work with. However, you definitely want to make sure you match if they specialize in only one or two.

– What is your turn around time?

Some of this will depend upon the size of your manuscript, your editing needs, and editor availability. Discuss a timetable you are comfortable with, voicing your concern if their answer is one that seems far too long.

– How do you handle pay?

Any smart editor is going to ask for a fee for service rather than a cut in your royalties. This ensures they get paid regardless of your book’s future success and keeps you from wildly over paying them if your success shoots off like a rocket.

It is important to agree upon when the fee payment is due and by what mode. Take special note that anyone working for multiple clients under a business name needs to have a business license in order to legally charge for services. Therefore, it is wise to add “business license” to your list of standards to avoid being involved with anyone with potential legal issues.

– Do you offer a sample edit?

I offer sample edits and I find they are the best way to know upfront if the service is going to work or not. This lets the editor know if they are a good fit for your work and lets you know if their editing skill is going to improve your story. I would bargain hard for this since it can easily make or break a potential deal. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to know what you are paying for!

– Do you have references I can speak with?

Some editors may say no to this as a way to protect their clients from being harassed and maintain privacy. I think it’s good practice though for an editor to have at least two or three writers that can readily vouch for them when asked to. This way, you can get real insider testimony as to what it’s like to work with a particular person. I have several authors that are quick to jump at the chance to talk about their experience and I know that has given many others peace of mind when approaching me about services. So don’t be afraid to pry a little!

– Have any works you’ve serviced been published?

This one can vary in answer. Ideally, the answer is yes. Then you can check out these books and see if they’re any good. A freelancer who works primarily for self publishers will obviously have published works to point you towards.

But don’t be shocked if an editor with traditional publishing clients has only a handful, or even none. I say this because traditional publishing is so competitive and difficult to break into that a client list full of people still in the querying stage isn’t necessarily a reflection of the editor’s abilities. This is a question you will simply have to weigh for yourself, noting that other clients’ publishing status is not a direct reflection on the future success of yours.

Making the deal

There are many questions you can potentially think of while interviewing freelance help. As long as they are within the parameters of the service and asked respectfully, ask whatever you feel you need to.

The goal is for you to be comfortable with all terms and feel you can trust the editor to live up to your standards.

Once you feel sure and informed, make the deal and settle into the process of critique and rewrites!

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