Hiring A Book Editor: What Do You Need To Know?

Jun 1, 2020 | Editing

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If you have a finished manuscript, first off, congratulations. Now, you’re onto the next step: seeking a book editor. The most successful books, whether self-published or traditionally published, go through rounds of editing before publication.

For a beginner writer, however, it’s difficult to know how to find the right professional for you. Unless you’ve written a book before, you probably don’t know any editors. This is why I’m offering my five tips to finding the right book editor for your book.

Tip #1: Know Your Book

The most important element to understand is that there are distinct stages of editing. Each of those stages works off of one another, starting with a look at the text in the broadest terms and focusing down to details.

Let me show you what that means.

If your book is raw, you need a developmental/content editor. This is the editor that will help sort out the broad story problems. Do the characters make any sense? Is the story tracking?

They look at your book from the top down.

If your story is sound, you probably need a line editor. This editor drills down to the level of paragraphs, lines, and sentences. Do you repeat certain words in your writing? Are you writing too often in the passive voice?

This kind of editor really brings your voice out.

Last is a proofreader. We all understand what a proofreader does, right? They go in and deal with the fine points of spelling and grammar. These are the nitty gritty details that even the best writers miss in the heat of getting their story on the page.

The key here is to understand what you’re looking for.

 Book Editor Tip #2: Rapport Can Be Critical

How did I choose my editor? I chose her first and foremost because she was honest, but second in my consideration was the fact we had a good rapport. I could talk to her about my book and not only would she understand me, but she knew how to bring that vision to the book.

Just like hiring a ghostwriter, working with an editor is highly collaborative.

When I work with an editing client, we speak often about the book. We first talk candidly about what the client wants for the book. I want to get a sense of their vision. When I’m done with the edit, we talk about what I saw as strengths and places of need.

Those conversations can sometimes be difficult. More often though, they lead to dramatic improvements. When you’re hiring a book editor, be sure that they feel like the kind of person you’re comfortable with.

Tip #3: It’s Your Book — Don’t Forget That

Writers forget this reality sometimes. They have gone through the process of writing a book, no small accomplishment. They’re fatigued. They may very well be sick of the book. When the editor comes along, it feels like they can hand over the reins and let them shape the rough clay.

Not so fast.

A book editor is there to help you make your manuscript the best it can possibly be.

Did you catch that? It’s your book.

The best book editors are there to guide your book to the finish line. Just because you hire someone, doesn’t mean they’re taking over. The writer needs to stay engaged, giving feedback, making sure the development advice they receive fits what they want for their book.

Book Editor Tip #4: Know Where You Want To Go

One of the first questions I ask prospective clients is, where do you want the book to go?

Do you see a series? Is this a self-published book? Who is your audience?

Having a defined vision for your book once it’s out of an editor’s hands is critical to success. Why is this important? 

While it’s your goal to write the best book possible all of the time, there are differences in how to approach a book depending on where it goes when it’s all said and done. A book looking for a traditional publisher needs to be razor-sharp in those first five pages. If you’re writing a lead generating book for a self-published series, that book needs to represent your whole series.

You may not know all of those things. Even if you’re still foggy on those details, a good editor can help you see clearly.

Tip #5: If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Receive

As I stated above, I’m a strong believer that rapport is the key component in the relationship between an editor and a writer. I believe in that so much, in fact, that I offer anyone considering me to a free sample edit of their manuscript.

What does that look like? And why?

In a sample edit, I like to look at 1,000 words. I work on those 1,000 words and give the writer feedback. Of course, I cannot realistically see the whole manuscript in that small piece, but how I handle that is indicative of how I will work with the rest of the book.

I encourage you to interview a few editors. Ask them questions. Call their references.

When it comes down to making a decision, however, ask them for a sample edit. Why? That sample will give you valuable insight into their style, how they communicate, and most importantly, how you feel about that.


Whatever stage you find your manuscript in, hiring a book editor is a logical step toward success with your intended audience. If your book is done and you’re wondering what to do next, now is the time to take that book to the next level and hire a book editor.