Freelance Developmental Editor | The Questions You must Ask

Jun 20, 2022 | Editing

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Writing an excellent book can be a challenge. One of the keys to turning an ordinary manuscript into an extraordinary book is getting help. A freelance developmental editor can elevate your manuscript, but before you hire them, you need to know what you’re looking for.

The first thing you need to understand is what a developmental editor does. There are lots of different kinds of editing out there, from developmental to proofreading. A freelance developmental editor comes in at the stage when your manuscript is done, but you’re looking for ways to improve the story.

Do the characters work?

Are there obvious plot holes that affect readability?

Does the story actually work?

When we write our books, it’s hard to see these kinds of issues. We know the characters in our minds, so experiencing them as your readers do is a challenge. When it comes to plot holes, our minds tend to fill in the gaps for us. Does the story work? I’m an experienced novelist, and I never know until I go to my editorial team.

If you’re going to hire a freelance developmental editor, here are the five questions you need to ask.

Hiring a Freelance Developmental Editor

Freelance Developmental Editor: The Questions

What kind of books do you edit?

You need to know that your prospective freelance developmental editor works in your general area. Sometimes editors focus on specific areas. If you write non-fiction, or memoir, you want an editor that has worked with similar books.

There are some proponents of genre specific editors; I’m not one of them. You want your editor to have experience in fiction, ideally your genre, but it’s not necessary. 

What do you charge?

So critical, right? Why is it then that so many people are shy to talk about money.

You need to understand what you’re being charged, however, it’s equally important to know when you’ll be making payments. Does the editor expect to be paid in advance? 

The tip here is to understand that you’ll be paying in advance. You’re not, however, obligated to pay the entire price up front. A standard payment arrangement is half up front and half in the end. 

How do you provide feedback to your clients?

Feedback is, realistically, what you’re paying for. You hand the editor your manuscript. They hand that manuscript back, usually a few weeks later, with recommendations. 

I like to give written feedback and offer my clients a one hour consultation to discuss the changes. Everyone is different and you need to know what you’re getting. 

The pro tip here is, feel comfortable with asking for what you need. If you’d prefer written comments (for example) to a phone call, make that known. 

Do you have references? 

This one should be simple. Ask for references. Even new freelance developmental editors should have a client or two that is willing to talk about working with them.

The Bonus Question!

You ready for a bonus question? Here’s one. 

Do you offer sample edits? 

It’s perfectly acceptable for you to request a sample edit. For a freelance developmental editor, giving a free sample edit of anywhere from ten pages to a full chapter should be fine. 

Here’s the pro tip: Don’t expect wonders with a sample length edit. Even the best editors can’t work wonders with a chapter, but they should be able to give you a taste of what it’s like to work with them.  

Choose A Freelance Developmental Editor With Confidence

It’s OK to ask these kinds of questions. Sometimes I meet clients who seem hesitant, or unsure, perhaps feeling out of their depth in the interview process. You’re hiring for a service. You’ve got to be sure that the person you bring to your team is the right one. 

That’s the overall mentality you should take on. You’re building a team that will help bring your book to your audience, to the world. 

Is this the right person to team up with?

My advice? Don’t feel at all shy. Interview your prospective freelance developmental editor with confidence. They are the professionals in the situation. They’ve edited numerous books before yours 

Remember the most important thing: it’s your book. 

You’ve invested the time in writing a good manuscript. Take the time and ask the necessary questions to make sure you’re on the right path to making it a great book.