December 10, 2018

What to Look for in an Editor


To those of you reading, I’m Josiah Davis, Beth Martin’s editor. Just to give a bit of background on myself, I’ve been working in the editing industry for the last five years now, and during that time I’ve done around 250 novels and worked with just over 80 authors. I had stumbled into the career back a while ago, but transitioned to full-time work two years ago and absolutely love it.

Beth asked me to write a guest post on the blog this week, and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned over the last several years with you all.

This is a discussion I’ve had with a number of my clients. I posed the question: “What is it that draws you to one particular editor instead of another.” I want to go through a number of the more common responses that I received, in the hopes that it assists you in any future search you have for someone to edit your work.

The most resounding answer I received was: “Make sure they have a website.” (Here's Josiah's website!) This one definitely strikes home for me, because when I was first getting started as an editor, all I was using was my Reddit account and my .edu email box. I could definitely tell that people were a bit apprehensive about working with me when they found out I didn’t have a site. After all, if I’m not willing to invest in my business, why should someone else invest in me? A website shows that they’re willing to put in the time and money to establish who they are and what they do. (Here's Josiah's website)

The next thing people told me is that they look for an editor who is: “Personable and easy to reach.” No author wants to feel like they’re just a number. If it seems like the editor is just treating you as one of the slots of the assembly-line, then they’re most likely not going to be pleasant to work with. You want someone that you feel like you can talk with, even about topics that aren’t specifically the comments within your book. If you have a question about publishing or marketing or whatever, if the editor just makes you feel like a number—and not a human—then I doubt they’re going to be someone you’ll be eager to ask for advice and help when needed.

Another thing that a few clients of mine expressed was: “They need to respond in a timely manner.” This one is especially important, due to the nature of deadlines when publishing. If you’re trying to reach an editor and they take multiple days to respond, or turn around a sample days after they said they would, then it doesn’t bode well for you with future projects. No, they’re not going to be on-call for you 24/7 because they (sometimes) have a life outside of their work. But you need to know that if you have a question or concern or inquiry that you’ll receive a response sooner rather than later.

The final point may perhaps be the most important one. Nearly everyone said: “Make sure their testimonials and experience back up their prices.” Take this one to heart, because it’s an issue you’ll see consistently when you’re looking for an editor. You’ll see a number of individuals out there who decide, “I want to be an editor. What’s the union rate for editing?” and they’ll go to the Editorial Freelancers Association page and set their prices based on that. Issue being, they’re using the prices of someone who has 10+ years’ experience, when they themselves are just getting started, and don’t have the reviews/testimonials to back up their work. Just as with any job, people who are just getting started need to prove themselves before they can charge what the veterans do. Make sure that anyone you work with has the reputation and volume of work to support their pricing.

Hopefully this is helpful to anyone who’s looked for an editor or is currently in the process of searching for one. If there are any other things that you personally keep an eye out for on the editor hunt, shoot me an email and let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks again for taking the time to read the blog, and thanks to Beth for giving me the chance to write for you all!

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