How to find the right copy editor

Speciality

How do you decide who is the right copy editor for you? Sure, you’ve got to look at their reputation, experience, and qualifications, but more often than not it’s about whether the editor specialises in working on the type of project you have to offer. Are they the expert in their field; do they have sufficient knowledge of the subject matter? On many occasions I have been contacted by individuals who offer me projects to edit without having any idea whether I am the right fit as their editor.

Trust

For those seriously considering an editor, trust and being able to identify with the individual behind the services and website are key components. Is the editor a likable person and is the information they present clear and cover the main questions on the client’s mind? And if there isn’t enough information or there are secondary considerations, does the editor reply promptly, in a friendly tone, answering questions directly and trying to help?

Communication

Communication is very important when you consider hiring a freelance editor, or if you are an editor considering taking on freelance work. I’ve worked with people where communication has been such an impediment to understanding the requirements of the job that you spend a lot of time trying to understand intent or sometimes end up doing more work than you intended to, which can be frustrating. And if the editor does more work then the client typically pays more money … which makes it a lose-lose situation.

Judgement

Choosing the right editor requires equal parts research and judgement. Their online CV is half of the story, the other half is identifying with them: their personality, interests, and way of writing. Sometimes the editor might be the perfect fit, but the project itself isn’t, which may be frustrating for the writer/client: maybe the manuscript isn’t yet ready to be edited or the efforts required for the copy editor to macro-edit (like restructuring) some parts as well as copy-edit don’t make the fees acceptable to the client. Sometimes all writers, including myself, need to take one step back before moving two steps forward.

How to find the right copy editor – checklist 

Sometimes, unless you ask a potential editor a few questions or send a request to work on a sample edit, you won’t be able to accurately assess the communication and sample edit sections below.

You may have to do a bit of research online to build up an idea of their reputation, from their website and the business or social media networks where they have profiles or communicate with writers. It’s also highly useful to assess whether you can trust the editor from their testimonials, to read past clients’ experiences. Taking a peek at the work in their online portfolio can give you an idea of the quality of the editing, and may provide a measure of confidence. However, the best way to see exactly what an editor can do for your writing is to request a sample edit. Asking pertinent questions can help you decide whether the editor is right for you, and if they can provide the reassurance and service you’re looking for.

Communication

  1. Are there too many misunderstandings between editor and client?
  2. If problems arise, can they be solved in a way that is pleasant and fair to both parties?
  3. Does the editor reply reliably, and in a timely manner?
  4. Does the editor address issues directly, or are they evasive or not forthcoming about offering answers to your questions?
  5. Is the editor overly critical? Does the editor deliberately respond in a negative, arrogant, or patronising manner?

Sample edit

  1. Are the editor’s edits too intrusive?
  2. Does the editor understand the intended meaning, and if he/she doesn’t, do they query it? They should!
  3. Has the editor provided the sample edit as requested/expected?
  4. Are the queries polite or are they deliberately rude or critical?
  5. Has the editor made many changes that have not improved the text?
  6. Does the edit look rushed?
  7. Do you have confidence in the editor’s ability?

Proposal

  1. Is the editor interested in working on your project? How interested? Why would he/she be interested? What would they gain from working with you?

Rates

  1. Has the editor charged a reasonable rate based on the work involved, and their experience/training?

Reputation

  1. Do you trust the editor from their online and real reputation? What is he/she like on social media, engaging or unresponsive?
  2. Have you assessed how they deal with past clients?
  3. Are they friendly to writers?

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