If you’re thinking about hiring a freelance editor for your book, you might be wondering what it’s like to work with an editor and what you’ll gain from the experience. At The Book Shelf, we work with authors on a daily basis, so we’ll tell you honestly what it’s like to work with a book editor. We promise you it can be magical, invaluable, and insightful. But it can also be frustrating, demoralising, and expensive, so we’ll give you some top tips to ensure it doesn’t go wrong.

The good 

Working with an editor can be an incredible experience. The editor’s insider knowledge of publishing, experience of working on other similar books, and understanding of what your readers want means that you end up with a far better book. One that’s more compelling, focusing, clear, accurate, and interesting. One that gets better reviews, more sales, and more traction.

Not only that, but you become a better writer. You learn more about your own craft, notice mistakes in your own writing, and start to see things from the perspective of what the reader wants, rather than what you want. This means you need the editor less and less. The right editor will empower you to write better books in the future—and their job is done when you don’t need them anymore.

The bad 

Working with an editor can also be a horrible experience. If the editor doesn’t really know what they’re doing, then you can end up with a book full of errors. If the editor doesn’t understand your genre or readers, then your book won’t meet the reader’s needs. If the editor doesn’t deliver what you want, then it can be a waste of your time and money. It can lead to bad reviews and poor sales.

If you don’t choose the right editor for you, then you probably won’t enjoy the experience — even if the editor does a decent job and the result is better than having no editor at all. Choose the wrong editor and you probably won’t improve your craft. You certainly won’t want to work with them again and develop a long-term relationship for future books. Worse still, you may not even want to write more books.

The necessary 

To get the most out of the experience, it’s vital to pick the right book editor for your book and your personality. The right editor is experienced in your genre, target audience, and type of publishing. They specialise in the type of editing you need at this stage, be it critique, content editing, or copy editing. Importantly, the right editor is someone you get along with and can develop a great working relationship with. This means it’s essential to have a communication style that gels — and to set clear expectations of what you want from the editor.

Even if you choose the right editor, it’s worth noting that to enjoy the experience and get the most benefits from it, you need to have an open mind and a genuine receptiveness to feedback. Hearing constructive criticism on your manuscript can be tough, but if you’re truly committed to creating the best book possible for your readers, then you have to separate yourself from your creation and enjoy the process of improvement as much as you enjoyed the writing.

In summary 

Get it right and working with an editor can be the best thing you ever did for your manuscript, so choose wisely. Don’t just choose an editor because they’re cheap, available immediately, or the first one you came across. Choose them because they can make your book better and make you a better writer. If you’d like to find out whether The Book Shelf have the right nonfiction editors for you, get in touch and we can have a consultancy call to see whether we’re the perfect match. If not, we’ll point you in the right direction to find the editor for you.

2 comments

  1. Excellent advice, Ameesha.

    My challenge as a content writer and editor initially was that I came across potential clients who were not willing to invest the money it takes for the time and efforts of the editor they hire to do a grand job. I think it’s fair for potential clients to ask for sample work by the editor (so we’re looking at something around 500-800 max), which is a form of “elevator pitch” to the client in how well the editor could perform throughout the book, should they be hired.

    Additionally, the editor-author relationship depends on how well the personalities mesh. Some clients (and editors for that matter) are more difficult than others, so depending on the editor, this can be worked around. A sign of an editor who you’re highly likely going to have a good experience working with is one who asks the right questions.

    I’ve deliberately taken extensive experience in editing since last summer and have exposed myself to different projects, although not too full across the board, and got caught in places outside of my comfort zone. The takeaway is that writing isn’t necessarily the issue with a lot of authors who already have an awareness of the topic they write or want to write about, but lousy editing is *the* problem. A basic proofread and an assumption that an audience around the world will take it as it is is far from enough.

    The job of an editor comes in folds, and it’s broader than it sounds on paper. As you said, editors have inside knowledge of the market and what kind of books people are buying. Editors can give the outsider perspective on what’s trending and align the author’s voice to the engagement and joy of readers. Many authors struggle with this, and it’s natural. In these instances, the client has to be aware of the stage of the journey that they’re in writing a book to hire a particular editor.

    If you’re interested, you can write your knowledge and thoughts on what kind of editing service you recommend at each stage of writing a book. I’d love to read.

    Best wishes,
    Shazeen 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment, thank you Shazeen!

      I totally agree that a sample edit is fair, especially for copy editing, though it can be difficult to provide a sample for a critique or developmental edit and the editor may be better to send their feedback on a small sample instead.
      Of course, personality is a huge factor in the success of any author-editor collaboration. If the editor is non-communicative and the author is very chatty (or vice versa), then it can be difficult.

      What an excellent insight that the sign of a good editor is one who asks the right questions! Whenever I’m approached by an author, I ask questions and engage them in a preliminary discussion to find out more about their requirements and to see whether the communication is smooth.

      You’re also right that editing is far broader than many people imagine. When you say you’re a book editor, it’s often assumed that you mean grammar, punctuation, and spelling — but that’s just one type of editing. Yes, that’s a great idea, thanks! I’ll write a guide to choosing the right editor for the right stage.

      Finally, you’ve worked really hard to build your experience, so well done! 🙂 Perhaps you’d like to write a guest blog on your experience of becoming a book editor and the lessons you’ve learned?

      Like

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