Hello! We’re back on the blog today to re-cap our adventures at Wordstock on Saturday.

Wordstock was a Portland institution for many years, until the festival ran into financial difficulties. The name was then taken up by Literary Arts, a Portland non-profit, and they went to work re-launching the beloved festival. B&BD exhibited at the book fair, an absolutely bustling marketplace of publishers, literary magazines, organizations for writers and readers, and more. Our goal was to spread the word about B&BD, our services, and answer questions people might have about editing and about working with freelance editors.

One of the most frequent questions we got was, how do I even hire a freelance editor? When? Where do I start?

So, I figured this would be a good thing to tackle on the blog. Take this as a loose guideline–your mileage may vary.

When do I hire a freelance editor?

We at B&BD generally recommend that you go through at least two or three revisions on your own before even thinking about editors. After that, it’s best to seek feedback from peers–beta readers or critique partners. An editor, freelance or with a publisher, is not a peer in the context of your book.

With that in mind, you should hire a freelance editor if a) you’re self-publishing, or b) you’ve been querying for a long time and only gotten rejections, or c) want professional feedback on your manuscript.

What’s the first step?

As with many things in publishing, the first step is research. There are a lot of freelance editors on the internet these days, and you should vet them just like you would an agent or publisher. Read through their website and online presences carefully. Some things to think about:

Do they work in your genre?

Editors often specialize, and this can be important. If you take your high fantasy to a thriller editor, there will be some edits they give that don’t match the expectations of your genre (pacing, for one!). Most editors work in multiple genres, it’s true–we’re versatile that way. But the genres we specialize in also tend to be our favorite genres, and the more we love your book, the better the working experience is for everyone.

On that note, some editors have specific pet peeves, and if you’ve got one you’re not willing to change, you probably shouldn’t hire that editor. Ash and I did our editing styles posts for that reason.

Are their prices reasonable? 

Now, you probably have a different interpretation of this question than the one I’m about to give. Writers often balk at how expensive freelance editing is, but my colleagues and I have discussed this numerous times. Editing is hard. It takes a long time, it’s often frustrating, and it’s mentally exhausting. This gets lost in a lot of conversations about editing, but it’s specialized work that many of us have been trained for–and our expert skill set is what you’re paying for. And, for freelancers, the fee you pay supports us, not only during the 55+ hours we spend on your manuscript, but in the rest of our lives. Your $1200 is our salary. That has to cover food, rent, insurance, and all the other myriad costs of living.

All that said–you can find editors charging $300 for a full manuscript edit, and many of them are probably perfectly competent, but many are not. So, when I urge you to ask yourself if an editor’s prices are reasonable, you should really be thinking is this editor an expert, willing to charge what their expertise is worth, or are they underselling themselves just to get clients? We at B&BD charge what we charge so that we can give your manuscript the full attention it deserves, and not have to chase down three times as many jobs to earn the same wage.

B&BD and many of our colleagues offer payment plans on large editing projects in order to relieve some of the burden. Make sure to ask, if such isn’t stated on the editor’s website.

Do their services suit my needs?

At B&BD, we offer a wide range of services at a variety of prices so that we can be flexible within your goals and your budget. Not everyone needs a full manuscript edit. Queriers especially might need only a reader report; many writers benefit from partial editing packages, since many pervasive mistakes manifest right from the beginning.

The service you need depends on where you are in your own revision process, what your publishing goals are, and what your own skill level as a writer might be. Experienced writers can take the observations in a reader report and turn them into actionable revisions. Newer writers might benefit from developmental and line editing that breaks down the story-building process for them. Self-publishing authors will appreciate the two-level Twice Tried editing package, and so on.

What is their turnaround time?

Editing a full manuscript of average length can take about 1-2 months, and many editors aren’t able to start right away because of the jobs already on their schedule. This is why, if you’re self-publishing, you should line up your editor early in the process, and build the release schedule around the editing timeline you work out with them.

If you’re querying, or just want feedback, and can’t wait for the full edit, many editors (including B&BD) offer packages with quicker turnaround times that may suit your needs better. Reader reports take 2-3 weeks. First five pages can be done in a few days.

Then what?

Communicate. Email them an inquiry and tell them about your manuscript, your publishing goals, and what you want/need out of an editorial relationship. If the editors offer a free sample edit (as any reputable editor should for big projects), take it! Ask for references, and contact them. Talk about payment plans. Read their contract.

The important thing here is to gather responses from all the editors you researched and reached out to. You don’t have to hire the first one who gets back to you and seems reasonable. It might be that another editor would be a better fit. Maybe their editing style gels better with you; maybe they’re a huge fan of the particular niche you’re writing. You’ll never know if you don’t get the sample edit, or if you don’t wait to see the sample edits from all the editors.

Hiring an editor is not a race. Take your time. Find an editor you click with and who will love your book. The process will go much better for everyone involved, I promise.

What if I click with multiple editors, you ask? Then the tie-breaker is up to you. It might be price, it might be turnaround time. You might flip a coin. But in this scenario, at least you’ve had them both do samples and you’ve discussed your goals with them both and you know that either one will be a good fit for your project.

Hopefully that answers any questions you might have about how to hire a freelance editor, but if I’ve missed anything, please feel free to ask in the comments! And now, I will leave you with some pictures from our booth, which we shared with REUTS Publications. I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have because we were too busy, haha. And thanks to guest editor Sara Pittock for manning the booth with me!