How to Find the Right Book Editor

Before the world gets to see your book, you’ll need an outside, professional perspective on your writing.

That’s what book editors are for - an expert pair of eyes that will make sure a book is ready to be published. They don't just look for grammatical errors. They also make sure that the structure is right, content flows smoothly and is digestible to readers. 

Overall, they give valuable and objective feedback to help your book reach its full potential. 

Here are the key things you could ask for or consider when assessing the right editor for you

1. How do they work?

This is where you find out about their working style and system. 

What is the process for their work that they are proposing? Are you sending in the whole manuscript or do they want to see it in parts? How are they going to give you feedback? Is it over the phone, email or tracked changes in doc? 

I know editors who work solely online. Everything is done over email, the docs, file sharing (Dropbox). They don’t necessarily coach you over issues on the phone. 

Most editors are willing to be flexible, but also you need to realise that they have a process and a method of working that works for them – with good reason. So when you try and get them to tailor to you what often happens is that it all falls apart. You have to trust that they have done this time and time again – so they know what works, the outcomes speak for themselves.

2.  How will you interact? (Online vs Face-to-Face)

A different point to the above but it is an important one. I have clients in the US so it’s a different time zone. Before I take that client on I figure out what is the best time and day that we can meet. 

Usually there is no impact, and I figure it out pretty quickly because I have to line up a first call. If that’s a nightmare the whole project will be a nightmare. 

Another important thing is that where they are based is the style and voice of the book. Americans have a very distinctive storytelling, expressive and over the top kind of voice, an expression that will put Australians off. So one of my strengths is actually understanding that and working within the context of the right person and the right audience. 

3. What’s their expertise? 

What are their strengths and weaknesses? What have they done before? 

You are writing a book about parenting. They don’t need to know about parenting, and they don’t have to be a parent. In fact, sometimes this can be a good thing NOT having personal experience in your space because you do. They will come at it from an objective totally different point of view. You have assumed knowledge, so they will help you dig into that and make you explain things you think are obvious. 

However, I think one of the strengths that an editor should have is understanding business, how businesses work, and the inner workings of individuals in those businesses. 

I actually don’t think you need someone with a fancy editing qualification – yes I’ve got one but most of my work comes from real world experience and actual work – so you don’t need to trawl the list of Society of editors – in fact this does you more harm than good because everyone looks the same. 

4. What is their personality like? 

What is your overall impression of them? 

Just because you like someone doesn’t always make them the best fit for you.You want to respect them and their work and opinion. 

Their communication style is important. If you’ve got someone who talks a lot or talks in circles, doesn’t really give you a clear cut answer and you are someone who would prefer a bit more directness, that will be a bit of a mish mash. 

It’s about developing trust and relationships. 

5. How do they charge? (Payment and Project Management)

How much is their service going to cost?

Hardest thing to tell you at this point because editors charge per hour or per project. Often they have to see and get into your work before they can give you a realistic indication, which is one benefit of choosing a self publisher. You’re paying a set fee for the editing service, and you have to work within their confinements in terms of how the process looks. You will likely get less hands on coaching and support through this process because it’s a business and a business process

A WORD OF WARNING: Costs can go over because of this point. It is very difficult to tell until you’ve got into a document. So my advice is to factor in a 15% contingency. 

6. Who else has used them? (Recommendations)

Referrals speak for themselves. Look at the books they’ve worked on. 

Doing this will save you time and heartache finding someone who will do a chop job from Fiverr.


Book a call to find out how a book editor could help you achieve your ambition.


The 5-Step Structure

to Write Anything

Kelly Irving

I’m an editor and writing coach with a love for deep-diving into brains and businesses. Through my one-to-one work and online program, I provide an action-by-action process that speeds up the time it takes to produce your best book, and turns overwhelm and self-doubt into momentum and excitement for writing.

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