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11 Questions to Ask an Editor before Hiring Them

If you have your manuscript ready and are looking for an editor, then chances are that you might have already stumbled upon a few good names. So how do you make the decision?

Here are a few questions that you could ask them when you are shopping.

1. What is your editing process?

Every editor edits differently and, truth be told, there is no wrong or right method here. There is no standard industry formula for an editor to work with. Hence, editors tend to evolve their own editing styles. Your eye should be on the end product. The best way here is to discuss with your editor upfront, in a one-to-one chat if possible, about their method. See if you find that appropriate.

2. How many rounds of editing will be there?

Important question. Routinely, there are at least three rounds of editing per manuscript, but that depends on what service the client has opted for. The first round is substantive, which in simpler terms means content and plot. The editor will glance through your copy and let you know if there are any errors in character development, plot structure, or if there are any plotholes and such. When you send it back after addressing these issues, there is a second round of line editing, where each line (sentence) is reworked to make it sound better and consistent. The last round is of copyediting where all the grammar and language issues are addressed.

Note that not all authors opt for all the three services – substantive editing, line editing, and copy editing. Hence, this structure vastly differs. To know more about the different kinds of editing, read more on All about Editing

3. Will there be proofreading?

Know that proofreading is a separate process. While editing is more about copy and structure, proofreading is about ensuring the likelihood of errors being minimum. It checks for errors that might have been overlooked during the editing phase. It weeds out typos, corrects punctuation, and such. Ask if that will be a part of the package as well. At Pen Paper Coffee, proofreading is part of all our editing packages.

4. Which language will you use?

It is funny that authors do not ask this basic question. There are many variations of English – US English and UK English being the most prominent. Then there are other variations too, such as Indian English and Australian English, which have a large readership share as well. Make it a point to tell the editor which language you are looking for. You do not want to alienate your core readers by unleashing upon them a variation of the language that they are not at home with.

5. What is the readership demographic?

This is another basic question that is often ignored. The style of the language of any book varies depending on the demographic of your readers. You need to let the editor know this beforehand. Are your readers going to be mostly men, or women? Is it a book meant for young adults or seniors? Does it target a specific niche of people such as the LGBT community? Let the editor know this in advance.

6. What will be the turnaround schedule?

Truth be told, editing takes a considerable amount of time. Your editor is not just reading your book, but analyzing it in thorough detail. An editor does not just use their talent and knowledge of the craft and language, but also invests time. Hence, you need to be patient. If you come up with a request like, “I need to get my book edited but I am releasing it in seven days,” then any respectable editor will turn it down. For a 50K word count manuscript, expect at least three weeks to a month for the job to be done to any degree of satisfaction.

7. Have you worked in this genre before?

Probably I should make another list of 'most ignored questions to ask your editor' and put this one right on top! Now that I have put it here, you realize how important it is to ask this. An editor is human too, and as a human being, they may lean more towards particular genres. You cannot ask an editor who loves comedy to edit a horror book, right? Again, remember – editing is a comprehensive process that involves understanding the book, its genre, its plot, everything. Basic proofreading can be done by anyone; but editing can only be done by someone who understands the particular style of your craft.

8. Who are your past clients?

Now, you can ask this question but do not expect an answer. Most of the editing jobs are done anonymously and there are NDAs signed that bind the editor against revealing the names of the books they have worked on. However, sometimes the authors name the editors in their Acknowledgments section, and then it becomes public knowledge. If an editor has been lucky enough to get such mentions, they will gladly share the details of their work with you.

9. What will be our mode of communication?

I like to think that editing is more or less a mentoring process. With every book that I edit, I feel I am giving some tips for the author to improve in their next. In fact, my clients' editing requirements only decrease with every subsequent book that they write. Okay, enough about me! But, if an editor is providing you with such a close-communication service, then you could even expect to chat with them on Facebook. If not, then email communication is fine. Sometimes, you could request the editor to meet you in person at least once before starting the project.

10. Will you edit a sample?

If an editor refuses this, steer clear of them. Editors must agree to edit a sample of anywhere between 500 to 2000 words. This works both ways. You get an idea of how the editing process will go on (which, I reiterate, is a mentoring process) and they get an idea of how much work they will have to put in. This will help them give you a clearer picture of the road ahead (refer to my next point).

11. What will be the payment?

Notice that I have put this question at the end of my list. Reason? Because no self-respecting editor can give you a price quotation right away, and they should not. They will first need to know about your book, its content, its subject matter, etc. They will need to know your style of writing too, because that will give an idea of how intensive the editing process will be. Payment depends on all these factors. Just telling them that your book is of 70K words does not really cut it, unless you have written a genre-based book such as romance or fantasy. (Again, editing rates may be different for different genres). The best way here is to have them work on the sample, look at how they do it, and then discuss rates.

Do you think I have missed out on any point? Do feel free to put them down in the Comments below and I will do my best to answer them!


A writer, editor, and teacher by profession, Neil D'Silva has been in the game since the late 90s. His articles are splashed across various portals on the Internet, and his books are Amazon bestsellers. His debut book, Maya's New Husband, is well on its way to becoming an international movie.

Follow Neil D'Silva on Twitter on @neildsilva and visit his website at where he speaks about writing, publishing, and promotion, and shares his acclaimed short stories.

#Editors #English #Editing #Writers #LineEditing #DevelopmentalEditing #Authors #Language #Books #NonFiction #CopyEditing #Fiction #Manuscript #Proofreaders #Proofreading

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