Five Ways to Find the Right Editor

Thanks to the Internet, and my fantastic designer husband who built my website, my services and resume are on display to the world. No longer do I have to rely solely on my colorless and anorexic Word resume (that has to be no longer than a page in order to be readable) to get the word out. If you google “freelance editor Israel,” I am at the top of the list. And I haven’t spent a shekel. It is that easy.

But if you are looking for an editor online, you need to be sure that you have found the genuine article. These are the questions you should be asking an online editor/proofreader before you sign on the dotted line:

1. Google the editor. www.IAmTheBestEditorintheWorld.com (this is a fictional name for the purpose of illustration. I would actually run a million miles from a website with a name like that.) seems to offer you exactly what you are looking for. Fast, efficient service at an affordable rate. But who is behind www.IAmTheBestEditorintheWorld.com? Do they tell you on the site the name of the editor? I would be automatically wary of faceless services that theoretically could be outsourcing your work for pennies to desperate foreign workers around the globe. It is important to know exactly who you are hiring. If the website does provide a name, do a search on Google for that person’s name. If the person really is such a reputable editor with a stellar reputation, there should be SOME mention of the person online in connection with the books/works s/he edited. If you cannot find this person online, I would think twice before proceeding any further.

2. What Have You Edited? An editor that boasts on his/her website a wide array of editing services should be able to prove it. If you do not see a list of edited works/articles/websites, ask them to send you SPECIFIC examples of published works. If they say that it is confidential, or that the works are forthcoming, and have not yet been printed or published, you should immediately eliminate this person from your search. Any editor/editing service that cannot provide you with at least FOUR examples of PUBLISHED books they have edited, or articles that have been published, is not a credible editor, or at least not an editor with enough experience to give you the best possible service. Editing samples are lovely – and I enjoy providing this service to prospective clients – but, far-fetched as it sounds, you have no hard evidence that the editor in question has not farmed out the sample to ANOTHER editor for a free sample edit. People who are desperate for work will sometimes take desperate measures.

3. How True Are the Testimonials? Often, you will find a Testimonial page that glitters with praise for the said editor’s magical abilities. Praise such as, I cannot begin to thank you for the magic you have worked on our website. You have transformed our website, and we will certainly be working with you again! D. from Plymouth. Or, I am so glad I found you. My book is now on the New York Times bestsellers list, and I will certainly be recommending to you to other writers. Sergio from New York.

Well, if you find a page of testimonials that resemble Lonely Hearts ads, and are predominantly supplied by anonymous initials, such as D. from Plymouth and Sergio from New York, it isn’t looking good. True, some clients may prefer to remain anonymous, but if the editor is hard-pressed to find at least FIVE clients/writers who are willing to stand behind their FULL real name in praise of his/her work, then you are looking at the wrong editor. And if they do provide full names, but no titles, ask the editor for the name of the website/publication that h/she supposedly edited for this writer.

If you want to be especially sure that you are not being conned, do an online search for the writer, and see if you can find any contact details so you can verify whether the recommendation is authentic.

4. How Do You Work? You have checked out that the editor is the real McCoy, and the sample edit has convinced you that this is the right editor for your work. Before finalizing any agreement, or committing to working with this editor, make sure you understand the editor’s method of working. Will s/he be sending you chapter by chapter for your review? Will s/he be working in Track Changes so you can view all of the changes? Will s/he proofread the text after having completed the line-edits? Will s/he be sending you general comments on the structure and content before proceeding to line-editing? How receptive and sensitive is the editor to your feedback? Will the editor be working closely with you, or should you expect to only receive the edited version at the end of the process?

If this is the first time you are working with an editor, and you are not yet comfortable with his/her approach and technique, I would recommend that you search for an editor who is committed to working closely with you, and who will send regular updates and installments for your review.

5. It’s All About the Money. Once you are satisfied that you have found the right editor, there are a couple of steps you can take to protect yourself even further.

a. Ask the editor to prepare a contract that can be sent to you either via email or hard copy with all of the terms clearly written out.

b. Make sure that in the contract the editor has included ALL of his/her responsibilities. If the editor promised to provide you with three rounds of editing, then make sure this is included clearly in the contract. If the editor has agreed to a deadline, make sure this is in the contract. And make sure to include the clause that if the editor does not, for whatever reason, COMPLETE the editing of the manuscript, that you are not bound to pay, even partially, the editor. I would have either a lawyer, or a friend who is familiar with contracts, to review the contract before signing it.

c. I would be loathe to pay ALL the money upfront. I would rather ask if you can pay in installments, so that you can at least be sure that the editor is not going to run off with your money, and there is an incentive for him/her to make it to the finishing line.

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