Freelance Editing: How to Hire an Editor for Your Book or Query Letter

photo by 4BlueEyes Pete Williamson

GIVEAWAY: I am (again) so very excited to announce the Nov. 2012 release of my newest book: CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. It’s a book all about how to build your visibility, brand, network and discoverability so you can better market yourself and your books. I’m giving away 1 copy to a random commenter based in the U.S. and Canada; comment within one week to win. Good luck! (Update: Joe Levit won.)

During the past few years, I have started doing more freelance editing for query letters and books/novels. And during that time, I’ve definitely started to notice some tips that I think would help writers who are seeking to get their work edited by a professional. With that in mind, here are 6 pieces of advice for hiring a freelance editor as well as the answers to 4 frequently asked questions on the topic.


1. Get a test edit. Hiring a freelance book doctor costs money, and you don’t want to plunk down a large chunk of change before you’ve seen the kind of services an editor will provide. So ask for a test edit. A test edit basically means you pass along a few pages and get them reviewed to see what kind of notes and ideas the editor is making in terms of proofreading and content work. Test edits usually work one of two ways: 1) You pass on 1-2 pages and the editor reviews them for free; or 2) you pass on a more substantial number of pages (10-50) and simply pay the editor as normal for those pages. If you like what you see from the test edit, then you can move forward on a bigger deal.

2. Look for referrals and success stories. These days, everyone lists “freelance editor” on their qualifications. Scan the ads of writing websites and publications to see dozens of people vying for your business. That’s because “freelance editor” is a desirable profession, as the work can be done from anywhere. So when you’re seeking out a freelance editor, seek not only an impressive bio and qualifications, but also referrals and success stories. Talk to writing peers who have used editors and find out if they liked what they received in the exchange. And, of course, nothing succeeds like success — so look at what projects the editor has worked on that 1) got published by a traditional publisher, 2) secured literary agent representation, or 3) had notable success after being self-published. That will be a big clue if the editor is truly helping people get published and achieve their goals.

3. Be upfront about what you want out of the edit. This is a big one. Know if you’re in a hurry to get feedback. Know if you want an edit that’s heavy on copyediting and proofreading, or an edit specifically to analyze the pacing/tempo of your writing. Know if you want the editor to take a closer look at some section that’s bothering you. If you’re seeking a nonfiction book proposal edit, for instance, it would help if you knew that you wanted the review to mostly focus on your marketing plan and platform, provided you felt that was the weakest section. If you do not give specific instruction, the editor will take a broad approach to the work.

4. See about getting a second look for a little more. After I edit someone’s query or synopsis, they sometimes ask if I will review the revised version for free. Unfortunately, this is something I cannot do. It would be like working overtime and not getting paid. At that same time, I didn’t feel good about asking them for a double fee to review the revision, because reviewing said revision is less work than the first go-round. So I started saying upfront to clients that if they wanted a second query edit (an edit of the revision), it would simply be a little more than the original edit price. Some people really desire this second look, while others don’t need it. If you’re in the first group, ask upfront about getting a discounted second review. (Please note that just because an editor can’t do a free second review, that doesn’t mean that they can’t answer questions about the notes given. An editor should always want their suggestions to be clear and easy to follow.)

5. Beware anyone who charges way too little or way too much. Several years ago, I got an angry e-mail from a writer who had almost gotten scammed by someone claiming to be an “independent editor.” The writer and editor had a simple back-and-forth dialogue, but when it came time to issue payment, the editor asked for “$5,000U.S.” (Asking for “U.S. dollars” is almost always a red flag!) The writer quickly surmised she was being scammed and backed away. The flipside of this coin is anyone who promises you everything for way too cheap, with a response like, “Sure, yeah, I can do anything you want! I can do everything and anything to your 120,000-word novel for just $150!” This latter editor is likely just skimming work at best and giving generic, pre-packaged remarks in their feedback. Avoid both of these types of scammers.

6. Always speak of your novel in terms of word count, not pages. The font you choose and the margins you use can drastically affect page count. So always speak in terms of the novel’s completed word count (e.g., 78,000 words).


1. “How much do freelance edits cost?” It varies on the editor, their level of expertise, what you’re asking of them, how fast you want them to work, and, naturally, the length of the novel. All those figures make the final fee vary greatly. To get a novel edited, you could be looking at anywhere from $400 – $2,000, depending on the factors I mentioned. Some editors charge by word while some charge by page. Those who are doing proofreading or editing a nonfiction book proposal usually work at an hourly rate. Query and synopsis edits are typically a flat fee.

2. “Do freelance editors do proofreading for grammar and spelling? Or do they edit the content of the novel?” Some do the former; some do the latter; some do both. Proofreading is generally cheaper than content/story editing. Ask upfront about this. Different editors have different fortes, and, again, it all depends on what you want to get out of the edit.

3. “Do I really need an editor before submitting?” I can say with absolute certainty that you need someone to look over your work and give you blunt, constructive feedback. People need outside perspectives on their writing to show them the flaws they cannot see. With that in mind, a lot of people seek out beta readers (writer peers and friends) to edit their work. Beta readers are a good way to go — but these readers must be intelligent, capable, and blunt (and hopefully published, themselves). Otherwise, you may just get a lot of positive reviews from people who love you but can’t objectively edit your work. It’s typically writers who don’t have a reliable cadre of beta readers that seek out a freelance editor.

4. “Is a contract signed?” If you want one, the editor should definitely provide one. If the editor puts up a big stink about a contract, that, to me, sounds like a red flag.

Anything I’m missing? A helpful tip or the answer to an FAQ? Please feel free to share in the comments. Happy holidays to all! I’ll see you back on WU in 2013. Know that I’m also speaking at a lot of writers’ conferences in 2013 if you can get out to meet me personally. Look here for a list of writers conferences, or here to see my column on “What are the BEST Writers Conferences to Attend?

GIVEAWAY: I am so very excited to announce the Nov. 2012 release of my newest book: CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. It’s a book all about how to build your visibility, brand, network and discoverability so you can better market yourself and your books. I’m giving away 2 copies to random commenters based in the U.S. and Canada; comment within one week to win. Good luck! (Update: Joe Levit won.)






About Chuck Sambuchino

Chuck Sambuchino is a freelance editor of query letters, synopses, book proposals, and manuscripts. As an editor for Writer's Digest Books, he edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His own books include the bestselling humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, which was optioned by Sony Pictures, as well as the writing guide, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. Connect with Chuck on Twitter or at his website.


  1. says

    Thanks for the helpful information on hiring an editor. I’ve always wondered about the nuts and bolts of hiring an editor. It’s a tough call to know if this is a worthwhile investment or not. On one hand, a professional editor sounds like it could really make the difference of selling or not selling a book. On the other, authors risk making very little as it is. I appreciate your thoughts and honesty.

    Your platform book sounds excellent– I will look into it.

  2. says

    Thanks for the tips. Obtaining a test edit is a good idea. I highly recommend paying for book editing services, especially for self-pubbed writers. I also urge writers who are thinking about hiring a book editor to talk to writers who have used that editor’s services. My book editor did a fabulous job and was always available for feedback. I will use her again on my next project.

  3. says

    I really wish I had read this a year ago when I was submitting my novel!!! I had my novel edited for content and then proofread and while it was extremely beneficial, it was an eye-opening experience for a first time author. Thanks for the advice.

  4. says

    Thanks for the tips, Chuck. As an indie author I was fortunate enough to have access to a highly qualified beta reader and friend whose wise counsel led to a 16,000 word addition and rewrite to my novel that strengthened it immeasurably. Alas among my beta readers there was no true proofreader and I still find obscure and odd typos in the manuscript. A paid proofreading editor would indeed have been a wise choice. Now I know how to look for one.

  5. says

    This is very timely for me, and I appreciate the information. I certainly will be asking for a sample edit (and digesting the rest of the info). Thank you!

  6. says

    Thanks, Chuck.

    I am working with a freelance editor and feel that at last I am making progress instead of going in circles. I did not have published beta readers, just trusted friends and critters who, while helpful, could only take me so far and whose criticisms I often dismissed. My freelance editor has not only the knowledge but the friendly tact to make me eager to dive back into a book that I once thought I had finished many, many revisions ago.

    And, yes, I would love to win your book!

  7. says

    Hi Chuck and thanks for the great tips for hiring an editor. After writing my first book and submitting to various contests I realized I needed someone who knew about writing to edit my books. Thankfully I found a multi-published author who’d been “around the block” for quite a few years. I credit her for teaching me how to write well. The money I invested I believe saved me hundreds of hours I would have wasted wallowing around in ignorance of how to write a good book.

  8. says

    I do have a question (and I’d love to win the book): Since my book is literary fiction, does it make sense to look for an editor that specializes in literary? And how would I go about finding some good candidates?

  9. says

    Thanks Chuck, this is great. I had no idea about the price range, so this will help me when I get to the editing stage in a few months.

    Thanks again. Have a SUPER day!

    • says

      What’s the going rate? See this page at Editorial Freelancers for freelance standards. It’s very helpful to writers trying to figure out a realistic budget.

  10. says

    All good tips, Chuck. I’ll outline my approach: I ask for the first two chapters and then do a real line edit of the first 5 pages for free. I want to see how much work will be involved, and the potential client need to see if my view of the work resonates. I charge by the word since page counts can vary so widely with formatting. I don’t accept every editing opportunity; I want to work on writing that I think has a chance at publication. I also offer a contract that spells everything out and protects the client’s rights. Thanks again for the enlightenment.

    • says

      I do pretty much what you do, Ray, but I charge by the hour. I’ll do the first 25 pages or so for free to see if I support the work and, for my potential clients, to see what he or she will get for his/her money. Charging by the hour ensures that if I come across a part that requires intense re-writing, then I am compensated. I also charge for time spent in meetings with the author. Often, they will spend an entire afternoon chatting. I don’t mind chatting, but I tell them up front that the meter is running. Doesn’t seem to stop them at all. And, of course, to keep it professional, all the talking is about them and their project.

  11. Joan Rhine says

    As a full-time publishing professional, editing has become more than half of my workload. I see so many of the same mistakes in every project, regardless of the writing level of the author. It really does take that fresh eye and focused attention. Since I’m also a writer, I understand my clients’ beliefs that “the project is ready” when it ‘isn’t quite.’ Like the Ray and Nancy, I offer a free edit on the first pages of the book–usually the initial 20 pages–but I don’t agree to take the project until I’ve skimmed through the first 100 pages or more. If the writing needs a lot of work, I’ll tell them. If it’s doesn’t have good marketable material in my opinion, I’ll make suggestions they might want to use to revise the work. I know I probably give more of my time away than I should, but I truly love good books, and if I see get one I like, but don’t think is ready for me to edit, I don’t want to soak the writer, but I do want to see the project again when it reaches a better stage of completion.

    Oh, and yes, I’d love to be in the drawing for your new book.

  12. Kristin Lenz says

    You always have helpful advice. Thanks for sharing your experience and offering the book giveaway!

  13. says

    Very interesting concept I just wrote a review for another how to write book that has a slightly different take on the role of the editor.

    I understand where you are coming from I guess its just different ways to get the job done.

    I wonder though in a world of marketing would the editor money be better spent on advertising?

    • says

      * I wonder though in a world of marketing would the editor money be better spent on advertising?

      No, it’s the other way around, actually. Don’t spend good money marketing a product that is not ready for prime time. A book should only be advertised when it is the absolute best it can be.

      I see many self-published books that were rushed to print, full of problems and errors. Don’t think readers don’t notice.

      • says

        I couldn’t agree more. It’s annoying for a reader to have to pay for and plough through a book filled with grammatical errors, misspelling and poor syntax. Respect your own material and get help to make it the best it can be.

  14. Sue says

    I have yet to read a book from W.D. and its accomplished authors that are not chock-full of useful information and tips!
    Chuck, you are very gracious with your give-aways and talent!!
    Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

  15. says


    Liked idea #1, about getting a test edit. I wonder how applicable it would be for a developmental edit if the editor is only looking at the first 10-50 pages…

    Idea #3 is helpful too. I’ve jotted down a bunch of notes, like “should X character be confined with Y character, or do their roles feel distinct enough to stand on their own?” I was going to see if the editor came up with that on his own, but maybe I’ll point it out right now…!

    Please enter me in the contest for “Create Your Writer Platform” because that sounds like a very useful book -)

  16. says

    Thanks for this post, Chuck! I’m nearing the end of my novel revision, and I have been wondering if I need to look into a professional editor. I have two excellent beta-readers (one a lit major and one a popular public librarian) who have made wonderful suggestions, so I’m tempted to skip it, but I just can’t decide.

  17. says

    Thanks for the tips, Chuck. I wondered how a second look at a revision might work with an editor, and you answered it for me. Also, thanks for the chance at the book giveaway.

  18. says

    My daughter is a freelance editor ( She does the first ten pages free to see if prospective clients are a good fit. She’s had people put up a stink about how thorough she is, but she makes it clear up front she doesn’t hold back. I’ve gotten pages back there were more red than black and white! She charges per page, but she has strict fomatting policy. I agree with everything Chuck said about asking questions. My daughter is flummoxed every time someone wants to hire her without even one question being asked or one page being test edited.

  19. says

    This article couldn’t have been better timed. I am finishing up my WIP, and just starting to think about hiring an editor to give it a really good read through. Thank you so much for the great advice.
    Galen Rose

  20. Karen says


    Thank you for such a useful post. I especially appreciate knowing the cost range for a freelance edit for a novel. Seems the local writer/editor I know has priced her work very fairly.

  21. Lesley Morgan says

    This is a timely article. I see more books panned on Amazon because of a lack of proofreading and editing than anything else. Those of us who self-publish MUST address this issue, or we will not receive the respect our books deserve.

  22. says

    Thank you for all the useful information you provide. It seems that everyone has a book out now on how to build your platform. The problem is, it’s virtually impossible to keep up with it all. I have trouble coming up with tweets, writing a blog and everything else that’s involved.

    As for the timing of this article, it couldn’t have been better. I’m looking for someone to edit my first chapter again! I had an edit done by a professional agent at a conference and am looking to have those edits taken a look at. I’m also starting a creative memoir called “But You Don’t Look Sick” about people who have invisible diseases and the struggles it causes for them and how it truly can rip families apart. So I’m going to need a really good editor for that because I’m so close to it.

    Hope to see you in Mrtle Beach in October!

  23. says

    All good tips, thank you! I’d love to win a copy of Chuck’s new book. The tip about getting a second look at the revised piece, and addressing that right from the start, is good advice. So often the secret to being professional is simply to manage client expectations in an open and up front manner.

  24. says

    I think the range you cite ($400-$2000) sounds spot on. It’s amazing to me how many writers refuse to talk about the costs of doing business. I’m not sure what drives the reluctance.

    Thanks for spelling it out.

  25. says

    Great info, Chuck. I’d just like to point out that a test edit is not always—I might even say “rarely”—an indication of what you will get from the editor. This is especially true with a developmental edit, that digs into the story structures (my specialty). But even a line editor may be stymied as to comment on the first pages without reading the whole project—think of all you’re trying to set up! Plus, if you are like any other writer I know, you’ve already fiddled with the opening a million times. It is often the most polished prose in the document, and no indication at all as to what’s to come. So while I’m happy to do a test edit to appease a client that doesn’t know my reputation, I don’t find them all that useful.

  26. Lilia Fabry says

    I get asked by “editors” to help me with my work. I think a good rule would be: you contact them, not the other way around.

  27. says

    This has been very timely information as I have just recently finished my first manuscript. I shall certainly use your information wisely as I take the next step with my novel.

  28. says

    My book Reflections is now published, it’s on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ve created my website and have the book ready to go. I have three more novels in draft form trying to fit in a schedule between working and now writing the book was easy compared to having to write a query letter and do the marketing. I am so glad that it’s available for authors to hire editors for query letters. What do I need to do? Thank you so much.
    Lori Howell

  29. says

    Great advice, Chuck. I attended a writers’ conference in Reno several years ago and was very impressed with your presentation. I have hired several freelance editors, but only got valuable feedback from two. I thought it strange that one insisted on a contract (by snail mail no less). She did a decent job, but nothing that blew my socks off. The two best ones both did either very inexpensive or free sample edits. Actually, the way they commented taught me a lot. Now, because of their valuable input, I mostly do my own editing – mainly getting rid of repetitious words and using deeper POV. So, you are “right on” with your advice.

  30. Tamsyn Coulon says

    Great information, thanks! I think that being part of a writing community helps tremendously. Gives you continuous contact with people who write, edit and publish. Growing those relationships gives you a foundation and other sets of eyes that can see if you are about to get hit by a scam.

  31. Minh-Tam Le says

    Thank you for this fantastic article. Right now I don’t have $400 to spare for editing. I heard that there are graduate students that will edit work for credit. Is this true?

  32. says

    Thank you for reminding us of the importance to hire someone to read our prose before submitting to an editor or agent. Although I belong to a supportive and attentive critique group, I hired a copy editor when an agent asked to see one of my manuscripts for teens. She not only edited my grammatical mistakes and mispelled words, but asked a few pertinent questions as she read. Very important to have a new eye reading our stuff before submitting!
    The only mistake I did when I was looking for a copy editor was to post my query on the association of copy editors. I tried to narrow the search with a few specifics, but probably not enough. Within an hour I was swamped! So next time, I will be more selective, but I won’t skip the professional eye.

  33. says

    Thank you for sharing this. I am always leery about finding an editor and you have shown me that my fears are well grounded. I also have considered many times at becoming an editor, and I see now that as long as I share my strengths and weaknesses up front, the writer and I can mutually benefit without any expectations going unmet.
    Thank you again!

  34. says

    Last week, I published my first book. I was lucky that a published author was able to recommend professional editors (developmental and copyeditor). For my next book, I will consider your suggestion of a test edit, especially if I have little information regarding the editors.

  35. says

    Hey Chuck! I’ve read several of your articles and posts on editing, platform and submissions. Please keep it up, your advice is invaluable. Thanks, Chad Schimke.

  36. Alisa Russell says

    These are all excellent tips, and I’ll look forward to using them when my manuscript is ready for the next stage. And yes, I would also love to win your book.

  37. says

    I agree with all you’ve said. Been there, done that.
    I was offered an enormous amount of money – per page! And per word. Way out of my budget. Then another offer for the entire manuscript – also above and beyond what I could afford; and another so little, that it made me suspicious.
    So I joined a writers’ critique group and we do wonders for each other!
    I am between books right now, after publishing four.
    I may look into a professional editor with the next one- I’ve actually met a couple while surfing through all the writers’ websites.
    Thanks for the advice.

  38. says

    Chuck, good stuff all around. I’m editing a novel right now that is 220,000 words (oh, the humanity!), and the author and I had a number of detailed exchanges about the editing approach, which is a combination of developmental and line edit. It’s working out well so far, and much of that congeniality is based on the clear parsing of my role.

    I do agree with Kathryn that some test edits, particularly of initial pages, might not be a sharp indicator of editing scope, but in this instance, I offered a first-chapter edit of his materials that afforded a fair peek into what the editing might offer, and so far, so good.

    And I don’t need to be in the contest—I’m halfway through your platform book, and very much getting good info from it.

  39. says


    Great information. I’ve been lucky enough in the past to deal with editors who were personal friends and stern task masters. Locations and arrangements having changed it’s good to get the skinny on what to look for and what to expect in a business relationship with an editor.

    Dane F. Baylis

  40. says

    Thanks for an excellent article. Timely, too, as a fellow writer just asked me about choosing an editor. I’m passing your words on to her. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with other indies.

  41. Debey says

    Thanks for the info. I’m not yet published, but have one completed middle grade novel. So the advice comes in handy as would the book as I look toward building a platform.


  42. says

    I’ve experienced both sides of editing now, having had my novel edited, and having been recruited to edit someone else’s novel. I hadn’t really how much time it takes–now I understand why editors charge so much. But it’s interesting to learn what sort of fees to expect and I’ll pass on your advice to other members of our writers’ group. Thank you.

  43. LaVon Layton-Baker says

    Thank you for the article. A number of great tips that will be utilized. I have so many questions that were answered. It gave me clarity and understanding.

  44. AK Mills says

    Having recently gone through this myself, I can’t emphasize the importance of a sample edit. I received numerous replies to a post I had made on the Editorial Freelancers Association page. Having these tips would definitely have come in handy then!

  45. Christina Freas says

    Thanks for the tips, I have just about finished my first novel, and although, I’ve done the research, now that I’m here, it is overwelming, so any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks again, and Happy Holidays!

  46. Joe Levit says

    Hi Chuck,

    I really appreciate the tips you provided here, especially the information about potential rates and reliabilities. Do you have any information in your book about whether it can work to have a nonfiction, service-based blog to support a children’s lit fiction body of work? I’m planning on creating such a site to build an audience for books I’m just now writing.


  47. says

    Starting with a test edit makes a great deal of sense. As the client, it is important to ensure a good fit with any editor. Although it can be ego-crushing to hear about flaws in our work, getting feedback from a new set of eyes can make all the difference between good and great.

    Thanks for all your excellent pointers.

  48. says

    Great article Chuck! May I add that it’s good to get extra eyes even after the editor is done with the edits, such as a teacher friend or someone familiar with your genre and topic. I’ve learned a lot through the publishing process and am always looking to learn more, so your article is very helpful!

    Have a terrific day!

  49. says

    I’m just starting out as a freelance editor, so these tips were very helpful. Am having to charge low rates on Odesk as I build a client base and review APA standards, etc. Thanks for the tips!


  50. says

    Thanks for the helpful info. I never would have though to take the time to point out the areas I am concerned about to a proofreader. That is something I am going to do next time.

  51. says

    Thanks, Chuck, for the info. It’s good to know the price range and what to ask for and to expect. There’s so much info out there…hard to tell what’s reliable sometimes. Thanks!

  52. Sue Wolfe says

    Thanks, Chuck. Your insite is always helpful & timely. It’s great to know that there are people out there to help writers at the starting block, like me. Thanks again.

  53. says

    Excellent advice on this.

    As a writer and editor, I can’t tell you how important it is to get a thorough, professional edit before putting your work out there.

    There will always be things you miss, grammar issues you didn’t know about, plot inconsistencies, etc., and having a good editor can turn your book from good to great.

    I think it’s important to find someone who has the same mindset as you do, and to ensure you follow the same style guide (ie. If you follow Chicago Manual of Style, find someone who edits CMS). If you don’t follow a style guide, please go out and buy one. It will make your life 10,000x easier.

    The test portion really will be the indicator of whether the editor is right for you. If you disagree with everything commented on, then you might not be suited for one another. I also think it’s fair for any freelance editors to offer a free sample (I usually offer 1000 words).

    Good luck to all writers out there! Also, I can’t stress this enough from an Industry standpoint, if you don’t have a style guide, GET ONE. All Publishers work according to a style guide (or should), so meet your editor halfway and learn one.

  54. Paula Perry says

    Excellent tips! Thanks for your insight, Chuck, and for figuratively knocking some sense into my head.

    For one thing, I don’t know why I haven’t considered a test edit, especially since my job used to include interviewing prospective editors of technical writing and I always gave them a tough test edit. I know first-hand that impressive résumés and stellar references don’t mean someone edits the way I want them to.

    My 3-page test was purposely riddled with both blatant and subtle errors, but I like to think my manuscript is a squeaky-clean flow of inspired prose (:-)), so I would definitely want to pay for a 50-page test edit to see what an editor is really like.

  55. Rick says

    Great article for writers just trying to break in. These are the sort of articles that I subscribe to the magazine for.

  56. Cleo says

    The idea of hiring an ediotor to review my work still makes me wary. As far as grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage is concerned, I fon’t think others would spot anything I haven’t spotted myself. As for craft and content issues, how would any editor have tthe exact idea of what I’m trying to get across? Wouldn’t I rish losing the “voice” of my work if I incorporated another person’s changes?

    Perhaps what I need is more a “collaborative” edit, in which the editor would sit down with me and discuss what I want to get across, then suggest step-by step alterations as we go through the work together…

  57. Samina Sultana says

    It sounds like you have compiled a book perfect for writers entering the market to make a name for themselves. I think you have given a lot of good advice.

  58. Celeste Leon says

    I have to say I agree completely with hiring a freelance editor. I just got back my comments about 2 weeks ago on my manuscript and I wished I had hired a freelance editor earlier, a year ago! She really helped me with plot and story development. Critique groups are great for keeping one motivated, but they only hear your works in bits and pieces, someone good to read the entire work over is essential. I’m glad I hired her for a second look once I incorporate all the changes she recommended!

  59. says

    I found an editor using elance, but the responses I received ran the gamut from cheap to overpriced. Only a few demonstrated professionalism by offering a free sample edit. Others touted their own novels as examples of why they were great editors. I passed on those.

    There were offers from other countries, some of whom could not even type a coherent sentence.

    Look for those with lots of positive feedback, and read the feedback carefully to make sure they are for projects that mirror yours, not “she edited my 2 page term paper”. If on a tight budget you might find a bargain newbie who will do a better job than no edit at all, but this could be hit or miss. You really need someone with experience who can not only point out SPAG errors, but other bad writing such as overuse of certain words or phrases, story flow, plot holes, etc.

    For $50 I found someone who offered an awesome 5 page critique on various issues with my story that did not come up from “free” critique partners or my editor.

    All this said, if you have reliable references to go on, which I did not at the time, word of mouth from someone who has already been there can be a great way of finding someone for yourself. Don’t skip the sample page edits, though–I can’t think of a better way to see if an editor is the right fit for your story, and vice versa.

  60. says

    I love the idea of a “test edit”. There’s nothing worse than having an editor you’re totally out of sync with….except maybe having an agent you’re not in sync with….;-)

  61. says

    Chuck – great post & great tips. I never could have imagined how valuable an editor would be until I had my MS professionally edited. It was money well spent. She’s the grammar queen I had thought I was, she helped with sentence structure and pointed out statements that didn’t make sense. The fresh perspective was enlightening.

  62. trish cosey says

    As a writer with no real beta-readers, I’ve found it very helpful to take the occasional class in order to get constructive feedback. But nothing beats working one-on-one with a professional editor. They are worth the ‘cover price’.

  63. Jennifer says

    Great advice! I will share your tips with my writing groups. Several members have struggled with local freelance editors and your tips will help all of us out.

  64. Ed says

    Did I make it in under the deadline…the 17th at midnight PST? Oh well, if not, I’ll still buy your book.

  65. says

    Terrific advice. I think a test edit is the single most important step in finding the right editor. It also helps an editor determine if he or she is the right fit for your project.

  66. says


    Great advice. I always offer a test edit for anyone who is looking for proofreading/editing for their project. It’s a great way to see if the two of you can and want to work together, and a wonderful starting point to open up the conversation about exactly what sort of editing the author is looking for: proofreading, light editing, heavy editing including suggestions on improving storyline??

    There really are so many factors that go into the fee (as you mentioned) and it is truly worth the cost of having an educated eye read over your work prior to submission. Even though I am a freelance editor myself, I still have someone else read over my own writing. Sometimes you’re just too close and your mind will “fill in the blanks” or automatically correct mistakes without actually catching them in order to fix them!

    Since some writers were asking questions about this very topic last week, I submitted this post to our writer’s chat room ( for a full discussion on 1 of our Wed. night’s meetings. Hope you don’t mind! Thanks. :)

  67. says

    Aside from sites like Preditors and Editors, is there a directory of legitimate freelance editors who may even specialize in a certain genre (like romance)? Thanks, as always, for your helpful tips and articles.

  68. Stacy Teitel says

    Thanks for the great post! I like your suggestion of providing writers with sample edits. It’s a good way to give writers an idea of what to expect from their editors. I would love to see an accompanying post to this one about what editors should ask prospective clients, red flags to watch out for concerning writers, and cultivating the editor-writer partnership from an editor’s point of view.

  69. says

    Thanks, Chuck for a concise article on a confusing topic. I especially appreciated #3 in the 4 FAQs. As an author who participates on a critique group, I’ve often wondered if I need a freelance editor as well.

  70. June says

    Such great advice Chuck! Too bad I didnt have this checklist before I made all these mistakes. Results? Anxiety and sleepless nights. Where is my book? When will it be done? How is it coming along? Waiting without information. I learned the hard way, w/o your list.