Choosing a book editor can be stressful. How’s one to know if one editor or editing service is better than the other?
As authors, we can only base our decision on things like their listed testimonials, prices, and if we’re lucky, a recommendation from a friend.
But, are you getting your money’s worth? Is one editor actually worth their asking price or can you get a better return on your investment somewhere else?
Well, that’s what we’re going to cover today with our book editor mastery guide.
I not only want to teach you about the differences in professional editing services–because there are a lot–but I also want to give you a standardized way to test two editors
and choose the one who will truly give you the best return on your investment.
This single step has helped me to build the perfect team and was instrumental to my multiple book successes – because there’s nothing that kills sales and reviews more than poor spelling, grammar, and book structure.
Types of Book Editing Services
So what does a book editor
It seems simple, there are editors who edit books, right? When I first dug into this topic, however, I was surprised to find it’s super confusing.
Editors, authors, and even professional organizations for editors use different terms to define what editors do. When it’s time for you to connect with a manuscript editor, you absolutely must clarify what is and what is not included in their service.
There are different levels of editing that range from helping authors with an idea for a book
to helping authors ensure every typo or missed period is fixed.
Some online book editors provide all levels of editing, while others specialize in one or two.
Here is a rundown of common terms for editing services as well as some other terms editors may use to describe them. These are arranged from heaviest editing to lightest editing.
- Developmental editing (may also be called structural or content) – looks at the book’s big picture and overall structure in nonfiction or plot and characters in fiction. Developmental editors may assess a book idea, outline, or early draft to tell authors what works and what could be better. The big picture questions need to be answered first before an editor ensures your words are polished and used correctly.
- Line editing (may also be called substantive or stylistic) – goes through each line refining the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences and smooth-transitioning paragraphs. This helps the book “sound good” by polishing the language used to communicate your story.
- Copyediting – corrects grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Copyediting also includes correcting commonly confused words (e.g., affect and effect) as well as checking for internal consistency of facts and consistency with capitalization, hyphenation, and numerals.
- Important note: Sometimes Copyediting and Line Editing are the same thing…just depends on that editor's interpretation. In our list of book editors below, we combined them as “LE and CE” and just made it one.
- Proofreading – a final check before publication to find missed typos, missing words, repeated words, spacing and formatting consistency. Proofreading should be the very last level of editing.
Wow! That made my head spin.
If you are still not sure which editing service you need, many editors offer a free consultation and are happy to help you figure that out. Some won't even give you a price until they've seen your work. So be friendly and send them a request.
List of Book Editors:
Speaking of book editing services, let's talk about some of the best Editors out there!
The following list comprises of editors that came highly recommended from some of the top self-publishers.
However, in an attempt to ensure their information was organized and uniform, we requested that each editor state which three services they perform (Developmental, Line Editing and Copyediting – LE and CE, and Proofreading), prices for each, and which four genres they specialize in.
In truth, most of the below professional book editors have other services and specialize in other genres as well. But, I sort of held their toes to the fire so that we could see an organized list of information 😉
So, if you have any questions, check them out:
In addition to the individual editors listed above, the Reedsy marketplace is full of vetted professional editors
for every editing level and genre. They screen their editors and only allow the best of the best to be listed on their website. I'm a BIG fan of them because they have made the process easy for me to find the best book editors, book cover designers, and even writers to help me with my projects. Talk about awesome!
Another place to find professional editing service is the team at Ebook Launch. They have a team of professional editors who can polish your book for an affordable price. You can even get a free sample edit of 750 words
to help you decide if they're a good fit. The small team at Ebook Launch also provides amazing book cover designs
and formatting in addition to their editing service.
A site where you can hire editors on a freelance basis. Has a range of prices so there is something to suit most budgets. Be sure to take the usual caution when working with a freelancer. Check out their reputation carefully first and communicate carefully with them in order to determine a schedule, payment expectations, methods of communication etc.
Another online editing service is Scribendi, which has over 300 experienced and educated editors. They've been around a long time. With this service, you decide how fast you want the book edited and how extensive the edit should be, then they match you with an editor. You don't ever actually meet the editor, but rather work through their customer service team. Their prices depend on your requested turnaround time and word count. You can get a free quote here
This is an excellent Chicago-based international agency with over 300 editors. They cover a huge range of genres and specialisms. With both British and American editors on their books, they edit in both UK and US English styles. The price is dependent on the level of editing you require and the speed of your delivery needs.
Book Editing Associates
BEA was formed in 1998 to help writers find professional book editors and proofreaders with experience working for traditional publishing houses
. It continues to be a matchmaking service for writers and editors and now includes editors who can assist with the self-publishing process. The network includes award-winning editors and ghostwriters who have worked on best-sellers. Writers work directly with the editors they select. Rates vary by editor. Use the submission form
for direct contact and a price quote.
In addition to cover designs and formatting, you can get professional proofreading through Author Packages. They can help you make sure your manuscript is ready for publication.
What to Look for in an Editor
Now that you have a basic understanding of the book editing services, and have access to a list of top editors, ask yourself what you are looking for in an editor.
There are several things to consider when choosing book editors:
- Recommendations – Is this person recommended by someone you know or other writers who have worked with her? Does she have any references you can contact? This will help you understand the editor’s experience, as well as what it’s like for authors to work with her.
- Specialty – Do you want a copy editor who will strictly follow the rules in the Chicago Manual of Style? Do you want someone whose specialty is line editing and can write smooth, clear, and creative sentences? Are you looking for someone to make sure you don’t have any glaring grammar or spelling mistakes so as to avoid the brutal grammar police reviews? Or do you want someone to look at the overall structure or plot of your book?
- Genre – If you’re a nonfiction author, your best bet is to choose editors who understand the structure of good nonfiction books; they know what works and will keep readers happy. If you’re a fiction author, select a fiction editor who is passionate about those stories and knows what readers of your genre are looking for. Choosing an editor within your genre is especially important for developmental editing.
- Language – Many freelance online editors work internationally. One thing to look for in an editor is someone who speaks the desired language of your book as a first language. Grammar rules and spelling are different in American English and British English, for example.
- Sample – Most editors will do a sample edit for free or a small fee. Send a few editors the same sample of your book and see how they come back. Every editor edits differently. This will be a chance to find out if they can make your book better, keep your voice, and work well with you.
- Rates – Most online book editors are freelance editors, which means they set their own rates. Editors may charge per word, hour, or project. Editing is a valuable investment in your book as a good editor can turn your story from meh to amazing! But the highest rates don’t necessarily mean the best editor, and the lowest rates could be wasted money. Definitely take rates into consideration, but don’t select an editor solely on price.
- Software and Systems – Some of us writers like using certain types of writing tools or software. I personally love to write my books using Scrivener, and will then switch to Google docs for better tracking systems. However, I've run into editors who only use Word document. That's no bueno for me. So, make sure they are good with whatever writing programs you want to use.
What Do You Do If You Can't Choose?
When we go to select a book editor, how do we know that that person really is a professional? How do we know that they are worth the price as compared to the other editors out there?
I'm not good enough with grammar to figure it out (as you can see in my Grammarly review
). All I see is that they made corrections…but did they get them all?
So, instead of just ‘hoping' they were the right one, I devised a Standardized Editor test.
Most editors will do a free sample editing. So, instead of just sending them the first couple pages of your book, why not send them a test? This way, you have an answer key and you can see EXACTLY how they did. Did they do a good job? Did they miss certain grammar rules?
More importantly, how did they do compared to another editor?
Think something like that would be useful?
Then, check out my free Editor Test and start finding out if an editor is worth the price they are asking, and how they compare to others!
Download the Test Now!
- Compare editors
- Ensure they're worth the price
- Don't get scammed!
The truth about grammar is that there are LOTS of different nuances and even varying rules. So, to ensure our test doesn’t lead to arguments or inaccuracy, we designed it with the following in mind:
- The grammar rules follow American English, which differs from British English.
- It tests grammar, punctuation, and spelling (things mostly at copyediting and proofreading level of editing). Even though the writing may benefit from heavier line editing, that is not part of this editing assessment.
- Grammar rules and recommendations vary by style guide. The preferred style guide for this article is the Chicago Manual of Style, a common style guide for book authors. Dictionaries also disagree sometimes. The preferred dictionary for this piece is the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
Where Else Can I Look for Book Editors?
Didn’t find the right editor above? No worries. You may have to try several before finding the right one to help make your book better.
Here are a few other methods you can use to the find an editor who fits your writing style:
Word of mouth
- Authors in your genre
- Social media groups for writers (e.g., Facebook or LinkedIn)
- Forums on popular writing websites
- Sales page of books – some people list their editor on their sales page. Look at the books of authors you respect and see if their editors are listed on the sales page.
A place you can post your job and hire freelance editors
. With nearly 60,000 editors on the site, however, it can be a daunting project to find the right editor. To narrow down the candidates, you could make a detailed project description with required skills, language competency, and portfolio requirements. This should help eliminate unqualified editors. You can also include a random requirement like “Respond with ‘Hey, Jedi!’” in to find those detail-oriented editors who actually read your entire post and follow directions.
At first, I didn't want to add Fiverr to this list because there are a LOT of editors on Fiverr that aren't exactly a good investment. But, that doesn't mean there aren't amazing opportunities out there. Editors like Kerrie McLoughlin, have done an amazing job with their Editor Fiver gigs
. However, if you do decide to go through Fiverr, then ABSOLUTELY use my test to ensure you aren't hiring someone who isn't qualified.
Caitlin Pyle wrote a guest post for us about proofreading. She also shared a list of students who've passed her intense general proofreading course, which included a final exam. If you're looking for someone to help you with that final polish, check out this list of proofreaders
Ever wondered if you have what it takes to proofread someone else's writing? Check out this article about how to become a proofreader
These professional organizations have searchable directories of their members and some allow you to add a job post for free.
Bad Editors and Services
Finally, there is one last piece of advice that could help you find a good editor and avoid bad service.
Some sites compile complaints from writers of bad or fraudulent service and post the list of people and businesses to warn other writers.
Here are a couple:
- Preditors & Editors has posted “Not Recommended” next to those in their directory who they’ve received the most complaints about
- SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) has a “Thumbs Down Agencies List”
Editing Software To Help
While proofreading software can never replace a human book editor, there are several tools and grammar checkers that can help supplement hiring an editor.
Check out my reviews and comparisons below:
So, What Are You Waiting For?
As you can see, picking an editor doesn’t have to be guesswork.
Instead, you can make the right choice from the beginning so as to find that winning team without having to waste oodles of dollars.
Also, to ensure you have the right editor who is worth the price they are asking for, make sure to download my free Editor Test and compare them with others in the market. This will help take the guesswork out of it and allow you to build the right team around YOUR writing.
You can either choose from our list of professional book editors above or find new ones out there and test them with our free book editing test.
Either way, choosing an editor has never been easier.