Master Guide to Selecting the Best Book Editor

By October 12, 2016 Book Editing 21 Comments

book-editors

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.

In this article you will learn:

  • The different types of editors and book editing services
  • How to quantitatively compare editors
  • List of the top book editors by price and specialty

Types of Book Editing Services

So what does a book editor do?

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.

editor-team-confusion

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:

Editors Services Prices Specialty
Val Breit
(My personal Editor)
LE and CE
Proofreading
Starts at $600
Starts at $400
Nonfiction-Business, Self Help, Memoir, Health & Fitness
Jennifer Blanchard Developmental $.02 per word Nonfiction, Romance, Mystery, Thriller
Chantel Hamilton Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
Starts at $8000
Starts at $4000
Starts at $1000
Nonfiction-Business, Memoir, Creativity, Lifestyle
Katharine D’Souza Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
£26.50 per hour
£26.50 per hour
£4 per 1000 words
Contemporary/Women’s, Thrillers, Historical
Lorraine Reguly LE and CE
Proofreading
$.02 per word
$.01 per word
Nonfiction, Fiction
Philip Athans Developmental & CE
CE
$.03 per word
$.02 per word
Adult & YA Fiction (Sci-fi, Fantasy, horror)
Sarah Fox Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.03 per word
$.02 per word
$.01 per word
Young Adult, Middle Grade, Literary Fiction, Fantasy
Victoria Mixon Developmental
LE and CE
$420-4,200
$8,400-12,600
Mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, and thriller
Thelma Mariano Developmental
LE and CE
$.01-.03 per word
$.02-.04 per word
Women’s Fiction, Paranormal, Fantasy, Suspense
Jessi Rita Hoffman Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
Contact for prices
Contact for prices
Contact for prices
Nonfiction, Business books, Spirituality, Novels
Roz Morris Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
£.o45 per word
£26.50 per hour
£26.50 per hour
Contemporary, Literary historic, thrillers, Fiction
Leigh Hogan Developmental
Proofreading
$.010 per word
$.03 per word
Romance, Sci Fi, Horror, Fiction
C. S. Lakin Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$70 per hour
$70 per hour
$70 per hour
Fantasy-Sci-fi, Mystery, Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Wendy Janes Proofreading £3-£5 per 1000 words Contempory, literary, romance, mystery
Cassandra Dunn Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$60 per hour
$50 per hour
$50 per hour
General Fiction, Women’s, Memoir, Young Adult
Debra Hartmann Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
Contact for Price
$1-5 per 250
$1-3 per 250
Fiction, most genres
Judith Henstra Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.01 per word
$.01 per word
$.01 per word
Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Nonfiction
Maya Rock Developmental
LE and CE
$600-$4500
$1500-$4500
Young Adult, Romance, Thriller, Literary
Jodie Renner Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.015-.03 per word
$.015-.03 per word
$.01 per word
Thrillers, Suspense, Crime, Mysteries
Derek Murphy Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.02 per word
$.04 per word
$.06 per word
Young adult, Fantasy, Nonfiction business, thrillers
Tara Keogh Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.08 per word
$.04 per word
$.02 per word
General Fiction, Nonfiction, Sci-Fi, Thrillers
Linda Yezak Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$30 per hour
$30 per hour
$30 per hour
Christian/Inspiration fiction, Mystery, Sweet Romance, Literary Fiction
Mikaela Pederson LE and CE $.025-.045 per word Fantasy, Women’s/Literary Fiction, Romance, Nonfiction
Sue Copsey Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$28.50 per hour
$28.50 per hour
$28.50 per hour
Nonfiction, Young Adult, Children’s
Sarah Kolb-Williams LE and CE $.03 per word Fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Leslie Watts
Writership
Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.02-.1 per word
$.02-.1 per word
$.02-.1 per word
Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, YA, Romance
Leslie Watts
Before&After
Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.02-.1 per word
$.02-.1 per word
$.02-.1 per word
Self-help, Memoir, Business, How-to
Liz Dexter LE and CE
Proofreading
£7 per 1000 words
£7 per 1000 words
How-to, health & fitness, instruction manuals, marketing
Liam Carnahan Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$0.004 per word
$.02 per word
$.0085 per word
Fiction, Sci-Fi, Mystery/Horror, Drama
Jenny Hutton Developmental
Line Edit
£500 – £700
£400 – £600
Women’s Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, Erotica
Jason Whited Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.02 per word
$.015 per word
$.0125 per word
Speculative Fiction, Thrillers, Romance, Sci-Fi
Deborah Bancroft LE and CE
Proofreading
$.02 per word
$.014 per word
Mystery, Thriller, Speculative fiction, Magic realism
Katie McCoach Developmental
LE and CE
Proofreading
$.025-.03 per word
$.018-.028 per word
$.009-.015 per word
Romance, YA, NA, SFF (YA only)

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.  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?

editor-book-arrowThen, 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!

  • Compare editors
  • Ensure they’re worth the price
  • Don’t get scammed!

Download the Test Now!

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,
  • Dictionaries also disagree sometimes. The preferred dictionary for this piece is the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition.

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

  • Friends
  • 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.

book-editor-name-on-amazon-page

Reedsy

This 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!

reedsy-book-editing-services

Upwork

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.

Fiverr

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.

Editor Directories

These professional organizations have searchable directories of their members and some allow you to add a job post for free.

Why No Book Editing Agencies?

Personally, I’m not a big fan of book editing service agencies because it feels like your precious book is just shipped off, so there aren’t any agencies listed here. I do support platforms, directories, and all the other ways listed above for finding the right editor and teammate for your book.

But, let me stress that last part – “teammate.”  Because that’s what a good editor is!

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”

bad-editors-to-stay-away-from

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.

editor-book-arrowAlso, 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.

Cheers,

Dave-Signature

About Dave Chesson

When I am not fighting dragons or chasing the bogey man out of my kids closet, I like using my previous Online Optimization skills to help other authors with the 'technical' stuff and get the right authors to the top of Amazon and any other eBook service out there.

  • Scott Allan

    Amazing post, Dave, and definitely an important topic. My first book I used one of the larger “editorial agencies” you mentioned. The quality wasn’t bad but there was no direct contact with the editor. Just ship it to them and they ship it back. I’ve tried out several editors now and found a very good one who did a great job on my list book. Once you find a good editor, stick with him/her and build a relationship if you can. Thanks for the list provided and this editors test is a great addition.

    • Thanks Scott. Yeah, I completely agree. But the best kind of editing is when the editor knows me, my style and what I want to do. That’s why Val Breit became my teammate in book editing – and it makes life soooo much easier.

    • Kerrie McLoughlin

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience on Fiverr. I feel like their cheerleader right now but I know there are some terrible sellers there … always have been. You can’t even always tell by the gig description because some sellers simply copy the description of someone else. But reviews do not lie. Hire someone with no fewer than 500 reviews, I would say, and all positive.

  • Joanna

    wow, this is an awesome post. Thanks Dave!

    I like the ‘teammate’ approach to editors.

    • It was the best mind shift I ever had. I used to think of them as the enemy…go figure.

  • Ayodeji Awosika

    Hey Dave,

    Excellent thoughts here.

    An unedited book is a major turn off to readers. Even worse, they’ll leave bad reviews noting the poor editing.

  • Kerrie McLoughlin

    I’m not sure why you said “ha” after Fiverr. I’ve been a proofreader (more like a line editor/copy editor, really) for 3.5 years and have worked on many book projects there and outside of Fiverr. (writerkerrie) … Yes, some editors on there are crap and I agree, but many of us ROCK! I only charge $5 for 1,500 words of text (I only receive $4) because I LOVE WHAT I DO and I love working from home and being able to homeschool my kids. I am also an author myself and want to help other authors by not overcharging them. I have received MANY book projects from authors who paid the rates you describe above and I ended up finding DOZENS more mistakes and GLARING errors that for $70/hour … well, they should have been caught. Please don’t write off Fiverr. Some of us care about what we do and we do it well and you can tell from my almost-1,600 great reviews that this is true. Don’t hire someone if their gig is written poorly and they barely have any reviews!

    • I think you have a point. My business contact for my next picture book for children has found someone on Fiverr that I’m pretty excited about.

    • Hi Kerrie. Thanks for pointing that out. You’re right, there are some good ones on Fiverr. Me personally, I haven’t had good luck with it – actually quite rotten luck with it. However, in a hope to not deter people from Fiverr, but make sure they understand that “anyone” can just sign up to do it, they should be weary of it – but definitely not discard it. So, I’ve made some edits above 😉

      • Kerrie McLoughlin

        Thanks for that! I know some great editors on there but they won’t take on book projects. I love taking on custom book projects on Fiverr 🙂

      • Kerrie McLoughlin

        Also, I think you are brilliant to give a test to potential editors. It’s a decent amount of money to invest in your book project and could be a long-term professional relationship, so checking someone out thoroughly first is the best thing to do! Thanks for the mention 🙂

  • Mindy Durbin Schoeneman

    You know, I have to say that some of the per-word prices in this post are much lower than what I know to be industry average pricing. Take a look at these rates from the Editorial Freelancers Association (keeping in mind that a manuscript page is typically 250 words): http://www.the-efa.org/res/rates.php/.

    Additionally, I think that many GREAT, very reputable editors absolutely will not complete a sample edit for free. They can point you to their work, their testimonials, and their references, though, free of charge. And if you’re curious why editors I know do not offer a free sample edit, check out this video to illustrate the point. https://youtu.be/essNmNOrQto

    • Well, hopefully, now self published authors can now see that there are a lot of AMAZING editors who can do outstanding work for a LOT cheaper than that list. As for the free editing sample, yeah – so long as the editor has solid proof that they are a legit editor with great credentials, that’s all you need. But if they don’t have that and won’t provide a free sample edit, then there are a lot of fish in the sea and it’s best to move on.

    • Thelma M.

      Funny video! But as a freelance editor, I want to point out that “proving” my skills is only part of the equation. The bigger reason for me to offer a sample edit is to determine if the writing is READY for an edit. Learning to write fiction is a craft. Beginning authors are often better served by attending workshops or joining a critique group to develop their skills BEFORE submitting their work for editing. I simply cannot take on a new client without seeing any of their work.

  • Kerrie McLoughlin

    I love the mention on Amazon. I think I have only had one author do that for me. I wish more would do that so we know who to hire or avoid!

  • Story Season

    The best editor I’ve ever used was right here:
    https://uk.fiverr.com/michaelikejiani/

    Cheap, and reliable!

  • Amar Vyas

    This is a very useful list, and a great post, Dave! Thanks for putting this together.

    • Glad you liked it. Yeah, I started putting that list together when I was searching for an editor…and figured it would be good to get out there for everyone else. I’ll keep it up-to-date as I go.

  • scmathisen

    You have Leslie Watts listed twice.

    • Yup…that’s because she has two websites with two different focuses and structure.

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