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So you want/need to work with an editor?

Here’s how to find one and what to expect from the process.

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Defining the scope of work and the editorial fees

OK, so you’ve found your ideal editor. Great! The next question, of course, is what is their fee? To determine this, you’ll need to provide your prospective editor with a sample of your work so that the editor can determine the complexity of editing you need. You’ll also need to let the editor know the total word count, which is a good indicator of how long it will take to edit your work. Total page count is less helpful because of the cacophony of font sizes and styles, not to mention page margins and spacing between lines. If you have an especially short turnaround time, that may also be a factor in the price.

Editorial fees are mostly based on the word count and what kind of editing you need in terms of complexity and subject. The latter comes into play if you’re writing about a niche subject and need an editor with specialized credentials. For example, maybe you’ve written a cookbook and would prefer an editor who is also an experienced recipe tester. (While the editor is not actually going to test your recipes, an editor who is also a veteran tester is more likely to spot potential flaws in a recipe.) Or maybe you’ve written a novel set in medieval times and are looking for an editor with deep knowledge of the era because they may be better equipped to fact-check the veracity of your settings and characters. 

More often than not, how much communication and reviewing you can expect from your editor are directly tied to the level of editing you need.

You should know how you’ll be getting your edits back. Every editor works differently, so ask if you’ll be seeing your edits piecemeal or if you’ll need to sit tight and wait until the editor has edited the entire book before you’ll get the manuscript back. If the latter is the case, will the editor give you periodic updates and communicate with you as you’re waiting? And once your editor has returned your fully edited manuscript to you, how will communications proceed from there? The majority of thoughts, comments, and suggestions from both parties are likely to happen in the margins (or in emails/messages), but some editors may also be willing to connect via a phone call or video chat to answer your questions and review some of the main issues that were flagged in the manuscript. 

More often than not, how much communication and reviewing you can expect from your editor are directly tied to the level of editing you need. Book coaching projects are very demanding of both authors and editors because the journey has just begun. Developmental/structural editing may result in rewriting and rearranging some of the text, which you’ll likely need your editor to at least spot-check. Line and copy editing may also require some additional reviewing. Proofreading is usually fairly cut-and-dried because the manuscript only needs a final polishing at that point. But regardless of what kind of editing you need, your editor should be clear about how many rounds of reviewing their fee includes. 


Put together, all of these editorial aspects constitute the scope of work the editor will be undertaking. These details, the fee(s), and the payment schedule are stipulated in the contract, whether that’s a formalized separate document/invoice or clear expectations laid out within an email. Some editors ask for partial payments up front and/or halfway through the project; others expect to be paid when the edits are returned to the author. Your editor should make all fees and payment dates clear.