by Ellie Maas Davis

When it comes to finding an editor to help you with your book, make sure it’s someone who responds to what you’ve written and how you’ve written it. Make no mistake: no one likes to be edited. It can be an incredibly painful process. You’re basically paying someone to poke holes in what you’ve done and critique every aspect of it from concept to comma use. Like many things in the publishing process, it requires a leap of faith, and if you want to ensure your book is marketable—or at the very least navigable to readers—than it’s absolutely necessary.

Here are a few pointers in choosing an editor:

1. Find an editor who specializes in your genre—if you’ve written a book about the Civil War, by all means, find an editor who has edited similar titles.

2. Ensure that a potential editor follows a specific style guideline—and that it’s what you and your publisher prefer.

3. Find an editor who’s genuinely excited about your project—again, your editor should respond to you and your book.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for work samples.

5. Once you review an editor’s work, don’t be afraid to share your particular needs—you might want less insight on character development and more guidance on plot.

6. Be specific about your writing strengths and weaknesses—do you have an issue with tense or point of view? Share these concerns with a potential editor.

Ultimately, what reinforces the collaborative spirit between writer and editor is a clear understanding centered on ethics and expectations. It’s sort of like a marriage, except you’re probably not going to love your editor—not at first. But down the road, once you’ve come to appreciate the editing process and how the editing process led to an end product you’re genuinely proud of, you’ll realize your editor was essential—and that it was sort of like having a dentist, project manager, magician, and mother hen on your side. Sure it hurt at first. Sure it was a little daunting and often tedious—but then most things worth having don’t come easy.

Ellie Maas Davis
Ellie Maas Davis is the owner of Pressque, a publishing consultation firm based in Charleston, South Carolina that offers editing, ghostwriting, and marketing services to authors and publishers. She is the author of Shooter: A Woman’s Journey in Combat from Behind the Camera, The Humours of Folly, See Charleston in a Day, and over twenty ghostwritten works of fiction and nonfiction.