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How to Work with a Professional Editor

Writing a book is a labor of love. You pour your ideas and experience into the manuscript and you hope that your words land the way you intend with your readers. When you are ready to take your work to the next level, it’s time to bring in a professional editor.

Why Use a Professional Editor?

Before we get to the how, let’s briefly discuss the why:

My cousin/nephew/former-roommate is a really good writer. Can’t they edit it for me? Sure, you are welcome to do what you like. It all depends on your goals. If your goal for the book is to make a great impression and demonstrate the depth of knowledge you have gained in the course of your career, go with a professional editor rather than a new college graduate or someone who dabbles in the industry.

A professional editor knows the rules so that they can strategically break the rules. A book editor does not serve the same function as an academic one; in fact, you will want to retain the services of a professional editor who specializes in the genre you have in mind for your book. An academic editor focuses on impeccable grammar and strictly follows traditional syntax and mechanics, which might be a style too formal for a mainstream audience.

Manuscript to Book

The steps to get the draft of your manuscript into book-ready content are pretty simple. 

Write as much as you can on your own. You may employ a book coach like Cathy Fyock to help you get over writer’s block and help you keep to a writing schedule.

When your manuscript is at least halfway complete, reach out to potential editors. Some editors book out months in advance. It’s a good idea to start interviewing editors you are considering to narrow down two or three of your favorites.

Ask the editors you have in mind for references. It’s not common for an editor to provide before and after pieces, but they are willing to provide references from past clients. Contact the people provided and ask your network if they have worked with that editor before.

Finalize the Contract

When you have found the editor who is the right fit for your project, the next step is to make sure the engagement agreement or contract addresses all of your needs. Ask things like:

  • What they will edit (This is the time to mention if there are portions of your manuscript you need to leave intact.)
  • Number of revisions of the draft
  • Turnaround time for delivery of each revision
  • Method of delivery for the edits (Microsoft Word or Google Docs)

Keep your deadlines. Make sure to communicate with your editor if you run behind on finishing your draft. They will want to know when to expect your manuscript so that they can efficiently return it to you with suggested changes.

Make sure that you and your editor are on the same page about mutual expectations. You will have a much easier time finishing your book.

Chrissy Das is the owner of This Edited Life and a ghostwriter and editor who specializes in non-fiction. A creative analytical, she enjoys working with authors on their content strategy and websites. Chrissy works with service-based business owners and members of the creative community to help them better communicate their thought leadership and grow their business.