Authors face two important questions when they complete a draft of a manuscript: who shall I engage to edit my work, and how can I evaluate an editor to assure I’m making a wise choice?

Frequently, submitting authors tell us their manuscript has been professionally edited. In many cases, however, we discover that the editor is not a qualified professional but a good friend of the author who offered to help, and that the work is poorly executed. (Telling your potential publisher you edited your own work is also a bright red flag!)

I discourage authors from engaging a friend who may be easy on you to edit your work. Becoming a book editor requires much more than loving books, reading voraciously, or majoring in English! Much like a lawyer practices law or a doctor practices medicine, professional editors practice editing, and I can assure you, one never perfects the art.

Finding an editor you can work with cooperatively can be challenging, as can finding one with the right credentials who offers their skills for a reasonable cost. Be cautious, and don’t settle. Look for an editor who has demonstrated a high level of skill in editing previously published work—as recognized by respected reviewers or publishers—and who is well versed in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the industry bible for book editors.

Price is of course a big concern; depending on the condition and complexity of the manuscript, great editing can be expensive, but standard industry rates usually apply. I recommend avoiding editors who bill by the hour rather than by the word. Although engaging the services of a slower, meticulous editor can be a plus, the cost for a word rate is more predictable. At Brandylane, we follow industry standards and rates, and we always work hard to make the syntax sing while preserving what makes a book truly memorable: the author’s voice.

written by Robert Pruett, Publisher