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How to Find a Book Editor

You’ve made the smart choice to hire an editor for your book. Now comes the tricky part: finding the perfect person to edit your book. It can be overwhelming to find the right book editor who will take care of your baby and make it the best book possible. Here, you’ll learn how to find a book editor for your manuscript who will help you transform it into a book your readers will absolutely love.

Inside the article you’ll find:

Audio: How to Find a Book Editor

Why You Should Hire a Book Editor

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already decided to get an editor for your book, but just in case, I want to remind you of how important editing is. Professional editing is one of the best investments you can make for your book.

Professional book editors are trained to improve your manuscript so it’s easy to read. They’ll help you make improvements so you can have a book that readers rave about. That professional insight can be the difference between a 3-star book and a 5-star bestseller.

No matter your genre, your book can benefit from good editing. Editors can even help cookbook authors refine the content in their cookbooks, make sure recipes can be followed, and that ingredient lists are all formatted in the same way. Every book benefits from editing!

Types of Editing

There are different types of editing, and not all editors specialize in all types of editing. In order to find the right editor for your book manuscript, you first need to decide what you’d like help with.

There’s some overlap between the different editing types, and different people define styles of editing in different ways, so you’ll want to ask your editor exactly what they’ll be looking for when they edit your manuscript. Even though exact definitions can differ, I hope this piece will give you some clarity around the major editing categories.

Freelance Editors vs. Editors at Publishers

Before we dive into the types of editing, I briefly want to explain the difference between a freelance editor you hire to edit a self-published book and an editor you’d work with at a traditional publisher.

Editors who work for publishers will absolutely edit your book manuscript and offer suggestions for how to improve it. But editors at publishers do more than that: they’re your liaison to the higher-ups, and they’re the ones who fight for your book to be published.

Editors at traditional publishing houses are the ones who help you perfect the positioning of your book. They’ll also help with some marketing tasks, and they’re the person who makes sure your book gets published based on the vision you both have.

Freelance editors, on the other hand, generally focus on improving the content of your book manuscript. They offer suggestions and make corrections to your writing based on your needs and the types of editing they offer. Let’s dive into those different types of editing.

Developmental Editing

What is developmental editing? Developmental editing is big-picture editing of your manuscript. Developmental editors make sure your manuscript stands as a cohesive unit and that there aren’t any holes or inconsistencies in your arguments or story.

Developmental editors specializing in fiction make sure the book’s story makes sense and that you’ve fully developed your story and characters. Fiction developmental editors also often make suggestions about dialogue and sentence structure.

In nonfiction, developmental editors focus on whether you’ve made and supported a coherent argument. Often developmental editing starts before writing even begins in nonfiction. Here, you’ll work to improve your book’s outline and make sure you haven’t missed any important information.

Nonfiction developmental editing can also take place after you’ve written your first draft. In this stage, your editor will work with you to make sure you’ve adequately explained your ideas, your arguments are coherent, and you’ve met your goals for your book.

Structural Editing (also called Substantive Editing or Content Editing)

Structural editing has a lot of overlap with developmental editing. It deals with, as the name suggests, the structure of the book. The goal of structural editing is to help your manuscript flow as effortlessly as possible to make it easy for your reader to understand what you’ve written.

In nonfiction, structural editors and content editors may move around chapters or sections to make your explanations clearer and your arguments more effective. Structural edits would also remove any sections that aren’t directly related to your thesis.

Line Editing

Line editors work to improve the language of your writing. A line editor’s goal is to make your book manuscript as easy and effortless to read as possible. They ensure that the readers enjoy their reading experience and they fully understand what you’re trying to say.

Line edits usually involve changing the structure of sentences or even paragraphs to help you communicate with your reader more clearly. They’ll also address tone or word choice if what you’ve written is out of sync with what the reader expects or the rest of the manuscript.

Copy Editing

Copy editing is less extensive than developmental editing, structural editing, or line editing. Most copy editors focus on looking for grammar or punctuation mistakes. If you’re using a particular style manual with your book (Chicago, APA, etc.), the copy editor will make sure you’ve followed the rules of that style.


Proofreaders look over a finalized draft of a book for typos, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors. Essentially, proofreading is the final check before the book is printed. It’s the last chance to catch any remaining errors so they don’t make it into the completed book.

The name “proofreading” is quite literal and comes from reading proofs, or the manuscript laid out in its final form in preparation for printing. A proofreader would give the typeset book a final check for errors before sending it off to the printers.

How to find a book editor, how much they cost, and a rundown of the different types of editing your book needs

How to Find the Right Editor for Your Book

There are several ways to find a professional editor. Here are the most common ways to find a great editor for your book:

  • Word of Mouth — Ask around! Do you have any friends who have worked with an editor they absolutely loved? Referrals are one of the best ways to find a good editor.
  • Acknowledgments in Books in Your Niche — Often writers will thank their editors in the acknowledgments sections of their books. Take a look inside your favorite books in your niche to see if an editor is mentioned. Also check the copyright page.
  • Professional Societies — Professional editing societies are wonderful places to find a book editor. In the US, try ACES: The Society for Editing or the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA).
  • Editing Services — With the surge in the popularity of self-publishing, new editing services are popping up to link authors with editors.
  • Google — As a last resort, you can always use a search engine to find a freelance editor in your niche or genre. But, be sure to do your due diligence—ranking high in search results doesn’t automatically mean you’re a good editor.

Should You Use Editing Services?

You can also try using book editing services that aggregate editors into one spot. Some niche websites specialize in catering to authors, so you can find some high-quality book editors there. It can be tougher to find a good editor from websites that include all types of freelancers, but it’s still possible.

Also remember that there are many editors who won’t appear on these editing services. If editors are doing well enough through referrals and other media, they won’t need to work through services that will take a cut of their profits.

Here are services where you can find freelance editors:

  • Reedsy (the best of the bunch, in my opinion)
  • Ebook Launch
  • Upwork
  • Fiverr

Do You Need to Find a Book Editor Near You?

No, you don’t have to find a book editor who lives in your area. These days, almost all of the editing process is done virtually. Your editor will generally mark up their comments using Track Changes in Microsoft Word, although some editors do still mark up a printed manuscript by hand.

How to Find a Book Editor in Your Area

If you’re really dead set on finding an editor you can meet face-to-face, you’ll need to narrow your search a bit. It can be tough to find a local freelance book editor if you don’t live in a big metropolitan area, but try checking with any local written media outlets (newspapers, blogs, magazines) or the English department at community colleges or high schools.

Just be aware that if you do decide to go local, you may not have the luxury of working with an editor who specializes in your niche. That may be fine if you just need someone to proofread your final draft, but if you’re looking for developmental or substantive edits, it’s better to find an editor in your niche.

How to Choose the Best Editor for Your Book

You’ve done your research and you’ve come up with a list of potential editors for your book. How do you choose the right editor from the group? How do you tell who will be a good book editor and who you should avoid working with?

What to Look For in a Book Editor

There are a few things to keep an eye out for when you’re searching for a freelance book editor. Look for:

  • An editor who specializes in your niche, because they’ll give you more accurate and higher-quality feedback
  • Editing experience, including any editing-specific training or relevant education in your niche (For example, I edit books for a lot of medical and health professionals because I have a PhD in Biology.)
  • Testimonials and/or a portfolio that show the quality of work you can expect from the editor

How do I find a reputable book editor? You find a reputable book editor by asking colleagues for referrals or looking at the editor’s testimonials. They should have a list of books they’ve edited and clients they’ve worked with. Some editors will also offer references if you ask for them.

Steps to Find the Best Editor for Your Book

How do I hire a book editor? To hire a book editor, follow these steps:

  1. As you wrap up your writing process, research editors in your niche and create a list of candidate editors based on the type of editing you need.
  2. Create a shortlist of 2 or 3 top candidates you want to work with.
  3. Talk to the editors directly to feel out whether they’d be a good fit for your work. You should feel confident that they understand your vision for your book and they can help you improve your manuscript.
  4. Ask the editors you like if they offer a free sample edit. If they don’t, they may edit a test page for you for free, or they might agree to edit a single chapter for a fee.
  5. Choose your editor and sign a contract that includes what you’ll pay, when you’ll pay it, and how long it will take them to get you the edits.
  6. Send your manuscript to the editor and wait for your edits.
  7. Receive your feedback from the editor. You may want to schedule a call or video chat with them to talk through their suggestions.
  8. Incorporate your editor’s suggestions into your manuscript.

If it’s in your budget, you can hire multiple editors who specialize in different stages of the editing process or have a single editor work through your manuscript multiple times. 

Multiple rounds of editing make sure you’re creating the best book manuscript possible, even if all but one of those rounds are self-edits. So, even if you can only afford to hire a professional editor to work through your manuscript once, it’s a very wise investment.

How Much Does Professional Book Editing Cost?

How much does it cost to hire a book editor? Costs to hire a book editor vary depending on the type of editing, experience, niche. 

For example, highly technical editing for fields like science or medicine is more expensive than fiction editing. Labor-intensive developmental editing and structural editing will cost more than proofreading.

Average Cost to Hire a Nonfiction Book Editor in 2021

Here are the average rates different types of nonfiction book editors are charging according to the Editorial Freelancers Association:

  • Developmental editing: $0.04-$0.049/word
  • Line editing: $0.04-$0.049/word
  • Copy editing: $0.03-$0.039/word
  • Proofreading: $0.02-$0.029/word

If your editor has a lot of experience or is in very high demand, you can expect to pay more than these rates. If they’re just starting out, they may charge less, but you generally get the quality you pay for with editing.

What About Amateur Editors?

If you have a friend who majored in English in college, by all means, have them read through your book and let you know what they think! Just keep in mind that if they haven’t trained as an editor, they may be able to catch grammatical errors, but they might not give you the kind of in-depth feedback a professional editor can.

Some of the best amateur editors for content are beta readers who closely resemble your ideal reader. If you have audience members whom your book is aimed at, ask a handful of these superfans if they’d be willing to give you feedback on a draft. Be sure to mention them in your acknowledgments!

Your Homework: Go Find Your Book Editor!

I hope I’ve empowered you to find a great editor for your book. I know it can be difficult to find someone to trust with your book manuscript, but the insight you’ll get from a great editor is well worth the money. Professional editing is one of the best ways to dramatically improve the quality of your book.

If you’ve finalized your manuscript and you’re ready to hire an editor, schedule time in your calendar to do research and create your shortlist of editors to look into further. If you’re not quite ready for an editor yet, bookmark this page so you can come back when you are ready to find your perfect book editor. 

Interested in working with me as an editor? Check out my editing services.