Vetting Your Editor (Part 1) by Jessica Swift Eldridge

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There are many wonderful things about Indie publishing. As in life, though, the bad periodically comes with the good. This series on VETTING VENDORS is intended to help weed out the bad, so indie publishing can continue to be the amazing, ever-changing community of creative people it has come to be, full of people who strive to produce the best work that they can.


Unfortunately, there are many so-called “service providers” who will offer services to Indie authors though they lack the experience and/or credibility to complete the job effectively. Another unfortunate truth is that some have no intention of doing so. In response to this, The Author CEO  has asked some tried and true seasoned professionals to offer up tips to help readers and writers find the best—and most reliable—vendors for them.

jessicaThis week’s focus is on how to choose an editor, by Jessica Swift. Jessica owns Swift Ink Editorial Services and has provided editorial services for many award-winning and Amazon bestselling authors, as well as for traditional publishing houses, including W.W. Norton. Prior to going freelance, she was the managing editor for a publishing house with three imprints.

So, you are now the proud owner of a finished manuscript . . . Or at least as “finished” as you can make it. You know you need an editor, but you have no idea what to look for, what to ask, or what you even need. Well, I’m here to help.

(A note about cost, before we get started: costs vary from editor to editor, and often depend on the type of edit you’re getting (a full content edit that addresses structure, plot holes, narrative, etc. is less expensive than a copyedit, which looks at each word to ensure that the best choices are being made). While I know cost is important, this article is intended to help you look beyond that to find other criteria you should use to best determine if an editor is right for you.)

I think of my clients’ manuscripts as their babies. My writers have invested their time, energy, love, and dedication into creating something that they are very close to and, sometimes, have a hard time trusting with someone else. I get that. And this is why you shouldn’t just pass off your manuscript to the first person who comes along and says, “I’m an editor.” You wouldn’t leave your child with just anyone who hangs out a shingle offering child care, right? Same goes with your manuscript.

Working with an editor can be fulfilling, educational, inspiring, and just plain fun (TRUST ME). But how do you decide who’s “good” and who will be the best for you? Below I’ve outlined some steps you can take to vet an editor. I answer questions like, “What should I look for?” “What questions should I ask?” and “What else?” So, onward!

1. References. When it comes to any service provider (yes, editors are providing a service), it’s always important to ask for references. Don’t feel like you’re insulting the editor by asking for this information. I am always happy to offer names of my clients—I’m proud of them! How many to ask for? I suggest three. And I encourage you to specify the kind of references you’d like. Former clients? Current clients? Colleagues? Go for it! Don’t be shy!

2. Social media. Nowadays, everyone is on social media, and your prospective editor should be as well. Check ’em out! Visit their Facebook page(s). Do you like what they post? Go to Twitter. Are their Tweets interesting to you? Do you feel like you’d want to engage with this person? Yes, it’s work, but the more investment of time you make into finding the perfect editor for you, the better the experience will be. (And, this seems like a no-brainer, but I’m seeing it more and more. Make sure their tweets/posts/updates are spelled right. We all make mistakes, yes, but . . . Sigh . . .)

3. Consultations. This one is very important to me. I recently had a plumber come to my house. He reviewed what I wanted done, laid out the costs for me, and answered all of my questions. And he didn’t charge me a dime. He was thorough, honest, and available. Just what I want to see in someone I’m going to hire to do work for me. And that should be important to you, too. Is the editor willing to Swift_Ink_for_webdiscuss with you what service you might need? Is s/he willing to answer your questions early on? I’m not saying you should take advantage of free consultations, but I am saying that since I expect this from the people I pay for services, I’m happy to offer consultations to my prospective clients, and I encourage you to use the consultation as a gauge to determine if you want to work with that editor. Did you “click” when you chatted (via phone, Skype, whatever)? Can you see yourself talking to this person again? Do you want to?

4. ASK QUESTIONS! You must ask questions. This is another effective tool to determine how well you and the editor click. After you’ve asked and gotten the answers, how did you feel about the interview? Were the answers honest and straightforward? Or, were you more confused after you got the answer? The answers to the questions you ask yourself are an important barometer against which you can measure how you might feel about working with that editor. Not sure what to ask? Here, I’ll help you (hey, that’s what I’m here for!):

a. How long have you been in the industry? How long have you been freelancing? (Yes,   there’s a difference. He or she may have been in the publishing industry for twenty years,    but may have been freelancing for five of them.)

b. What’s your editorial process?

c. What’s your normal turnaround time?

d. What happens after I get my manuscript back?

And there you have it. Some ways to help you find the best editor for YOU. It takes communication, research, and diligence for you to find the person you trust with your baby. After all, you shouldn’t trust just anyone with your baby, now should you?

As a follow-up to this article, I’ll soon be discussing the types of editorial services that are available, how to determine which service or services you might need, and some of the costs associated with editorial services.

Feel free to leave comments, ask questions, and let me know your thoughts.


Be sure to stay tuned for part two when Jessica discusses types of editors!


Comment here!


  1. What a great article. I wish I had these tips before hiring my first editor. Don’t get me wrong, she was good, and I learned a lot from her, but we just didn’t have that special connection. I probably submitted my manuscript too soon, but I had no clue what I was doing and I needed some guidance of what I was doing wrong… and right.
    I think your tips are right on target and will be very helpful!

    • Thanks, Amy…
      I think with the vast seas of vendors out there, particularly editors, it is important to have those questions in your pocket to ensure who you hire can meet your needs.

  2. Super helpful, but I’d expect nothing less from MY editor (nobody else can have her). Ha!

    I will add this article to my ‘resource’ list on — great job, ladies!

  3. Thank you, Amy. I’m glad you found the information helpful. And keep writing! 🙂

  4. Great article, looking forward to part 2. I am fortunate in having found an excellent editor, but this is good advice for anyone

  5. Terrific piece, Jess. As someone who spent 25 years as a print journalist, I have a special appreciation for solid editors. The only other thing I’d mention is the writer who rushes to print without bothering to have his/her work professionally edited (and I don’t mean by a friend or relative). This is a mistake, and has the unfortunate side effect of tainting the perception of all self-published writers. I’ve had too many book editors at mainstream media outlets tell me they won’t even consider reviewing self-published books. (See: ) At least part of the reason can be traced to poor or no editing. Bottom line – if you write, hold yourself to a high standard.

  6. Thanks for the great article. Especially liked the list of questions. Looking forward to Part II


  1. […] Thank you to the incomparably Naomi Blackburn of The Author CEO for including me in her “Vetting Vendors” series, aimed at helping Indie authors determine who they might best work with. Below is the full article, as it appears on her blog.  […]

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  1. […] Thank you to the incomparably Naomi Blackburn of The Author CEO for including me in her “Vetting Vendors” series, aimed at helping Indie authors determine who they might best work with. Below is the full article, as it appears on her blog.  […]

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