Independent Editors

Happy Monday!

A few weeks ago I reached out to my fellow bloggers about freelance editor recommendations and, although I got some great names and assistance (thanks!), it made me realize just how little I know about the process of hiring an independent editor to help with the development and revision of a novel. Up till now I have relied on my beta readers and my agent to get feedback during the drafting/revision process prior to submission, so I faced a bit of a dilemma when my agent and I realized that additional changes were still needed to one of my novels but that both of us were now too close to the material to know the best way to proceed. An independent editor seemed the obvious solution – but, after my agent lucked out with her contacts (all of which were over committed already), I said I’d try and identify additional options. It was at this point that I realized just how little I knew about the process…and how hard it was to identify the ‘right fit’ when it came to freelance editorial services. Not only did many seem super expensive, few I initially identified seemed to really align with what I needed. This was where I appreciated getting personal recommendations (again, thanks!) but hiring an editor still seems like a daunting task (especially given the potential fees involved!)…so I thought, why not open it to the TKZ community to see what their experiences have been…:)

So for all of you TKZers who have used independent editors, I’d appreciate honest answers and feedback to the following questions:

  • How did you identify your editor? What research did you undertake? Did you access any useful resources beyond getting other author recommendations?
  • What key questions did you ask to ascertain that this editor was the right fit for you?
  • What was your experience with using the editor you selected? Was their input as valuable as you were hoping? Did the relationship continue for further books?
  • How much did the editor charge – ball park figure – if you don’t mind me asking?!
  • What feedback or advice would you give to someone seeking an independent editor to help with their novel?

Thanks in anticipation for all your advice and shared experiences (and recommendations too if you have them!).



22 thoughts on “Independent Editors

  1. Definitely good questions. Most will give you sample edits of a specified number of pages. I’m lucky right now to be working with the editor of my first couple of books with Five Star who went independent shortly after I got the rights back to my books. She’s got her own small publishing company now, but she’s still willing to edit for me.

    If I had to find a new editor, I think I’d offer a section that I knew had problems (or create some) for my sample to see what they’d do with it. I don’t want an editor to rewrite my book, but I want them to tell me what they think I could/should do to fix it. My editor is always open to discuss any suggested changes (and she calls them suggestions) so we both know where we’re coming from.

    I can’t help with pricing, as my editor and I have more or less a set fee. She bases her rates on hours, but I know many charge by the word (which is good incentive to get rid of all those extra justs, thats, reallys, etc.!)

    I’m sure more experienced TKZers will have better advice.

    • Clare –
      This is a timely post for me.
      The fabulous editor who worked with me on the first three books of my series has retired. I had the good fortune to meet Jodie Rennet here on TKZ (veteran TKZers will remember her outstanding craft posts).
      I submitted a sample to her and she sent edit suggestions back.
      She specialized in mystery, suspense and thrillers and was in demand. Her sending edits identified she was interested in working with me. She indicated price per word. I reviewed her edit suggestions then gladly accepted. A great working relationship, friendship, and three successful books were the result.
      It’s going to be very difficult to replace her!
      Any suggestions or recommendations would be much appreciated.
      (BTW TKZers Jodie’s books on writing craft are excellent…check Amazon site)

  2. When I decided that I wanted my stories in books, I looked at the websites of authors I knew personally. The editor I chose lives in my town-that was a big plus for me. I really didn’t know what I was doing.

    First I checked out the websites of a couple of authors I know personally. One I looked at writes historical fiction. That’s not my genre, but after looking at her website, then her editor’s website and portfolio, I contacted her. She was taking new clients at the time and asked me to send her some chapters. After that, we met, and formed a relationship. I really didn’t investigate anyone else. I was satisfied with her, especially after her first edits came back and I knew she understood my voice for these three books, which are now on Amazon. She’s content editing my first novel as we speak, and again, she completely understands my voice.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it! 🙂

  3. Good morning, Clare!
    I realized I needed a professional editor and mentor as I was writing my first novel. After a couple of missteps, I went to the “Christian Writers Market Guide” and read through all the editors’ bios. I picked out about seven or eight that seemed like they would be a good fit and emailed each of them. They all said they’d be interested, so I sent a sample of my work and set up phone meetings.
    My questions were just the usual:: number years experience, recommendations, genre, educational background, price, availability, etc.
    The phone conversations were really important in order to get a sense of how we could work together. I also wanted to get an idea of how well connected the editor was with the general publishing community since I was looking for mentoring in that area.
    Frankly, it was a hard decision, but I was happy with my final choice even though she wasn’t available for a few months. We worked through several versions of the manuscript and the final product was a result of her constructive feedback.
    Even though my publisher has an editor, I will definitely use a freelance editor for my current WIP.
    Good luck!

  4. Source: An expansive list of independent editors advertise on the Kindle Boards. Many have garnered multiple comments from satisfied self-pubbed authors. Some have lot of past experience working for traditional publishing companies in the past. Prices, experience, and genres covered vary considerably depending on what type of editing you want: content, line, grammar, etc. Check both the Writer’s Café section ( and the “yellow Pages” section listed at the same link. As I remember, most, if not all the editors advertising did offer sample edits for free.

    You do not have to join to read these boards.

    My experience: For my first book, four years ago, I hired a woman with good reviews for overall content editing. My book was 58,000 words and she charged less than $150, which included an edit, plus one more after I made some of the changes she suggested. For me, it was well worth the money, since she pointed out several issues I had not noticed. (The editor I used has since died.)

    A positive factor about checking the Kindle Boards is the reviews seem honest. Many of the editors have reviews from repeat customer, whose books you can sample on Amazon. Most of the best-selling authors on Kindle Boards do use editors.

  5. I gave a workshop on this very topic last year at the RMFW conference in Denver and in preparation, interviewed 12 different developmental editors. The general price point was between $1500-$2400 for a 80,000 word women’s fiction novel. Most have a waiting list of around a month and will take a month to turn back your MS as they generally work on only 1-2 novels at a time, so if you have a deadline, take that into consideration (one editor had an 8-month wait list but he also gave 60-70 pages worth of feedback!). One of the important questions I’d ask is what you get back for your money – generally they will provide an editorial letter AND line edits but not all do the latter. A couple of them also provide some feedback on marketing position, genre, and even querying hints. And ask how long a letter– I got taken once by a NY Times best-selling author who also freelance edits – got what amounted to 2 1/2 single-spaced comments. You should instead expect between 8-25 pages, covering pacing, characterization, setting, plot, style. One place to turn is with genre associations – my go-to is the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association (WFWA). I agree on asking for a sample edit and having a pre-interview before hiring them. Also they should give you a one-hour consultation after you receive their feedback so you can to ask clarifying questions. Charges range from by the page (with 250 words per page as their basis) to by the word to just a flat fee unless you have written a huge book. You might also want to check out that they have edited other books in your genre to see if they’re familiar with the conventions/tropes. The last editor I hired for my debut novel also included brainstorming ideas to address a couple of major issues, and one turned out to be the key to making the whole MS come together so she was worth every penney.

    • Thanks Maggie! Part of the reason I’m even looking is that the editors on my agent’s list were already months out – but I might still fall back on those. I do feel uneasy with the disparity in feedback that you might get given the price involved:)

  6. I was a freelance fiction editor for 11 years, before I retired from it last year. (Thinking about getting back into it on a limited basis.)
    If you go to, you can find a lot of very detailed info on my editing process and pricing, including what I looked for — so much more than basic proofreading! You can also click on “Testimonials” to see how my editing helped authors and the kinds of issues I addressed.

    I can’t emphasize enough to be sure to get a sample edit of at least 3-4 pages (7-10 double-spaced would be best), even if you have to pay for it. And do this for several potential editors. Have them do the sample edit on your first chapter — that way they get introduced to the story and characters as the reader would.

    I always did several passes back and forth, an interactive process, and charged by the word. This way the author knows upfront how much it will cost for the whole manuscript. My clients paid me in installments as we went along.

    I hope this helps.
    Jodie Renner (TKZ Alumna)

  7. I’ve had great luck working with Diane O’Connell of Write to Sell as a developmental editor. I first found her through another writer’s recommendation. She asked for a writing sample, then we had a phone conversation to see if there was a fit between my goals and her services, but also whether we felt we could work together. Chemistry is so important! While she doesn’t confine her work to mystery, her methods, expert guidance and non-judgmental approach strengthened my manuscript as well as my skills, and have put me on the path to a more publishable novel. I also attended her writing retreat (three times!) and was pleasantly surprised at how much I gained from both group settings (only 5 authors admitted each retreat) as well as the one on one work. Regarding fees, she has several packages and approaches that you can choose from, not a per word rate. I would advise others to ask around and have a phone call with the person you’re considering before you commit.

  8. I am a copyeditor with over 25 years of experience. I use Microsoft Word’s track changes feature and, through imbedded comments, teach as I go. With those, I explain my edits and/or point out where I think a scene or setting is thin (or too thick) and places where a character could be improved. I’m very careful not to change the writer’s voice, and I don’t rewrite anything. I only make suggestions. My fees are per word and depend on the writing, but generally span from 1 to 2.5 cents per word. I offer a free sample edit of up to several pages, but I require the entire document up front (so I can be certain I’m not looking at a previously edited segment). I select the sample edit myself from the manuscript. For more info, see Oh, and I’ve also written over 50 novels and novellas and almost 200 short stories.

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