A Few Notes From a Freelance Editor

I’ve been editing for friends in exchange for other bookish favors for almost ten years. I’ve been doing freelance editing for about three, when I decided that I needed a day job that wasn’t related to my creativity. The other day I ran across a book review where the reviewer was bashing the editor of a particular book, and I laughed a little, knowing it could have just as easily been me.

The thing is, as a freelance editor, I don’t have the “final say” as to when a book is ready for publication. The author has that choice. The author decides how many rounds of edits they’d like to do, how much effort they put into those edits, and which notes they use and which they ignore. If I were an editor working for a publisher, I’d have SOME more say, but sometimes money and promises and deadlines mean more than another round of edits. (Random FYI: Publishers used to put novels through 5-12 proofreaders before the final went to print. Now, they often do 1-2)

Years ago, I ran into a person who just accepted all of her line editor’s comments (that was the only round she chose to do before hitting publish) and often, the editor would make notes between chapters that weren’t in comments, and those editorial notes would be in the final, published work.

I LOVE my job. I mean, LOVE IT. I’ve met some of the funnest, most interesting writers, and I have clients that I’ve edited for again and again. Most authors’ language and stories get stronger each time I read something new from them, and it makes me absolutely GIDDY.

An unexpected bonus from freelance editing is that my own writing has grown so much because I can’t stand to see myself make some of the mistakes I see over and over and over and over and over and over… (That may be a post for another time, eh?)

As a writer, the best thing you can do for your editor, is to tell them where you’re at, what you’re planning to do as far as edits/what you’re planning to do with your work, and to either ask (or know) what type of edit is best for your MS at this time. If you plan to independently publish, it’s worth asking your editor if they think your MS is ready, or what the next round should look like. If you’re preparing to query, ask for the same thing.

In the end, an editor cannot rise above an author unwilling to put in the work. And as an author, make sure that you and your editor are a good fit! Yes, your editor is going to miss something–they’re human, but they should still be treating your work with care. And don’t be afraid to change things up once in a while, or to get a new perspective.



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