Choosing an Editor for Your Indie Published Work

I make my thoughts on editing no secret. Self-edits have their place -- initial rewrites, shorter information products that need a very quick turnaround, etc. But for most indie publishers there's no good excuse to release your work without it crossing the desk of a professional editor.

Even more than that, I'm a strong believer in hiring an editor. I don't care how many editors you're friends with. Your friends have an incentive to take it easy on you (even if they say they won't), and an editor's job is to be completely objective.

What do you do when your baby is ready for the eyes of another? How do you choose the right editor for your books, stories, or e-books?

I'm currently narrowing down my own options for a short story series. Each story will be released individually online. When the entire series has been published, my plan is to release both a print book and e-book collection. That means I need an editor who not only can handle the horror genre effectively, but one I can count on for a good stretch of time.

I've narrowed it down to three editors, and they're all qualified. I'm still trying to decide who to contact first. But I suspect I'll start with the editor a close colleague recommended. That colleague is similar to me in that she wants an editor who isn't afraid to tell it like it is.

That's my issue with editors I'm friends with. They know I'm a no-BS, very blunt kind of gal, and that can be intimidating to some of them. I need someone who can get down and dirty with my work and meet me on my own level to call me out on any crap I might produce.

I trust this colleague's judgment without question. So if her editor is available and willing, I'll probably start there once I finish my own rewrites on the first story (in a week or two at most).

The other editors were ones I happened upon on my own. One I found through a search engine while looking for editors in the horror genre. The other was found in a directory of professional editors. Both are perfectly fine ways to find an editor of your own, but to me there's no substitute for a personal referral.

What about you? How did you choose the editor for your indie published work? If you were looking for a new editor today, how would you go about finding one who is a good fit? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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6 thoughts on “Choosing an Editor for Your Indie Published Work”

  1. I thought really carefully about this, because I absolutely believe in hiring an editor. I’ve decided to submit my first few projects to a major online publisher in the niche I’m looking to publish since I can’t afford to hire a professional cover designer and professional editor.

    I figure, if I can’t afford to indie publish the right way, then the only way to move forward is to save up or pursue a traditional publishing route for now. Because I’m looking at an online publishing house, and their submissions turnaround time is less than a month, I figure parlaying my current marketing efforts while I finish my first story and then seeking a publisher isn’t a terrible idea.

    However, my ultimate goal is to indie publish. But I don’t want to be penny pinching on that…I want to be able to hire cover artists and editors with a real budget. So that’s just my two cents.

    A side note: these online publishers in my genre/niche are paying 40 percent royalties on a monthly or quarterly basis. That means I really could save up some earnings from them quickly, rather than dealing with more traditional deals with advances, waiting on royalties, etc.

    As to how I would find an editor, I would look to books in the genre I’m planning on publishing. If I thought their level of editing was good (that is, I didn’t have to think about editing while I was reading) then I would check the acknowledgements for the name of the editor. Maybe their in-house (if it is trad-pubbed) but still many of those editors take freelance work as well. If they aren’t listed there, then I might look up authors on LinkedIn and see what editors they are connected with. And, alongside one of these steps, I would search in quotes phrases like “copyediting for novelists” or similar and “professional website” or “to hire” to find editors that are doing some online content marketing and see what genres they work in. And, I guess step zero is reaching out to your network…maybe you don’t even realize that someone knows a great editor.

    Well, that’s just my opinion!

    • I’m not sure what online publisher you’re looking at, but make sure they have serious editorial standards. If there won’t be a professional editor who understands your niche market on the project, you could still be better off on your own. Even if you can’t afford to hire a professional editor, designer, and other pros you need, you have options. For example, you could barter your writing services for design services (designers likely need copy for their website). You might also luck out and find a good editor who happens to be new to freelancing. They often charge less than similar pros early on. At a bare minimum you could use a set of beta readers for story feedback instead of hiring a developmental editor, and then you’d just have to hire help for line editing and / or proofreading. You could even get help through a writer’s group.

      By all means, if you think pursuing a publisher is the right path for you, then give it a go. But don’t give up on your indie publishing dreams just because you don’t have a huge bank account. Yes, it costs money to indie publish in a professional manner. But as long as you’re careful about who you choose to work with, you might be able to land some great deals than help you handle your project the way you really want to.

      • Thanks, these are some really great ideas, and I’m taking them into consideration. I think it would be a good move for me to work with a publisher, at least right now.

        Really looking forward to seeing more on the site…off-topic, but on your Aria Klein site I saw that you mentioned a database you were putting together for market research. I’m doing something similar. Was wondering what kind of headings/factors you were considering in your database. We’re in very different genres, so we’ll both have things the others wouldn’t, so I guess I’m really asking how you chose what factors to study.

        Thanks again!

        • I’m not sure what you mean by a market research database. I have a site for authors in the works where they can conduct research by networking with experts, but that’s not genre specific. Can you let me know where you saw that exactly? That would give me a better idea of which project it is. I have so many of them.

  2. On the Aria Klein website, you mentioned a book buying binge foe market research and that you were putting together a database, for in-house info.

    • Okay. My apologies. I thought you meant some kind of public database. 🙂

      For the private database of competing books, I include things like:

      • Book title
      • Series title
      • The book’s position in a series
      • Series or book concept (so I can see which are overdone and where there’s room to explore)
      • Author

      • Page count
      • Point of view
      • Cover color scheme
      • General thoughts on the cover design
      • Notes on the spine design (does it “pop” on the bookshelf, or is it hard to read?)
      • Publication date
      • Publisher
      • Avg. Rating (from Amazon in my case)
      • Overall notes on the story (like a personal mini-review after I’ve read it)
      • The idea is to see what’s working for other authors and what isn’t, as well as what works for me personally (because I want my books to be something I’d actually want to read). If you have other things you look at in your database, let me know. I’m always looking for ways to improve market research. 🙂


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