The Right Writer/Editor Mix?


When writers ask “How do you know which editor is right for you?” my reply remains unchanged: I follow the guidelines set by leaders of this industry-in this case, traditional publishing.

Here’s how it used to work and still does to some degree:

Agents have certain skill sets. Large agencies offers a range of agents, all of them versed in a particular genre(s) and most of them specify a fiction or nonfiction preference.

Like agents, editors are specialists, too; at least most were before they lost their jobs. Why a specialist? You can’t know about everything and if you’re going to help your author(s) round out their stories (when need be) you better be able to pull from your own experience because often, writers need the help/direction that a well-informed editor brings to the project.

So if an editor says they work in all genres as well as fiction & nonfiction, I’d proceed carefully unless you want a copy edit only. Then, a generalist can be a fine choice. There are exceptions so if you are considering an editor who edits all genres and fiction or nonfiction make sure they are the ‘best read’ editor you can find.

General guidelines when looking for an editor:

I’d screen them first for chemistry-you’re going to be working closely with this person who will not always deliver feedback you want to hear. Liking them enough to regard their knowledge-base is important, especially when you disagree.

I’d want an editor to be very well read in my genre. Why? The best authors in this genre set the bar and your editor should know where that bar is.  If you expect your story to get purchased and read, it better be the best it can be because it’s competing against the best.

I’d ask for the emails of former clients – even if I didn’t email them, I’d ask.

About Rates: Fees vary greatly so I won’t add to this except to say that you usually get what you pay for—not always but usually. Inexpensive is not always better.

I had many SCWCLA/14 writers ask about ‘choosing the right editor’ so hope this helps.


Carla King just posted this editor list that I’m adding to augment this post. Read the BIOS of these NYC editors, many former in-house editors among them. Read their credentials and note how their backgrounds (degrees, work experience etc.)  inform the kind of manuscripts these editors are looking for.

No one can be an expert in everything.

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