How to Get the Most Out of Professional Editing

How to Get the Most Out of Professional Editing

Other than a writer’s time, editing services can be one of the costliest purchases for a manuscript. However, paying an editor will increase your final project’s value. Whether you are considering hiring a copyeditor for your fifth published book, or you are halfway through your first experience with an editor, here are five steps to help you get the most value out of your editorial experience.

Step #1: Diagnose Your Project

A good writer knows the intent of their project and who will benefit from reading it. Successful writing must have an aim. A helpful and efficient editorial service works the same way. Before getting started with an editorial service you must decide what your manuscript needs.

Diagnosing your manuscript consists of a few questions: Where is my writing weak? Do I have any sections of my project that do not support my project’s purpose? What do I want my manuscript to look like when the editor is finished?

An honest diagnosis of your project helps control the cost of the service and minimizes the return time, as your editor will amend your project according to what it needs.

To begin, scan through your document for easy to spot grammatical errors. If there are more than a few or you aren’t sure where commas go, then your copy editor needs to focus on correcting your punctuation and sentence structure. Next try reading a portion of your text out loud. Does it flow? Are you constantly having to reread sentences? A developmental editor might be the best purchase for your project.

Diagnosing your project’s issues and communicating those with a potential editor will help save you money and time in the long run.

Step #2: Request a Sample Edit

Before discussing a contract with an editor, request a sample edit of your work. Be reasonable in the word count and don’t send them anything obvious. Most editors want your business and are willing to run a practice round before acquiring your 110,000 word project.

Be respectful of their time and pay attention to how they handle your words. It may benefit you and your project to pay for more involved editorial work while still considering your budget. When considering a sample edit, ask yourself: Can I do some of the spell check and formatting myself prior to handing over the project to lower my cost? Professional editing of your work is part of the investment a writer should put into their dream. Don’t be stingy with your dream.

A quick practice run will help you and the editor know if the service is the right fit for both parties.

Step #3: Set Up a Meeting

Request meetings with your editor. Not all editorial contractors offer in-person consultations, so ask if midway and after completion conferences can be scheduled. Face time is valuable, more than an email or Post-it Note. If an editor is able to answer your questions, provide you feedback, or even offer their suggestions as another reader, your project will benefit.

Meetings also help a project stay fresh in a writer’s mind. Nothing ages worse than fresh ideas. A manuscript cannot be neglected. Use meetings with an editor as an airing out session, revisiting stuck plot points with new eyes and bringing up mulled over ideas to a helpful audience.

Step #4: Ask Questions

Don’t be shy with your editor. Ask them questions. Especially if you are paying your editor to show your project a little bit of extra love. Editors are running words through their brain all day long; what they write down about your project might make sense to them, but not to you. Ask for an explanation and take their suggestions seriously.

Editors dislike when you argue their professional advice. Why hire them? Seek to gain help from your editor because you picked them for your team. Thoughtful questions will help you to understand an editor’s awesome technique and learn skills you might not have. Asking questions will make your project better and develop you into a better writer. So ask already!

Step #5: Learn from Editors

Treat professional editing like going back to school. Take notes, record meetings, review feedback, and memorize the important stuff. Like commas before buts, but not always. My poor editor.  

Learning from your editor is the best way to save money down the road. The more fine writing skills you hone each day, the more time future editors can focus on the tough stuff: structure, voice, or audience appeal.

Professional editing is an opportunity. Your opportunity for your dream to be its best version for others. Walk into the experience prepared, excited to learn, and focused on growing. Your future readers will thank you for it. 

Written by Madeleine Kleppinger

Madeleine Kleppinger is a scientist by day writer by night. Her written works include a drafted historical fiction novel short stories and a blog ( for helping readers discover their greatest story. Some of her favorites are fresh carafes of coffee spending time with people and Sonnet her American Bulldog.

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