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Writers and Editors
Reading Room

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How to Choose the Best Editor for Your Needs

Janice Campbell

İYuri Arcurs | Dreamstime.comThe right copyeditor or manuscript evaluator can bring out the best in a book or manuscript, but in order for this to happen, you must choose the RIGHT editor for the job. Although there is some overlap in the specialties, the best editors have a specific focus. As you search the database, you'll want to look for an specialist whose experience matches your needs. For example:

  • If you want an editor to help you develop a non-fiction book and coach you through the writing process, you will need to look for a writing coach with experience in non-fiction.
  • If you are a graduate student looking for an editor to fact-check a master's thesis in physics, you need an academic editor or evaluator with an advanced degree in physics.
  • If you have written a how-to book, and you're not sure if it's organized well enough for a lay reader, you may need a developmental editor with experience in non-fiction editing.
  • If you are a fiction writer looking for feedback on the foundational elements of your manuscript, it's very important to choose a manuscript evaluator, often a writing coach, with extensive experience and credentials in editing the kind of fiction--literary, genre, juvenile--you are writing.
  • If you have a completed manuscript and you just need to have it edited for clarity and conventions (mechanics), you probably need a copyeditor.
  • If you and your writing coach, editor, or writing group are happy with the content of your book, and you just need to double-check the mechanics, a proofreader will help to ensure that your copy is error-free.
  • If you're a homeschool parent looking for a writing mentor for your student, you'll want to start with academic evaluators and coaches who specialize in your student's grade level.
  • If you're a self-publisher, consider using a project editor to guide your project from start to finish, or assemble a team of evaluators as suggested in the Self-Publisher's Checklist. There are professionals known as book packagers that provide a support team for self publishers, including editing, proofreading, interior layout, cover design, indexing, and whatever else is needed.

Here are a few things to consider as you search for the editor that will meet your needs.

What type of editorial professional do you need?

No matter what type of project you are working on, there is an evaluator that can help you. The primary specialties include:

  • Academic evaluator
  • Copyeditor
  • Copywriter
  • Developmental editor
  • Fiction editor
  • Ghostwriter
  • Multimedia editor
  • Newsletter editor
  • Non-fiction editor
  • Project editor
  • Proofreader
  • Writing coach
  • Writing tutor

Many experienced editors specialize in one type of service, or a single genre, such as:

  • Fact Checking
  • Fiction-all
  • Fiction-genre
  • Fiction-juvenile
  • Fiction-literary
  • Fiction-screen-play
  • Fiction-short
  • Multimedia editing
  • Newsletter editing
  • Non-fiction-academic
  • Non-fiction-all
  • Non-fiction-biography / memoir
  • Non-fiction-business
  • Non-fiction-medical
  • Non-fiction-scientific / technical
  • Permissions
  • Project editing
  • Research
  • Rewriting
  • Structural editing
  • Stylistic editing
  • Substantive editing
  • Website text editing

Be sure to pay attention to the experience and specialties of any editor, book coach, or manuscript evaluator you are considering. To be included in the NAIWE searchable database, each member posts a profile and a portfolio of samples on his or her NAIWE website, so that you can review his or her specialty and level of experience. This makes it easy to select the editor that is right for you!

Janice Campbell, Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors , has worked as a freelance writer, editor, coach, and speaker since the late 1980's.