The more I research places to hire an editor, the deeper the rabbit hole goes.

I see that previous responses to this question are either, "Ask friends and family for a reference" (I'll pass),or "Search the internet" (thanks).

So I've found professional editor associations, however searching through the bios on these sites is uninspiring and feels like a roll of the dice.

There are also fancier freelance websites such as reedsy.com and bibliocruch.com, but I don't have any experience with these to know the difference or who is on the other side of these websites.

Given these two options, what have been your experience? Is there a better third option?

Thanks very much!

  • 3
    Hi, and welcome to Writers. Do you feel "uninspired" because you can't get a feel for how the editor works from a bio? Have you tried sending a sample chapter as a test? That's fairly standard to see if writer and editor are a good fit. I wouldn't object to a potential client saying "Hey, I'd like to send you a sample just to see if we could work together in the future." Dec 21, 2016 at 17:50
  • What kind of editing are you looking for? And what kind of work are you wanting to have edited?
    – TriskalJM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 14:18

3 Answers 3


First, you need to decide if you are looking for someone to fix your story, someone to fix your language, or someone to fix your typos. These are very different things requiring very different skills, and probably very different levels of compensation.

Second, you need to understand where people advertising themselves as editors come from. I know of four paths, but there may be more.

  1. Freelance writers and aspiring novelists who can't make a living at it who hang out a shingle as an editor. They may offer any of the above services, but there is no reason to think most of these people are any good. They might be, but it is not the thing they really want to be doing. If their website also lists a number of self published novels, then this is who you are dealing with. Unless they can give you a reference to a client who went on to successful publication after using their services, beware. A local critique group is a good place to find and evaluate these people. Almost every critique group has one, usually the founder/leader of the group. If you find their critiques valuable, that is an indication of what kind of editor they would be.

  2. Professional editors. These people never wanted to be writers, they wanted to be editors. They probably belong to an editors association and they can usually show you a list of professional clients (that is, commercial or government clients, rather than aspiring self published novelists). They should be pretty reliable for language edits and typos, but their main focus is nonfiction and there is no guarantee that they have any sense of story.

  3. Former book editors. They used to work as editors in the publishing industry. Maybe they got laid off or quit because their spouse moved, or to spend time with their kids. They should know story (unless they got fired by a publishing house for not knowing story). They may or may not be willing to do language and typo edits, but if not they probably know someone who does. The good ones should be able to point to successful books they worked on, and they probably maintain ongoing relationships with people in the trade.

  4. Numbskulls who know nothing about anything other than how to post an ad on a freelancing site. You can tell these easily because they are cheap.

Beware of any editor who is just warm and supporting and encouraging. You are probably just paying them to complement you. Find an editor who makes you cry, not because they are being cruel on purpose, but because of how hard they are making you work. They might just make you better.

  • I was with you right up until the last paragraph. An editor who makes you work hard can also be supportive and encouraging. An editor who just makes you cry is, I'm sorry, a dick. Making you work hard and kill your darlings doesn't equate to "being a jerk." Dec 22, 2016 at 18:57
  • I didn't say they should be a jerk. But if killing your darlings does not make you cry, then they weren't really darlings. But okay, I will modify the thought slightly.
    – user16226
    Dec 22, 2016 at 19:36
  • Basically your answer means that one can find a good "story editor" only by submitting to a publisher, because with a few rare exceptions they all work there. That's a discouraging thought.
    – user5645
    Dec 22, 2016 at 20:44
  • Well, there certainly are freelance story editors. How many have reasonable qualifications or experience is another question. But it seems to be generally acknowledged that it is hard work to find the right editor for your book even in the commercial world. Not that you can really get to an editor directly anymore. You have to find the right agent for your work and hope they can find the right editor for it. I seem to remember reading an interview with one of the editors who turned down Harry Potter, where he said he did not regret it because he was not the right editor for that book.
    – user16226
    Dec 23, 2016 at 5:40
  • Wow. Lots of assumptions in this answer. Judging why someone falls into one of the categories you've listed is neither helpful to the question asker nor appropriate nor correct.
    – TriskalJM
    Dec 23, 2016 at 15:00

There are a lot of talented people on Fiverr.com who can do editing. Trying to find the truly talented ones who fit your requirements can be time consuming and can be quite a trial and error process. It can also become quite expensive, but it's certainly worth a look.


Check your area for an in-person writing group or critique circle. Start attending regularly and assisting others from your strengths. Get to know the writing styles of the other writers in your group, but also listen to how they critique the works of others. In almost every group, you will find one or more grammar gurus, a handful of walking thesaurus(es)/thesauri, and if your lucky, a creative thinker, gifted in plot development and word flow.

Once you know what is available in your group, take the most gifted aside and offer them money to edit your work. Depending on your own strengths, you could possibly barter your skills applied to their works in return for their services on yours.

If you put in a little effort in your local community, you may find the quality editing talent that you are looking for, among your fellow writers.

  • I'm sorry that your experience of professional editors is that they're no better than amateurs. It's been my experience that a professional editor gives better, more actionable critique.
    – TriskalJM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 14:18
  • @TriskalJM, You have been luckier than I have on that account. However, since it is a point of contention and since my side of that dispute is only my own opinion, I'm removing the closing paragraph of my answer. Thanks for it pointing out! Dec 22, 2016 at 14:31
  • Well, one of my jobs is as a professional editor. :)
    – TriskalJM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:36
  • While I think local writing groups are a great resource, the most competent, skilled people probably don't have the time or interest to attend them.
    – Joe
    Dec 28, 2016 at 2:12

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