The Top 3 Red Flags When Searching for Book Editors

Written by A Guest Author | January 4, 2018

Lindsey Danis

A freelance book editor can help a writer polish a manuscript, but too many editors prey on vulnerable writers who want external validation. Inexperienced or predatory editors can do more harm than good—taking your money, not directly improving your manuscript, and causing indigestion. What red flags should savvy writers know when searching for book editors? 

1. No Experience/ Only Self-Publishing Experience 

If a freelance editor has no experience—or if every title they edited is self-published and you’re seeking a traditional publisher—you have no way of knowing whether they’re good at their craft. 

Good editing is a balancing act of making something marketable and saleable while honoring the author’s vision. If an editor has no past experience with the publishing side of things, they simply don’t have the right experience to make your manuscript more marketable. 

An inexperienced editor can even weaken your manuscript by suggesting edits that make your book less appealing—say, by requesting additions that push it over the 100k mark, which is a major turn-off for literary agents. 

Sure, these editors might cost less than someone with a proven track record — but what will it cost you to hire them? 

2. No Sample Edits

Since you’ll be working together closely, you need someone who is a good fit for your book—you wouldn’t, for instance, hire a sci-fi fan to edit your historical romance novel. If you’ve found an editor who seems like a strong fit for your book, request sample edits (such as 10 pages or one chapter). 

Sample edits help both of you: the editor can see if she likes your writing style, and you can see whether her feedback is helpful to you. For this reason, most editors are amenable to this request. 

If the editor balks at doing a light sample edit—or worse, asks you to purchase a sample edit package—don’t proceed. The risk is simply too great that this person is preying on writers, not there to help you improve your pages. 

3. Direct Solicitation and Sales Pressure 

Experienced editors know that writers will seek them out when the time is right. They might send out gentle reminders via email or social media—”If you need an editor, here’s the type of work I do”—but they don’t aggressively market for new clients. It’s time-intensive to edit a manuscript, so most editors don’t want a lot of clients. They couldn’t handle them! 

Beware of editors who solicit with amazing limited-time deals or who blitz your whole writing group with a generic ad. This is not how reputable editors behave, and if you hire someone because of a too-good-to-be-true offer, well, you’ll get what you paid for. 

Finding the right editor takes time, but it’s well worth it when you make a connection with someone who not only understands your vision, but feels passionate about making your book shine. 

Bio: Lindsey Danis lives and writes in the Hudson Valley. Her work has appeared in Mortar Magazine, The Manifest-Station, and Verity La, among other publications. She’s currently searching for a literary agent for her Young Adult novel and working on a new book. Find her at @lindseydanis or