Ben Galley kindly allowed me to write a guest post for his Shelf Help Blog but I thought I should share my thoughts here as well, as you may not have seen it first time round.   I’ve touched on this before – but hopefully you’ll find the information here faaaar more helpful.   Here you go:

For many budding authors the editor equals The Gatekeeper of traditional publishing.  Often forgotten however, are the sales, marketing and numerous other teams within the publishing house, who also have to add their two pence worth.  Nevertheless the editor still gets the bad wrap…sigh.

Of course, if said author chooses the self-publishing route, the pesky Gatekeeper is negated; which therefore begs the question: Is the Editor still needed?

Well, absolutely.

Editor’s exist to encourage an author’s writing both technically and creatively;  they aren’t there to block, but rather to help the writer flourish and hopefully keep them sane throughout the process.

The obvious fact is that without the backing of budgets and marketing (no matter the size) the independent author can’t simply rely on a ‘good idea’. The tightest plot, the enticing characters and top notch presentation are absolutely imperative.  The editor who can encourage and tease these out of a writer’s material is the most valuable.

So, where to start? It is important to identify the type of editor needed.  Using an editor’s services can be pricey and, depending on the editor’s discipline, the rates can vary a lot.   Editors either charge by the hour or effectively by the word count.  Either way, the longer the book the higher the price – remember that.   Below is an outline of the main editorial roles:


The Proof-Reader…

…Will go through your work with a fine tooth comb, eliminating all errors. Spelling, punctuation and grammar will be assessed and corrected.

Getting a Proofreader on board would be for those, who have may have self published before and are quite confident in preparing a novel for publication.

Furthermore, money isn’t floating about.  If you can’t afford a copy-editor then at least be sure all the more basic errors and issues have been dealt with.  You may think you can do it yourself, but it’s likely you are not trained and proofreading is hard.  Try and go that extra mile for your work and make sure you will be putting out the best material you can.

The Copy-Editor…

…is really rather important for a self-publishing author.  If you want your novel to be as professional as possible, and probably mirror those produced from the traditional publishing houses then you will most likely need a copy-editor.

They not only look at the language and grammar, but also assess the typography, the design and style of the book.  If necessary they will fact or date check and even copyright and libel issues can be covered.

Copy-editing is expensive.  Like proofreading, it is a highly skilled role and an incredible amount of focus and training is needed.   If you can, particularly for that first novel, I would consider hiring the services of a copy-editor.  It may prove to be the most invaluable thing you do.

The Story-Editor…

…aims to help hone your plot, structure, characters, it’s tone; wrangling with them until you have a fantastic story.  For many the story-editor could be the first port of call.

Having written that first draft it can be hard to take a step back and understand where to go next, or even work out what may be going wrong.  Time apart from the manuscript can help, but most often takes another pair of eyes to really identify the problems.

Can you not ask a friend?  If you so wish, but they will more likely than not just point out problems. They won’t provide solutions or techniques to overcome said issues.  The author is given a report by the editor, it’s length dependant on what the author is looking for.  Invariably two kinds of (self-explanatory) report types are offered: The General and In-Depth.

Once the type of editor has been identified, it is important to know where to look.  In the case of the Proof-Reader and Copy-Editor the following sites are good places to start:

Society of Freelance Editors and Proofreaders

Publishing Training Centre

Alliance of Independent Authors

The editor’s experience should be outlined, but don’t be afraid to ask for more information (namely a rates card) – especially when dealing with the individuals.  Ultimately you will be parting with a lot of money, you want to be sure it’s going to the right person.

In terms of Story-Editing and Critiquing, as well as the above links there also Literary Consultancies you can approach.  Simply typing ‘Literary Consultancy’ into Google will throw up a number of options but below are some links to companies I think are worth approaching:

Smart Quill Editorial

Writers Advice Centre


The Literary Consultancy

The Writing Consultancy*

Remember also, Word of Mouth can be hugely helpful when looking for editors.  So ask around!


For an editor, working with a talented writer is incredibly exciting.  Helping them to fulfil their potential and create a successful novel is thoroughly rewarding.

Finding the right editor can be difficult, but when you do I’d say hold onto them ridiculously tight.


*This article was originally posted by Ben Galley on Friday 26th October.

Please note The Writing Consultancy is an addition to the original post, and is a new literary consultancy with which I am affiliated.


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