Meet the Editor, What Does an Editor Do?, Writing Tips and Tricks

The Importance of Editing: Part 2: Finding and Working with the Right Editor for You.

Last month, I was invited to talk to a group of aspiring authors at the Book Brilliance’s monthly Voice and Pen networking event on the topic of the importance of editing. It was lovely to hear from so many motivated and talented authors about their current projects, and it was a privilege to be invited to speak.

However, for those of you who were unable to make the event, I wanted to make sure I was able to share my advice, so I’ve converted my speech into a two-part blog, all about the importance of editing.

In Part 1, I discussed the reasons why you should work with an editor, such as an editor adds a fresh and objective eye to your work as well as brings years of experience to your manuscript (to find out more, check out Part 1 here). Now, I’m back with Part 2, which is a collection of handy tips and tricks to consider when searching and working with an editor.

If you’d prefer to watch the full talk, the event was recorded, so you can check out the full presentation here. But if not, dive into Part 2: Finding and Working with the Right Editor for You.

When you’ve decided that working with an editor on your manuscript is the right thing for you (to find out more about why you should work with an editor on your latest novel check out Part 1), it’s now time to embark on the task of finding an editor. It can be a bit daunting, but the the most important thing to bear in mind is this: it’s not about finding the best editor ever but finding the best editor for you.

Before you start…

However, before you even starting googling ‘best book editor’, I want you to stop and take a step back and ask yourself, are you and your manuscript ready for editing? If you’ve just finished your first draft, then the short answer is, no, you’re not. Because the best way to make the most out of your editing experience is by doing as much as you possibly can yourself so that an editor can take over the reins and guide you the rest of the way. Therefore, before you even consider working with an editor, you need to have self-edited your manuscript – remember that 80% or writing a book is revision.

No first draft was ever perfect, ever! And that’s because by the time you finish your manuscript, you’re a much stronger and more experienced writer than when you began chapter one. So, first off, give yourself a pat on the back and a huge hug because you deserve it – you just finished writing a book. And then, the work begins again. I won’t go into self-editing here (that’s a topic for another day), but there are lots of useful resources out there – I’d recommend Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Dave King (review coming soon) – that will help you on the first step in your journey.

This is the point when some writers baulk at this suggestion. But aren’t I paying you to edit? Yes, but if an author sends me a manuscript that is their first draft, I often tell them to go back and revisit the manuscript themselves, because, usually, at the early stages of writing, an author is able to rework their manuscript and notice any obvious plot holes or inconsistencies themselves, and when you’re working with an editor, you want them to spend their time offering feedback to you on things that you didn’t consider, as opposed to the ones that you could have picked up on yourself. On that first revisit to your manuscript, you’re bound to find those clanger plot holes – Charlie can’t go to the chocolate factory, he’s lactose intolerant! – and points where the narrative isn’t as strong. Sorting these bits out yourself, or even just finding them to highlight to your editor once you’ve had a good go yourself, will improve your editing experience exponentially because rather than having their vision muddied by the obvious, the editor can get stuck in to parts you may not have thought about. An author will get the most out of the editing experience if they can send their editor their best possible manuscript.

If diving back into your edit straightway unassisted sounds scary, my best advice is once you’ve finished your first draft, put the manuscript aside for at least three weeks – longer, ideally if you can resist the temptation to touch the manuscript. After those weeks have passed, when you revisit the manuscript, it will feel very different, and you’ll be able to revise it much more efficiently because you’ll have a clearer and more energised head. Also whilst you’re not consciously thinking about the text, your brain will be working out those plot holes for you so when you sit back at the manuscript you’ll know exactly what you need to do!

Bonus tip:

If you find it impossible to leave your manuscript alone , try working on a different project to distract yourself for a few weeks. You can still flex your writing muscles, but on a different exercise.

Finding an editor

When you are approaching the stage where you can do no more for yourself, then it’s time to think about finding an editor. But note I say when you’re approaching this stage, because you don’t want to leave it too late. The best editors tend to be booked up months in advance – at the time of writing, I’m taking bookings for August onwards, so five months away! – so you need to make your enquiries perhaps a couple of months before the manuscript is ready.

So you’re working away on your self-editing and you’re ready to start researching editors, so how do you find the best editor for you? Well, here are a few key points to bear in mind.

  • What edit you need?
    There are a myriad of different edits which suit different needs, but they fall into the three main categories of developmental or structural editing, line/copy-editing and proofreading. These all offer various levels of feedback, for example, the Development Edit focuses on big-picture issues such as structure, plot, character development (find out more here), whereas a Proofread is all about the final polish. Different editors will have different service offerings, so you’ll want to make sure that the editor you want provides the service you’e looking for. (To find out more about the services I offer, please check out the Services page).

    To many new writers, the different edit terms don’t mean much, so if you’re not sure which edit you need, ask! Most editors will be more than happy to help you find the edit that will most suit your manuscript; for example, you may think your manuscript is ready for a copy edit, but an editor may suggest that to truly make your manuscript as strong as possible, it would benefit from a little more big-picture work first. Or you may think you need a more substantial edit, but the editor may suggest that only a copy edit is needed to bring the manuscript up to publishable quality.
  • Genre speciality
    Look for someone who specialises in your genre. As I mentioned in Part 1, one of the benefits of working with an editor is that you have access to that editor’s years’ worth of experience. For example, I specialise in crime, suspense and thriller, and so my years of experience and personal passion for the genre means I can give a manuscript in that genre an extra push that will help it to really appeal to its target readership. Whereas a romance editor, for example, would still be able to help you improve your manuscript, but they won’t have that specialist knowledge to add that extra sparkle (or thrill, in this case).
  • Sample Edits
    When approaching editors, be sure to ask for a sample edit, not only so that you can check that the sort of edit you’ll receive is the one you’re looking for, but also so that you can check that you’re a good fit together. As I said above, the most important part about working with an editor is finding not only the right editor for your manuscript but for you as a writer too – it’s why so many authors work with the same editor throughout their writing careers. You want someone who gels well with you and your manuscript and understands what you’re aiming for and knows how to help you get you there!
  • Budget
    Be upfront and honest about your budget – yes, editing can be expensive, especially if you’re self-publishing and footing the bill yourself, but many editors are understanding of this and can often work with you to come up with an approach that fits your budget. However, if prices feel too good to be true, they probably are! Remember that publishing is a largely unregulated industry and there are some charlatans out there, so do your research (see my final point), or if in doubt seek the advice of professional bodies such as the Alliance of Independent Authors or Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders.
  • Scheduling
    Being up front also extends too scheduling. As mentioned above, the best editors tend to get booked up, so preventative planning is the best approach. Enquire early. If you leave it too late, your editor may not be able to allocate you the slot your want or a tight turnaround may incur a rush fee.
  • Do your research
    There are hundreds if not thousands of editors out there, but not all of them will be delivering the same standard of service. So the best thing to do is treat the editing of your manuscript like buying a car, or a house, or another big purchase and shop around. Do your research and always query multiple editors. Not only will this help you get a good idea of the price range on offer, but also the different vibes that different editors have, so that you know which one is the right fit for you. Editors will be aware that you’ll be talking to other editors, and will be happy to answer questions about their services, but remember that they are humans too, and so treat them with respect and professionalism. As our parents always said, treat others how you want to be treated.

So you’ve secured your editor and your ready to go. Any final tips?

When you do send your manuscript to your editor, ask them if they have an preferences for how the manuscript is formatted. May won’t or will adjust it themselves but this is especially important if you’re using writing programmes such as Scrivner to ensure that the editor receives the documents they need. However, irrespective of the formatting, also ensure the manuscript is the cleanest you can make it – and by ‘clean’, I mean as error free as you can. Yes, it’s an editor’s job to point out the errors, but if you’ve not even bothered to run a simple spellcheck through your document, you’ll make it much harder for them focus in on focus in on what you want them to, which increases the risks of things being missed. They’re only human too!

And also, my parting titbit is to keep an open mind. I know how scary it is to send your manuscript out into the world for someone else to read, but an editor’s job is to help you push your writing to the best it can be, so keep your mind open when they provide you with feedback. You may not agree with some of their suggestions, but be sure to consider them carefully and appreciate the alternative point of view as it’ll help you look at your own work in a different light.

Working with an editor is a truly rewarding experience and can not only improve your current work-in-progress but all those manuscripts to come, as they help you to build confidence and be more discerning about your own work. As I said in Part 1, there is nothing more rewarding for an editor to see their author improve with every novel so they really want to help you improve your manuscript. The irony of an editor’s role is that the sign of a job well done is that your client’s need you less and less each time!

Top tips for finding the right editor for you:

  • Always self-edit first
  • Find out what edit you need
  • Look for a genre specialist
  • Be upfront about your budget
  • Enquire early
  • Do your research
  • Keep an open mind

Missed Part 1? Check it our here, and be sure not to miss any more blogs by signing up to my newsletter below. Full of tips, tricks, news, writing prompts and much more to motivate and inspire your writing journey.

If you’re curious to find out how we can work together to make your manuscript the best it can be, request a no-obligation quotation below and find out more.

Meet the Editor, What Does an Editor Do?, Writing Tips and Tricks

The Importance of Editing: Part 1: Why You Should Work with an Editor on Your Next Book

Earlier this week, I was invited to talk to a group of aspiring authors at the Book Brilliance’s monthly Voice and Pen networking event on the topic of the importance of editing. It was lovely to hear from so many motivated and talented authors about their current projects, and it was a privilege to be invited to speak. The event was recorded, so you can watch the full event here, but here is a rough transcript – because, yes, in true me-style, I dropped my notes! – of the first part of my speech: Why You Should Work with an Editor on Your Next Book.

Although it’s exhilarating to publish your first book, it’s a steep learning curve for first-timers, so that’s why it’s paramount to surround yourself with a strong team to not only to guide you through the technicalities and support you when you need a helping hand, but who is also able to author you honest advice tailored to your particular project. 

And the person who will do just that, your best friend in the publishing process, is your editor. In the traditional publishing model, they act as your project manager, taking your book from start to finish, but in more independent and partnership models, they are just as useful, providing you with helpful feedback so that you can do your best work. Some writers argue that they don’t see the point in an editor – they’ve got Microsoft spellcheck for that – and would rather spend their budget elsewhere, on marketing or cover design, but an editor is so much more than just a spelling check.


So would I be right in assuming that the majority of you would love to be published traditionally with a nice advance to go with it?

Yeah, me too. But alas, the world of publishing has changed so dramatically with infrastructure, culture, technology and even the pandemic, that it’s even harder than ever to get noticed by the acquiring editors and agents, which is why it’s so important to make sure that your manuscript is as strong as possible before you even think about sending it out into the big wide world. 

The literary agent Stephen Laube once said that if he gets sent a submission that is 90% of the way to a sellable manuscript, he can take it past the line. However, if it’s only 80% of the way, he’ll reject it. That’s not a lot of margin of error, really? 

This may be a daunting prospect, but this statistic is not supposed to scare you, but inform and inspire, to motivate you to put your best foot forward, and the best person to help you do that is an editor.

(As a short aside, although I specialise in fiction, the majority of these tips and comments that follow are applicable to both fiction and non-fiction publishing, so it doesn’t matter whether you’re publishing a children’s book, a self-help manual or a fantasy fiction trilogy, these pointers apply to all types of writing!)

Writing can often be a isolating experience, with just you, the pen and the paper, beavering away for months on a single project. However, the problem with this is that because authors have been working on their manuscript for so long, they are unable to see the word for the trees when they finally come to revise their manuscript as they simply know it too well. This is when an editor is a godsend because they act as your fresh pair of eyes, seeing the manuscript differently, providing feedback that you simply haven’t thought about yourself because you’re too close to the manuscript. As editor Mary Kole points out, another word for editing is ‘revision’, so breaking this down, ‘re–vision’ is the process of seeing again. 

This leads to the second point of why working with an editor is important, because no author can ever be objective about their own work, no matter how hard they try. There will always be bits you favour or parts that you know aren’t quite right but are avoiding dealing with. I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard of the writing concept of ‘killing your darlings’ – where if you love it, it probably has to go? It’s so hard to make those decisions, but much easier to deal with when an objective editor suggests that perhaps you might want to think about cutting those three extra chapters that you tried to sneak in there, or that anecdote that you find hilarious but that isn’t quite come across that way.

And this is why some writers are hesitant of working with an editor because they’re worried about the feedback they’re going to get, plus it’s bloody terrifying sending your work out to someone you don’t know. It’s easy to ask your family and friends, because you know – for the most part anyway – that they don’t want to hurt your feelings, but with a stranger it can feel like a gamble. What if they hate it? What if it’s rubbish? What if they tell me to start again? Well, in the spirit of honesty, the feedback you get might not all be positive, but then again, that’s what you’ve hired them for, to suggest places where you need to improve. If it’s all positive – congratulations, you’ve achieved the impossible: a perfect manuscript! – but it also doesn’t help the writer to learn, and is just an exercise in ego-stroking. However, so although they’ll tell you some parts that might need more work, editors are also aware of the privileged position they occupy, and so will treat your manuscript with respect. In this way, it’s also an editor’s job to tell you what you’re doing really well. Therefore, an editor can act as a vote of confidence to cheer you on when you’re doubting yourself, reaffirm your motivation in any wobbly moments – because we all have those – and give you the push you need to make your manuscript as strong as possible, whilst giving you actionable advice on how to get there. 

Because that’s another key point about working with an editor as opposed to just asking your immediate circle to read your manuscript. Not only will you benefit from objective advice, you’ll also be on the receiving end of years’ worth  of expertise – a vital tool when striving to find a place in the competitive book market. Editors often specialise in a particular field or genre, so when you work with them, you don’t just have their general knowledge about grammar, structure etc, but also a wealth of specialist knowledge and experience to draw on. As I said before, I specialise in crime, suspense and thriller, so I keep up to date with market trends, trade buzz etc so that I can transfer that knowledge to my clients’ projects. So, for example, if you’re a crime fiction writer and are thinking about sending in that lockdown-inspired locked-room thriller, you may want to think again as listening to commercial publishers, the market isn’t quite ready for that yet – it’s still a bit too raw!

With a little pressure taken off you by your editor’s market knowledge and expertise, this then frees you up to focus on what matters: the story. One of the things that many writers complain about is that they find it so hard to finish their manuscript because they are obsessing with the details, but if you know you’re sending your manuscript off to an editor, you can rest easy and know that you can concentrate on writing the best story you can, because that’s the most important part, and leave the details to them, because, no matter how correct your grammar and spelling is, no amount of editing will make a bad book good!

Because that is ultimately what those acquiring editors and agents are looking for; a good story! And as we know, getting your book noticed is not easy, and it’s even harder when you’ve only got one shot at it, because when you send your manuscript out into the world you only have that one chance to make a first impression. Whether you’re submitting to an agent or publisher, or self-publishing your book, you don’t want to be judged by typos and poor grammar, or any plot holes or clangers that have been left behind in the manuscript. Because the sad fact is that agents receiving thousands of submission a year, added to the fact that nearly 200,000 thousand new books are published in the UK each year – it’s more like a million, globally. So, yep, there’s a lot of competition out there.  And if an agent, publisher or reader gets the impression that the manuscript is hard to read, isn’t offering the information they’re promised, or that it’s unprofessional – because, an unedited book is an unprofessional book – then that’s a reader lost. And with so many other books on the market, it will be very hard to convince they to try again. In this way, you have to put forward the very best version of your manuscript – and yourself, because as an author you are a brand – and make the strongest impression you can the first time around.

Working with an editor is an incredibly rewarding experience and can take your manuscript from merely good to great! But this isn’t restricted to just the one manuscript, because as a writer you’ll learn from the editor’s feedback and therefore apply the comments to your next manuscript and so improve your writing skill – and there is nothing more rewarding for an editor to see their author improve with every novel. The irony of an editor’s role is that the sign of a job well done is that your client’s need you less and less each time!

Why You Need an Editor when Writing Your Next Book:

– They act as a fresh pair of eyes

– They offer an objective opinion

– They can be a vote of confidence, your personal cheerleader

– They have years’ worth of expertise to share with you

– Having an editor frees you up to focus on what matters: the story

– You only have that one chance to make a first impression, so you’ve got make it count.

– The benefits extend beyond one manuscript

Want to find out more about working with an editor? Check out Part 2 now!

And for even more tips and tricks, sign up to my newsletter below. Full of news, writing prompts, helpful guides and much more to motivate and inspire your writing journey.

If you’re curious to find out how we can work together to make your manuscript the best it can be, request a no-obligation quotation below and find out more.

Book Review

Crime and Thriller Reads Valentine’s Day

When we think of love, romance and passion, crime and thriller fiction is not the usual genre of books that spring to mind, but if you’re looking for some Valentine’s Day reads with a bit of twist, check out the titles below!

And if you’ve left it to last minute to get your writing beau the perfect gift, why not give the gift of editing this year?

Continue reading “Crime and Thriller Reads Valentine’s Day”
Writing Tips and Tricks

Fancy your chances?

Crime and Thriller Writing Competitions and Awards

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to embrace the bold and send your finished manuscript out into the world, now’s the perfect time. With the publishing world awash with competitions and awards right now, why not give it a go? 

Read on for some great suggestions to get started – especially for my crime and thriller authors

Continue reading “Fancy your chances?”
Book Review

Festive Crime and Thriller Reads for the Holidays

Christmas time is not only a time for joy and laughter, but it’s also a time to take a step back and slow down; enjoy some time to kick back and relax after what has, quite frankly, been one heck of a year. With that in mind, I’ve curated a list of Christmas-themed crime and thriller novels to get you in the mood for the holidays and for you to indulge in with your favourite tipple and a mince pice. These reads will have you gripped to the edge of your seat from Christmas Eve all the way to New Years day!

Whether you’re looking for a read for yourself, or a present for the crime fiction lover in your life, click the images to find out more – and try to shop indie if you can! If you’re after gift ideas for your writer friends, check out my Shop Small Gift Guide for writers, or why not give the gift of editing this year?

Continue reading “Festive Crime and Thriller Reads for the Holidays”
Author Showcase, Writing Tips and Tricks

Author Q&A: AJ Frazer – THE JAGGED EDGE

For an author, there is nothing that quite beats the thrill of publication day, no matter how many books are under your belt. And just such a momentous day is fast approaching for AJ Frazer and his timely eco-thriller, The Jagged Edge.

A madman hellbent on revenge. An ex-war correspondent – once lauded – desperate to find his old edge. And the countdown towards the end of the world as we know it begins.

A thriller with a conscience, The Jagged Edge does for climate change what John Grisham has done for the law, cutting to the heart of the biggest threat to humanity the world has ever seen. 

I worked with AJ on this gripping race-against-time novel, ensuring the novel maintained the perfect balance of a pacy and entertaining thriller and a thought-provoking ecological warning.

AJ, welcome! The Jagged Edge is your latest novel. Tell us a little more about it.

Mercurial madman, Victor Sagen, is hellbent on saving the world from escalating climate change. Sagen is convinced that the only solution is to launch a devastating cyber weapon, called Biblical, that will send humanity back to the technological dark ages. A once lauded ex-war correspondent, Dominic Elliston, is desperate to find his old edge. Through a series of heart-stopping events, he is dragged (willingly) into Sagen’s orbit and, ultimately, finds himself in a position to stop him from releasing Biblical. But the question even Dominic must ask himself is, should he? The answer will shock him. 

Continue reading “Author Q&A: AJ Frazer – THE JAGGED EDGE”

Freelance Editor Month – Overview

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that over the last month, I’ve been taking part in a little prompt challenge of my own: Freelance Editor Month. This is essentially a challenge to get us editors talking more about ourselves and not just our authors (guilty!) So here’s a chance to get to know me a little better and understand what Rebecca Millar Editorial is all about:

Day 1: How did you get started as a freelance editor?

In-house to going it alone!

Well, I used to work as an editor at one of the Big Four (Can you guess which one?) But then, my partner (J) got a job in Australia, and so, more of necessity at the time (definitely by choice now), I decided to jump into the scary world of going it alone. I also moved from working on a mixture of non-fiction and fiction to specialising in my favourite genre of all – crime, suspense and thriller fiction – and haven’t looked back since.

Continue reading “Freelance Editor Month – Overview”