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Big Ideas. Short Books.

Want the rewards of becoming a published author? START HERE

Founded by Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book

Help! I need a book editor

Whether you are an experienced nonfiction author or a first-time Beta Author, you need an editor. It doesn’t really matter where you are in the process of writing your book. It could be an idea stuck in the back of your throat. Maybe you’ve written a dozen or 300 blog posts (yay Michele!) and you know they could be turned into a book. Maybe you’ve banged out 20 or 50 or 100 pages.

You need an editor to help you turn your idea into a professional manuscript. This is not a sign of weakness. Needing an editor doesn’t mean that you are less of a writer. Using the services of an experienced editor to get across the finish line means you are deadly serious about shipping a book. It means you are clear-eyed about publishing a book that is highly professional, stylish and substantive and that meets your business goal of enhancing your credibility.

Want help writing a short book?

Beta Author BoostAre you interested in learning more about writing and publishing a short eBook? My popular Beta Author program gets into the trenches to help you write a compelling nonfiction book. It also covers how and when to work with a book editor, best practices in cover design, how to choose a killer title, how to price your eBook to sell and more.


Sign up to get on the waiting list and you’ll be the first to hear when the next Beta Author program opens.

But finding and vetting a freelance book editor who is right for you and your work is not that easy. We’ve spent several weeks (more time than we’d like to admit) researching and writing this post.

This is not our last word on how to find and hire an editor. Working with an editor is a topic we will be revisiting and digging into again as Voxie Media puts together a stable of first-rate nonfiction book editors for our authors.

What does a book editor do?

First we have to define what a book editor is. There are several varieties and it’s key to the success of a book – even a short book – to know which does what. And where in the process you might need one.

Needing an editor doesn’t mean that you are less of a writer. Using the services of a professional editor to get across the finish line means you are deadly serious about shipping a winning book.

Developmental editor: coach and collaborator

In a nutshell, a developmental editor looks at your big idea and helps you strip it down and build it back up into a compelling story that will engage and motivate your reader. He or she asks you lots of questions like: What is the goal of your book? Who is your intended audience? How will your book benefit your readers? Why will they buy your book?

Then he or she helps you find a structure or framework to build your story around. Yes, even business books are built on stories. That’s what makes us want to read them. Sometimes the framework – the way you present and organize your message – is what makes a book on a business topic stand out.

Think about Gretchen Rubin’s best-selling The Happiness Project, built around a 12-month calendar of her exploration of happiness. Or John Warrillow’s Built to Sell, a can’t-put-down business novel on how to grow and position your small company to sell it.

Developmental editors are sometimes called content editors or consulting editors.

Literary agents also do developmental editing. As do acquisition editors at big publishing houses. But you don’t need a contract with a traditional publisher to get this kind of help.

Note: participants in Beta Author Boost get in-depth developmental editing from moi, Voxie Media publisher and CEO.

Copyeditor: grammar police (thank god) and collaborator

Copyeditors (sometimes called line editors) get down into the paragraph and sentence level, correct your grammar and syntax and make your prose sing… but still sound like you. That is,  if they’re really good. That’s key, because you want to work with someone who is sensitive to your voice and your style. Every writer can benefit from a great copyeditor.

Proofreader: essential cleaner-upper

Finally, proofreaders clean up any remaining typos after copyeditors have worked their magic. They are the least expensive kind of editor, but their services are extremely important. A book can be beautifully written and edited. But if readers find even a couple of typos, your credibility as an author plummets.

How do you find an editor?

We know that talented and experienced book editors are available for hire because of massive downsizing by the Big Six publishers. But how do you find and vet a freelance editor for yourself? It can be overwhelming to select someone from online listings.

Getting a recommendation from a colleague – another author or someone who has worked in traditional publishing – is probably the best route. But here are a handful of resources worth checking out.

Editorial Freelancers Association

The Editorial Freelancers Association is a well-respected group based in New York. It has been around for years. You can submit a job posting as well as search for an editor in a geographic area or with a particular expertise (developmental, line editing, proofreading).

Publishers Marketplace

Publishers Marketplace are the folks who publish the popular daily email, Publishers Lunch (there is a free and paid version), with all the latest deals and news about the publishing industry. To get access to their member listing, you need to join the site ($20 a month.) I searched Members under “editorial services” and found 90 listings.


MediaBistro has a long list of best book editors on Twitter. They also have a freelance marketplace which lists hundreds of editors. You can narrow it down by looking for certain types of editors (content editor, copyeditor, etc.). Note that they are not all book editors, per se.


This writers’ resource is courtesy of Jane Friedman (a former publishing exec and a brilliant blogger on the future of publishing). Check out Hiveword results for book editor. 


Put freelance editing or a variation thereof in the search box for groups. You will find the Freelance Editing NetworkPublishing and Editing Professionals and many others. Some of these groups require you to “join.”


Author and publishing expert Joanna Penn used Twitter to find her editor, @noveldoctor. Don’t laugh. Twitter can be a great way to make contact with talented folks. It helps if you have a large following yourself as more people will see your Tweet query for a book editor. Try using a hashtag like #editor. Results not guaranteed.

Writer Beware

Writer Beware on Independent Editors

A few editors we recommend

Based on our own research and referrals we trust, here are a few editors we recommend for nonfiction business books:

Barbara McNichol (has worked with several Beta Authors)

Betsy Rapoport (recommended by Pam Slim)

Christine Pride (recommended by Nathan Bransford)

June Eding (formerly with Penguin)

Alan Rinzler (publishing industry veteran)

Dick Margulis

NY Book Editors

5 E – 5 freelance book editors who are veterans of Big Six Publishing

Download 5E’s winter 2012 newsletter [links to article where you can download the PDF]

We’d love to expand this list. Please leave a note in the comments if you can recommend an experienced book editor who specializes in nonfiction and business. Or if you want to add to the conversation about hiring and working with an editor. Huge thanks – Debbie Weil

Other resources

A list of freelance book editors by literary agent and prolific blogger Rachelle Gardner.

The Editorial Department (recommended by Jeff Goins)

Scribendi (click here to see their spot-on infographic comparing editing with proofreading)

Writer’s Digest 2nd Draft Critique 

Gotham Ghostwriters

About Ghostwriting and Hiring a Ghostwriter

Kirkus Reviews now has an indie division and offers book editing services for independent authors.

Self-publishing packagers like Fast Pencil offer book editing services (we have not tried them).

For proofreading and light copyediting, you might want to try eLance or  oDesk. I have used oDesk for transcription and been very pleased. Again, results not guaranteed.

How much does a book editor cost?

For a sample of editorial rates, check out the Editorial Freelancer Association’s rate chart. You’ll see fee differences laid out for developmental, copyediting, line editing and proofreading. Fees can range widely, of course, depending on how well-known or in-demand the editor is.

Useful reading

Joanna Penn on Why You Need a Professional Editor for Your Book

David Kudler on 7 Deadly Myths and 3 Inspired Truths About Book Editing

Marcy Kennedy on What Type of Edit Does Your Book Need?

Veteran book editor Alan Rinzler on When Do You Need an Editor?

Alan Rinzler on Choosing a Freelance Editor: What You Need to Know

India Drummond on Hiring a Freelance Editor

Tiffany T. Cole on Hiring a Freelance Editor: A Step-by-Step Guide

List of service providers for eBook publishing  courtesy of Elizabeth Spann Craig (via book doctor Jason Black)

  • Sue Johnston

    As one of Debbie’s first group of Beta Authors, I had a dilemma.

    I had a limited budget for “Talk To Me” and felt it made the most sense to put my money into book design. If I can’t get readers’ attention via the look of the book, they’ll never even see the inside. Moreover, I’ve been a professional writer and editor almost forever. Who’s going to do a better job than I can?

    At the same time, one of my “Big Rules” as a corporate communicator was Four Eyes – always get someone else to look at your work before sending it out. So I invested in a copy editor, just to be safe. To my absolute delight, she found things to change.

    Martha noticed elements that might confuse readers, introduced a technique to show the passage of time, suggested words with more impact than those I chose, and helped me find another way to say (ugh!) “outside the box.” The book is better after her sensitive edit.

    Better than that, knowing someone else had applied her eyeballs, brain, and keyboard to my manuscript saved me hours – maybe days – of fussing. I made the suggested changes and shipped the book off to the designer.

    Hiring a professional editor gives you confidence. I can’t think of a better investment, especially for a new author.

    • Debbie Weil

      Yay!! And now Sue is about to publish her book, Talk to Me: Workplace Conversations That Work. Sign up to get an alert about the May launch

  • Dick Margulis

    First of all, Debbie, I’m really flattered to be included on your short list. This is a great overview, to which I’d like to add just a few things.

    On the subject of different types of editors, it seems no two people define all the levels the same way. You suggest that copyeditors do line editing, and many do. But many copyeditors define a more limited role for themselves and are timid about suggesting more than the occasional word change. They would classify line editing as something developmental editors are responsible for. And then there are people who specialize in line editing, leaving the big structural questions for developmental editors and the nitty-gritty of punctuation to the copyeditors. So authors should not be put off by reading definitions at variance from yours.

    Also, in traditional book publishing, a proofreader is someone who checks final (typeset) pages before they go to the printer, looking mostly for typographical issues and only incidentally serving as a cleanup batter behind the copyeditor and author. With authors who want to go straight from a Microsoft Word file to an e-book, a proofreader will be checking the Word file, because there is no typesetting step involved. Normally, though, if you are still at the manuscript stage, a proofreader is not involved.

    On the subject of finding an editor, compatibility is a key to the relationship at all stages. It is fair to request a brief (one to three pages) sample edit to get a sense of the editor’s style. This also helps the editor do a more accurate job of estimating how long the job will take and thus how much to charge you. Some editors will demur, as is their right; but if you assure them that all three candidates you’re considering are reviewing the exact same pages, you are likely to overcome resistance. (Note: do not send pages for this purpose from the beginning or end of the book. Somewhere in chapter 2 or 3 is usually a good choice.)

    Finally, a word about changing hats. If you’re going to have a good working relationship with an editor at any level, you have to understand the change in your role as author. You work, often in isolation, for months to complete a manuscript, and you may naturally feel that your baby is perfect and that no one should touch a hair on her head. But in truth, after you have polished and polished and polished, what you have is a final draft, not a book. At that point, the goal is to turn that draft into a finished product for market. And that is no longer writing; it’s product development. So you become a member of a product development team, and it behooves you to accept input from product development professionals—editors, designers, compositors, project managers, printers, distributors, marketing professionals—to develop the best product you can. This requires letting go of the author mentality (don’t touch my baby’s hair) and thinking like a marketing manager (how can we best appeal to the intended customer for this product?). Change hats. Your book will be better for it.

    • Debbie Weil

      Dick, can’t thank you enough for your clarifying comments. Spot on.

  • Matt Gartland

    Hi Debbie-

    Kudos on crafting such a thoughtful resource for writers/authors of all stripes on the role and value of editors. You explain the levels of editing exceeding well. While these levels go by different names to different people, they all foretell that editing is not one size fits all.

    Instead of being vanilla, good editing is a highly adjusted flavor adapted to the uniqueness of each author. And now, in the new book economy where publishing lacks any serious barrier to entry, good editing has become not only mark of quality and professionalism on the part of the author, it’s also a strong competitive advantage.

    Thanks again for highlighting the strengths and value of editors, and for including Winning Edits among other accomplished editors.


  • Jennifer Lyle

    What a great post, Debbie, and wonderful comments by (so far) Matt, Dick & Sue. This is the kind of nitty-gritty detail-based information that is lacking in the book publishing research that I’ve done so far. Thank you so much. I’ll be digging into the links & I’ll share the post as well.

    • Debbie Weil

      Thanks Jennifer! It was indeed hard to research this post – to find reputable sources for experienced book editors.

  • Alan

    Dear Debbie

    Thanks for the excellent piece. Can’t resist adding that one of the most important criteria in finding a good developmental editor is track record. Has this editor worked on books that have succeeded, that you recognize, that sold? Also, many authors consult an editor very early in the developmental process, to get feedback on core ideas, characters, story, and style. But remember that ultimately, editors are helping professionals only, and it’s the author’s call regarding all creative decisions.

    Alan Rinzler

    • Debbie Weil


      Thanks for stopping by. Not explored fully enough in this post is how to “vet” an editor – so I really appreciate your input.

  • Brett Battles

    Using a professional editor/copy editor/proofreader (and I don’t mean a family member or friend “who is good with grammar”) is a step that should NEVER be skipped. So As I made the way from being traditionally published to independent, it was vitally important to me to find someone whose judgment I trusted and who had an excellent eye to edit my books. The person I turned to was Elyse at She has now been my editor on eight books, and I couldn’t be happier. I highly recommend her. Lots of info on her website:

    • Brett Battles

      And, of course, if I had let her read my post before hitting send she would have removed the capital A on As in the 2nd sentence…proff I really need someone to look at my work! 😉

  • Catherinerankovic

    I am Catherine Rankovic and run Please see my website and add me to your list of editors. Thank you!

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