If you’re an indie author, then you know it’s your responsibility to build a team to help you get your books out into the world. Because we have creative control and control over our production processes, we have the luxury of choosing our editors. Chances are, you’re probably interested in the idea of building a relationship with your editor that goes beyond a basic transactional arrangement.

Any writer can hire an editor for a one-time project, but it takes patience, clarity, and a little magic to connect with an editor you can work with long-term, time and again. Before you pursue a long-term editing engagement, there are a few things you need to know–and some important things to look for. 

The Best Relationships Are Never Forced 

Like any relationship, the best working relationships can’t be forced to work out. You and any prospective editor are two individuals who may or may not be compatible. Just because they offer a service you need, doesn’t mean they’re the right person to provide that service to you. And just because they were a great editor for your friend, doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you or your current project.

There are many factors that go into working closely with an editor. If you want to go beyond a basic business transaction and make some magic, then you’ll need to know exactly what you’re looking for and be willing to keep looking (or working with different professionals) until you find it. 

Know What You Want in an Editor, and Ask for Sample Edits

Working with an editor long-term goes beyond industry experience and genre expertise. Finding compatibility in story goals, personality, and feedback style are also important. There’s no definitive resource for telling you exactly how to find the perfect editor for you, but there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind: 

  • The editor believes in your story and has good instincts for helping you strengthen it
  • They possess knowledge of the genre you’re writing in, including story conventions and tropes
  • They “get” what you’re trying to do with your story, and they support your intent rather than trying to change it
  • Their feedback style is supportive, encouraging, and helps you to expand as a writer
  • You trust them with your story 

Most editors offer a small sample edit so you can get an idea of how they work, so take them up on it. It’s a valuable opportunity to decide whether you want to move forward with the project, or keep looking. Some editors also offer story chats (we do!) that help you get a feel for the way they work and what they bring to the table. 

You Might Not Resonate With Your First Editor -That’s Okay

The first three editors I considered hiring back in 2019 weren’t a fit. I was in a hurry and hoping to find someone fairly quickly, but for various reasons, the professionals I was looking to hire didn’t work out.

It may take time to find an editor you want to work with on multiple projects, such as a book series–and that’s okay. I know it sounds cliche to trust the process, but it’s so important not to attempt to rush this all-important relationship. Keep looking and don’t be afraid to try working with a number of different professionals on this adventure. 

In the end, be open to the fact that you might not end up working with the same one or two editors on multiple projects. It’s possible, but it’s not a guarantee. Particularly if you write cross-genre, you might not find an editor with expertise in every genre you publish in. 

Remember, just like books, every author’s journey is unique. Along the way, you’ll meet and work with a number of talented professionals who bring different perspectives and expertise to the table, and who you will learn from. And as long as we’re learning and growing, that’s what matters most. 

While you’re waiting to find the right editor to work with on a long-term basis, it’s important to control what you can and keep moving forward in your author life. One way you can do this is to gain more traction in your work and your brand. That’s why we created the FREE ​​Author Traction Challenge. If you’re ready to level up in your author career, this resource will help move you in the right direction. You can sign up here. 

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