For Jeff King: Manuscript Editors

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jeff King asked: Do you know any good editors or anyone who you would recommend to edit a manuscript, someone you would trust...

If we're talking professionals, I have to say, in a word, no. However, just because I don't know of one personally doesn't mean there aren't reputable manuscript editors out there. The thing is, they are very expensive, hundreds even thousands of dollars, according to this page on Editors and Preditors. The link also provides a good description of what editors do (and don't do), the best impetus to use one, what to look for and what to look out for when it comes to hiring one. I'd read it thoroughly before looking for an editor. The page has some editor links at the bottom, including this one for the Editorial Freelancers Association - which would likely be a good place to start. There are also a set of links for alternatives, including how to choose writer's groups and the like. I would definitely read this whole page. There are also some links to publishing and writer's forums on this page of AgentQuery.

That same page offers some suggestions of alternatives before you go to an editor and, if possible, I'd recommend trying those first.

A friend who can read your manuscript critically and respects you enough to tell the truth. Seriously, if you can find a friend like this, it's excellent. Of course, finding a friend who likes the same sorts of fiction you're writing or can give you useful feedback may be challenging. Many people who love fiction (particularly genre fiction) may get too caught up in the writing to provide meaningful feedback (and some people can get caught up in bad writing as easily as good writing). Optimally, someone who has some experience writing or a serious student of literature is best. Perhaps if you know someone who reviews books for a blog it might be a good place to start, or an English professor at a local college or, ideally, a published author you might know.

Writer's group, critique group, on-line forum. In my experience, this can be hit or miss, because it can run the gamut from a congratulation circle (where everyone gushes over everyone else's work no matter how good or bad) to a group completely obsessed with being published (rather than writing good stuff) to elitest club where published work is almost beneath their haughty noses as they try to write something so meaningful no one understands it. BUT, if you can find a group of honest people who genuinely like to read and will look over your work with an open mind but a critical eye, it could do wonders.

Getting good honest critical feedback is, I think, crucial for an aspiring writer and no small feat.

Good luck.


  • Jeff King

    For me solid feedback is not the main problem, it is someone to look at spelling and grammar issues. Someone to look at the manuscript as a professional piece of work and to make it the best it can possibly be.

    I really want an editor that has edited published works and knows how to make them shin, before I send it out to an agent.

    I would prefer to pay a pro to edit my work before I sent it out.
    Then I would know I did the best I could…

    thx for the info and the time to respond.

  • Shakespeare

    You know, an ideal person to look at spelling and grammar issues is an English teacher.

    *hint, hint*

  • The Mother

    I tend to think my grammar Nazi approach to life makes me better at the editing part than the average bear. Hubby catches the occasional spelling mistake. It's amazing how often, when you're writing, things like homophones creep in. You KNOW which spelling you meant, but another one ends up on the page. Weird.

  • Stephanie B

    Homophones are a bane of my existence. Although I'm fairly knowledgeable in grammar and spelling, I'm not better than average in editing, I don't think, because I think in terms of words so my mind is reading along audibly what my eyes are seeing; however, I also have a wonderful memory so I'm often reading ahead of my eyes. In other words, I see what I meant rather than what I wrote.

    When I'm reading out loud to my husband, I can't "read ahead" so I catch more (but not all) mistakes. Reading aloud is the best way I know to catch awkward sentences, clumsy syntax, inadvertent alliteration and dull dialog. I could write without it.

    Perhaps I'd have fewer errors in my posts and comments if I'd read them out loud first (or at least read them through before clicking "publish").

  • Patricia Rockwell

    I just recently found a writing buddy from lady of age and background similar to mine who writes in the same genre as me and who lives fairly close to me. Hallelujah! Like you, my husband is a great editor, but he isn't interested in my kind of writing.

  • Jeff King

    Steph that is me to a tee... i never read my post before i click post. if i was not in a hurry to go no where i might just pre-read stuff.

    i will have to try the reading out load therory. just might help. thx for the tip...

  • JD at I Do Things

    Hi, Jeff,

    Sounds like you might need a professional copy editor, which has been my job title for the last 17 years. (I'm also a regular reader of Stephanie's blogs -- not just trolling for job opportunities!)

    Anyway, feel free to contact me if you're interested. I've worked on hundreds of published books and am definitely have the experience and expertise you're looking for.

    (Sorry this sounds like an ad!)

    E-mail: proedit AT

  • Stephanie B

    Jeff, I can heartily endorse JD's writing and editing abilities (though I've never hired an editor). I SHOULD have recommended her but I didn't realize she worked for anyone but publishers.

    My bad.

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