• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

How do you choose an editor?


I was wondering how people choose an editor that they are compatible with. I had one short story published in which the editor made a lot of changes that I didn't like at all. Also, I've heard a horror story from a writer who is writing a series and has a contract, and the editor made so many changes that the author said it wasn't even recognizable as her writing anymore. I am really leaning toward self-publishing on Smashwords and not bothering with trying to find an agent to get in print, but I think it would probably benefit from editing. (Not that it's anywhere close to done, yet.)
If you are going to self-publish, you are going to pay for good editing. You can find these people everywhere: college campuses, online, even Craiglist.

A good editor will NOT change things without clearing them with you. There should be some dialogue if a major change is made. "I think you should __________, because..." or "I won't publish this story unless we can change ___________" or "I recommend this, what do you think?" Things like that.

In traditional publishing, editing is free (well, free for you as this is overhead for the publisher). My publisher is a small firm. Both the main publisher and the cheif editor went through my MS several times before releasing my novel. They changed/fixed typos as they saw them in the version-labeled electronic version/master copy. They would send me printed pages with handwritten notes for suggestions and other material. I then had the ultimate call to make a change or not. I did this in the newest version of the MS, then sent it back. Sometimes, we had discussions.....why they thought a name should change, or why I should use a certain curse word, or something like that. I had a great experience with this process, but I can easily see how it could go badly for others.


Angharad. it all comes down to one thing - do you want to be the best writer you can be who produces the best version of your stories as possible? If the answer is yes then you should have an editor. If the answer is no or "I don't want to change anything" then you should probably quit or self publish without an editor (a death knell if you ask me).

I heard the stories, probably much similar to the ones you heard. And I was convinced I'd only need a copy and an line editor. Then I met a friend of mine who had some professional editing experience and he read my short story (now published in his anthology!). I asked for honest critique and feedback. I got a document filled with red back but some super encouraging notes including that my story idea was interesting and a new take on an old cliche of scifi. The important thing to say here is that all of the requested changes made my story better. It read better, better word choice, avoiding overused cliche, forced my dialogue to improve, and the beginning was completely rewritten from scratch whilst the end had almost no changes save a few word choice edits. This is what a good editor should and will do and you will know it when you are in the editing process. The core of my story - an alien who must live inside other animals and a burned out alcoholic doctor who has to make a difficult choice under pressure was intact. The interplay between the alien and doctor was intact and improved. And my great detailed descriptions of some pivotal scenes remained intact and improved slightly. The overused 'mirror scene', 'I'm an alcoholic and my world is gray', and 'this is Timmy the 'stock' kid archetype' were all changed. My test for how well my story improved was that my wife tried to read my first draft and she didn't get past page one. The final draft she read straight through until the end and really liked it and she is totally not a scifi person outside of Inception or Matrix. I think my editor did his job because I know the story improved and I definitely improved as a writer.

Now for the other stuff. I personally have problems with writers who tell stories like you mentioned. IMHO they either fall into the "not good enough camp" or the "it's my 'style' and I don't want to change". Both are bad but I often see the latter with people who are in love with being a writer but never produce anything or who are lovers of literature and want to write in that genre which is more difficult and takes many more years of practice. It's also worth pointing out that first drafts always suck and will undergo major changes by the editor and writer. And lastly if someone is going to pay me for my writing but I must have an editor then I'll make the changes because they know what it takes to get my work up to sell-able quality more than I do. Most professional writers will say the same or similar.

End rant. Please get an editor. :)


If your work is published through a publishing house, you'll be assigned an editor, and probably won't have a lot of choice in the matter--especially if you're a first time author. However, be professional in all contacts and an agent (if you have one) can be your advocate should there arise concerns.

If you self-publish, you'll end up selecting and hiring an editor. The best route with this is references and examples of final products published. Some editors offer samples, where they'll edit the first 10 pages of a novel for free to demonstrate what they're editing is like.

An editor's goal should not be to change the author's work or voice (unless there is good reason) but a strong editor should be more than a copy-editor fixing a few typos and grammar gaffs.

I've assisted in story selection in several anthologies, and edited half the stories for one. I've also worked as an editor (mainly reading slush) for a small ezine (MindFlights). In my experience and in my efforts (even as an author with about a dozen short stories and one novel published) have I encountered an editor that rewrote or otherwise up and changed things without my knowledge. In this, I may have been fortunate. Sometimes it depends on the contract you sign before the story/novel is edited--that's an important reason why it is vital to understand and agree with all the terms in a contract before signing.


Thanks for the helpful responses. Paul, I know that an editor would definitely make my writing better, I am just not sure where to find one, or whether I could trust the one I choose. It's sort of like picking a doctor out of the phone book; they will have a big influence on my health but I don't know if they are any good. My one experience with an editor was enough to make me wary. She sent me the "proof" with her changes and asked for my approval. I was okay with some of the changes, but others I did not agree with. I returned it with my responses, and never heard back until the anthology came out, and it was exactly the same as the proof. She had completely ignored my input, which really bothered me. Now maybe her version was better, but I would have liked to have the chance to discuss it.

Oh, I just remembered another example of a bad editor. I have a friend who self-published and she used an editor, and her published work is still riddled with errors! I don't know how that happened, but things like than make me worry that some editors are not any good. I've also read published novels that have blatant inconsistencies. My question wasn't really whether or not to have one, but how to find a good one.
Last edited:


Line and copy editor is for spelling and grammar.

A content editor is to help you improve your story and your writing.

There are quite a few freelance editor websites where you can hire either kind of editor. One big thing is to do your homework if you go this route and pick an editor who has experience and has edited books that you know you enjoyed reading.


New Member
One thing that I have learned about editing is that the responsibility for a manuscript still lies with the author. It is your work, watch over it like you would over a baby.