How to choose a professional editor

These days with so many fraudsters and scammers around, it’s no wonder authors often question if they can trust editors they find online. Do not despair! There are several things to look for that will help you to choose a professional editor who is genuine and trustworthy and is a good fit for you and your book.

Do your due diligence

Most of us wouldn’t part with our hard-earned money without doing some research first. If you’re like me, you look at websites like TripAdvisor to check out hotels and restaurants before even thinking about making a booking or visiting. And we all want to read reviews of products before we buy online. It’s common sense and the way of the world nowadays!

So, remember to apply the same principles when looking for an editor! If you find an editor you are interested in working with, see what you can find out about them online.

Research the different types of editing

Not all writers realise that there are different types of editing. Make sure you do your research as editors don’t all offer the same services. To confuse things even more, the terms used to describe the different types of editing can vary between editors. 

Many writers believe that they just need a ‘quick proofread’, when in fact their book needs a whole lot more! I have a blog post specifically about the different types of editing, but in brief they are:

Developmental editing

Developmental editing identifies structural and bigger-picture issues. It is also known as substantive editing.

Line editing

Line editing looks at the text sentence by sentence and addresses the sense and flow. It can also be known as sentence-level or stylistic editing.

Copy editing

Copy editing addresses grammar, spelling and punctuation, repetition and applies a consistent style.


Proofreading is the final quality control check before a book is published. It is not a catch-all service and certainly not a substitute for the other types of editing mentioned above.

Let’s look at a hypothetical (but commonly found) example.

Arthur Author has engaged Prunella the Proofreader to proofread his legal thriller manuscript. Prunella is quite new to the editing profession and offers proofreading and not any other type of editing (and there is nothing wrong with that). Arthur’s book has not been through any other type of editing before he passes it to Prunella. A friend from a Facebook writers’ group told him that editors were not necessary and a waste of money, but if he were concerned, he could ask an editor for a quick proofread.

Prunella has done an excellent job with her proofreading and picked up typos, spelling errors, non-inclusive language, inconsistent style and layout problems. But she hasn’t noticed the plot does not follow a logical structure, the frequent point-of-view drops, and the unrealistic dialogue. And she is not a legal thriller specialist, so she hasn’t realised that Arthur has muddled up UK civil and criminal law.

Prunella isn’t to blame as she has done what Arthur asked her to do: proofread his manuscript. Prunella hasn’t been trained in developmental or line and copy editing, so she is unlikely to recognise the problems mentioned above.

If Arthur wants his novel to be successful and to get good reviews, he will need to engage further editorial support, which means additional expense. If Arthur had done some research beforehand, he could have saved himself time and money.

A good professional editor will ask to see the whole manuscript so they can determine what level of editing is required. If you are a self-publishing author, the chances are that your book will need line and copyediting as a minimum before your book is proofread.


Many editors offer their services in certain areas or subjects. For example, academic editing, fiction, non-fiction, legal, medical and so on. It’s common for editors to generalise and take on work across many areas.

Some editors specialise in a particular niche. This means that they have an interest in, and are knowledgeable about, their chosen subject or genre. For example, I specialise in crime, thriller and suspense fiction. Another editor might specialise in speculative, fantasy and science fiction. Or maybe self-help non-fiction.

Narrowing your search to editors that are specialists in your book’s subject or genre will make choosing an editor a simpler process.

Professional training

Has the editor been trained by a recognised professional training provider? In the UK, the Publishing Training Centre and CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) are a couple of the reputable providers of editorial training.

Membership of a professional editing organisation

Membership of a professional editing organisation shows that your editor is committed to maintaining professional standards. The CIEP is a membership organisation in the UK that promotes excellence in English language editing. All members agree to abide by the CIEP code of practice called Ensuring Editorial Excellence.

Those members who are at Professional or Advanced Professional level have reached a high standard of training and experience and can have an entry in the CIEP directory of editorial services. This is a further way for clients to be reassured that their editor is trustworthy and knowledgeable.


Does your editor have testimonials from previous clients? Testimonials are a great way to help build a picture of an editor’s expertise.

Is your editor visible online?

Not all editors have websites but might instead use social media to promote their services. Although many editors have a website and also use social media. Checking out social media feeds is a good way to find out more about an editor you are interested in working with.

Know who you are dealing with

Knowing who you are dealing with is so important. When I trained as a solicitor, this was something that was drummed into me from my first day on the job.

It’s common to find editing services advertised online that don’t mention individual editors by name or include any photos. So you have no idea who you are sending your  precious book to. This is definitely a red flag. Businesses like this could be farming your work out to anyone (and often do)!

Remember the adage you get what you pay for. If you pay for a cheap edit, you may well find that is what you get – cheap and badly done. And paying for a cheap edit could be a false economy as you may find yourself paying again to get your book edited properly.


Editing is a premium service and editors deserve to be paid a decent amount for providing a skilled and professional service. In the UK, the CIEP has suggested minimum rates for editorial work.

Freelancing websites

There are several freelancing websites out there where you may well be able to get your book edited for £50. But be wary. There are a lot of people advertising editorial services on these sites that are not professional editors and will not edit your book properly. Remember what I said above about doing your due diligence and the fact that a cheap edit may not be a good edit.

However, if you look carefully, there are usually a few very good editors to be found on freelancing websites and many professional editors who are starting out use these sites to find their first clients.

Discovery calls

Many editors now offer discovery calls by Zoom or Teams. This means you and the editor get to meet each other which will help to determine if you are a good fit. And you are going to be working in partnership with each other, so it’s important that you have a rapport.

If meeting by Zoom is not possible, or if you are not comfortable with being on-screen or talking by phone, you can try and build a connection through email exchanges.

Sample edits

Many line and copyeditors will offer a sample edit of a short section of your work to show how they will tackle the job. Don’t assume that the sample will be provided free of charge. Some editors offer free samples and others may charge and deduct the cost from the overall fee if you choose to work with them.

If your editor doesn’t offer a sample (and not all do), they should be able to point you in the direction of previous examples of their work.

You should now have a clear idea of what to look for when choosing a professional editor and what to be wary of!

If you would like to arrange a discovery call to find out more about me and my services or would like to check out my credentials, please see the details at the bottom of this post.

Work with me

I’m Clare Black, a fiction book editor based in Stockport, UK. I help independent authors prepare for publishing by fixing the important details and improving the readability of their books. I specialise in crime, thriller and contemporary fiction, but I am happy to consider other genres. I am a Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP).

I offer various packages to help indie authors get published and would love the opportunity to discuss your book and how I can help you prepare for publishing.


Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest