Hiring a freelance editor for proofreading & editing your book

Freelance editors work with new writers (or even experienced ones) to polish their novel or non-fiction manuscript before it gets submitted to literary agents or publishers. They could charge on a fixed fee or an hourly fee basis. Like in all fields, the editing business has a few good editors who know their stuff (and can really make a difference) and a whole lot of mediocre and opportunistic ones who’d be happy to take your money.

Here are a few perspectives for you to think about before you take the decision of hiring a freelance editor for your book.

– Ask yourself why you are looking for an editor

Is it to find and fix typos & grammatical errors (if so what does it say about the quality of your writing)?
Is it to get new perspectives on your plot or find flaws in your narration?
Are you sure your original plot and your natural voice won’t be transformed beyond recognition?
What makes the editor qualified to do any of the above?
Is it just to establish a relation with someone who you think will help get your book published?

Find out specifically what the editor will do for you and then decide how much you are willing to pay for that service.

– Think about the Return on Investment

If you don’t care about the commercial aspects and it’s more about just seeing your name in print, this point isn’t relevant. But book advances in India can be ridiculously low. And even modestly priced editorial services (offered by good editors) can be quite expensive for struggling writers. So if you are looking at recouping your investment see how much this expense is going to help.

– See if there’s a conflict of interest

An independent editor edits. A literary agent sells to the publisher. A publisher publishes. Each professional team has an operating and earning model that either gives them money upfront or after sales have been made.

The confusion can start when one team starts doing too many things.

You can buy a shampoo or a conditioner separately. They are designed with different needs in mind. A hybrid product (Shampoo+Conditioner) that puts both in the same bottle is designed for an impatient consumer, but I’m not sure how effective mixing the two might be.

– Word of mouth / referral

Don’t judge your decision based on what the editors or their websites say. That information will always be biased. Instead, speak to other writers you trust or atleast those you think will give a genuine feedback. Ask them what happened during the editing process. Also, ask them what happened after the manuscript was edited and polished.

Find out if the editor is accepting anyone and everyone who knocks on the door, or if there’s a strict evaluation process to selectively work on a few good quality manuscripts where they really see the potential to get published.

An independent editor however good she is cannot do miracles for ALL genres and ALL authors. Also, there are is no guarantee that your book will be much better than the original manuscript you submitted.

But these are just my thoughts based on the limited exposure I have within a single genre (non-fiction, how-to book). The only editor I worked with was from the publishing house and he did a wonderful job. I think the BIG reason why that association was successful was because our larger interests (to see a high-quality product getting out in the market AND being successful) were aligned.

If you have other views, do share them in the comments below. Please try to provide objective and logical perspectives, so your comments don’t get deleted as spam. Sharing the right email ID and website will add to the credibility of your views.

33 Comments

  1. Anup Soans says:

    Very helpful article. Well written.

  2. Sameer says:

    Thanks, Anup. Good to have an experienced writer in our midst.

    Also, thanks for your comments on my Firstpost articles.

  3. archana tiwari says:

    Dear Sameer,
    I need a professional book editor/proof reader for my novel. Could you please help or arrange one for me.
    Thanks
    Archana Tiwari

  4. Sameer says:

    Sorry, Archana. Can’t help out with that request.

  5. Hi,

    I liked your blog. I thought that we could do a few cross blog things.

    Would you be interested in reviewing my new book “Love, Peace and Happiness:What more can you want?”

    I could do an author interview on yours. I could also post your review on my fanpage referenced below which has more than 10,000 fans giving you a whole new set of visitors.

    Let me know if this makes sense for your blog.

    Rituraj Verma, author

  6. Sameer says:

    Rituraj,

    Thanks for reaching out and for the proposal.

    Surprising as it might sound, I hardly read books. So I don’t think I’d be the right person to review your book.

    You could try approaching Blogadda, they have reviewing packages for authors.

  7. S.Jacob says:

    What is the best publishing company in India, a new fiction writer should approach?

  8. Sameer says:

    Jacob, there is no single ‘best’ publishing company that’ll make every new fiction writer happy.

    You’ll have to do your research to figure out which one’s the best for YOU based on whatever criteria you have – brand, selectivity, marketing support, advance, royalty rates…the list goes on.

    Apologies if that’s not the answer you were hoping for.

  9. Pierre Francis says:

    Finding a good editor is like finding a good restaurant: you don’t know the real McCoy unless you’ve experienced him – and here’s where the catch lies. Editors (Indian as well as foreign) cost a packet and one doesn’t wish to get one’s fingers burnt.

    I’d advise writers looking for good editors to check on books that an editor has worked on (online bios of editors sometimes help) and look for glaring errors. I say “glaring” because editors, no matter how good, can miss an error, whether it’s something as invisible as a missing comma, or the sneaky dangling modifier!

    For the record, I use Stylewriter, Ginger, and ProWriting Aid AFTER I’ve put my own work through at least five self-edits (with big breaks in-between).

  10. Ambili says:

    First of all, a big thanks for writing this article!!! Sir can you please come up with another article on Manuscript Editors in India?
    Till now I have only found one, Writer’s Side. I was wondering if you could tell us more.
    Thank you 🙂

  11. Rahul Bhardwaj says:

    Hi, I have finished my first novel. Are there editors too like agents who could pick out any typos or grammatical mistakes or way of story telling or the publication houses do it for the writers. Rookie to this field so you may have a good laugh, but I am passionate about writing thus your reply could help a lot.

  12. @Ambili: The list of freelance editors (as opposed to those who are part of a publishing set-up) would be too huge and impractical to document. Best to go with word-of-mouth referral.

    @Rahul: Don’t depend on editors and agents to do something that you could at your end before you submit.

  13. Baljeet Singh says:

    Dear Sameer,
    First of all Thanks for sharing such a useful info with us. Well, I had been published by Sahitya Akademi, Delhi and awarded by Hindi Akademi, Delhi. I have been writing mainly in Hindi, however I also write in English and they have been published in national and international journals. My work is still being published in various magazines and newspapers. I was Chief Editor of a newspaper produced by Department of Hindi, Delhi University when I was a journalism student. Well, my question is not about publishing at all. Actually, I have been editing few books these days (in English and Hindi). The authors are reputed and have published their books in abraud.. I want to continue with Editing work only. There are so many young writers wo might be looking for a person like me to edit their book. But in my knowledge, mechanism to find editors does not exist. So how can I get customers who would like me to edit their work? Is such thing possible? I mean, usually publishers do editing and all. I was thinking if this is possible cuz, i have visited many publishers website who consider only edited (and complete) manuscript. In this case, if one’s language part is little loose, then s/he can use services of people like me. The another reason that make me think its positive side is that, most of people (writers) are working so, they might not be able to work on their work fully. In this case I can provide my services. What do you think of this? Do let me know about it.
    Sincerely
    Baljeet Singh.

    • Dr. Nilesh says:

      Hi Baljeet,
      I am also looking for an editor. I am self publishing my book. I completed my manuscript. It’s actually an epic science-fiction and my first novel too. I tried using publisher’s editing services but that didn’t work for me. I am looking for editing services. Please share your contact no. and email id so we could speak .

  14. @Baljeet: Sure, you could get authors approaching you directly. You’d have to build your ‘editor’ brand to make that happen.

    Make your self visible and easy for writers to discover. There are several forums (mostly international, like Absolutewrite.com) where authors, editors and agents are active.

    Apart from that you could register on websites that list freelancing editorial opportunities.

    All this can get pretty messy with thousands of folks just like you looking for work. So, you’d need to have patience and be consistent, even if you don’t see immediate results.

  15. leslie says:

    Hi Baljeet-My son has written fantasy fiction in english. Could you give me yours contact details or mail me
    Thanks.

  16. Cherry says:

    Hi Sameer and all other writers in here ,

    I just have seen this website. Dear actually these days I have some thoughts to write a novel . But being an Indian as English is a second language for us so I do make so many grammatical mistakes. I know its not because we are Indian its just I am lacking that part and I do not practice as well. As I have to look after my business too. But I really wanted to write. I do stuck when I write not because I do not have my story in my mind it’s because I am lacking at vocabulary part too and sometimes I forget some very simple words as well. I think if I will practice a bit, try to learn some new words everyday so these things can be easily covered up. Please do tell me how I can do that. Here comes the actual part, I am not a good reader and do not know how a novel has to be written? What all things needs to be taken care of ? How I can start telling the story ? I can write it as a first person or as a 3rd person ? Dialogues and expressions should be their or not ? It should be written as an screenplay or ? I don’t even know what I should ask exactly. So do share whatever is important to know before writing. Thanks

    • vinayak says:

      same is the case with me

    • S.K.Singhal says:

      I am a retired officer aged about 69 years. For the last 6-7 years I have been doing proof reading and editing (English and Hindi, both) for some good publishers of Delhi on freelance basis as this was my passion in spotting spelling and grammatical mistakes. Why I am getting work is obvious from the fact that I work, not for money only, but for my passion and there is accuracy of 99%. I have a very good command on both the languages (except the slang English words being used now a days). My work includes Autobiographies, Reminiscences of great men, Hindi-English Dictionary, Geography dictionary, University question papers of BBA, MA, MSc, M.Com, Management, Law, History, Physics, Chemistry and Biology in Science, Engineering books etc. etc.The question may crop up in your mind how I can deal with all these subjects? Well, having a Science background during my school days, I studied humanities in graduation and also done Diploma in Law of Taxation. My good command in the languages coupled with my 36 years’ job experience, as also my interest, all have been instrumental in proving my output of this accuracy. Besides, I have also written some good poems in English and Hindi. If need my services, please contact me through my email address.

  17. sahil says:

    sir,
    does it worth to self publish a novel in india instead of approaching big publishers

  18. Chaitali Sharma says:

    Hi,
    Just like many people here, I am also a budding writer. After taking a sabbatical from my hectic work life, I realized that my real joy lies in penning down or actually pressing down the keys to create something that brings smile on people’s face.
    As the clichéd line goes, since this is my first one I don’t know where I stand in terms of content and style and would really appreciate if I can get some hand-holding on that front.
    Would really appreciate if you can inform me as to how much content I need to send across to get your opinion.
    Thanks in anticipation.
    Regards,
    Chaitali

  19. @Cherry: You can write a book with a basic vocabulary too. In fact, you may have an advantage with that approach as a huge number of Indians have just started reading English books, and they prefer the ones with simple language.

    @Sahil: Traditional publishers have an existing system and process in place. That can help a lot, rather than an author trying to manage everything independently and by trial & error.

    @Chaitali: I’m afraid I will not be able to provide any personal / offline help beyond what I’m doing on this blog.

  20. Smeet says:

    Hey Sameer,
    I’m almost done with my novel (genre-fiction), and all I want is someone professional or at least someone with experience to review my novel. Review in the sense, writing style, plot, etc, to know whether it has the potential to get published. I’m looking for a really honest review.
    Do you know any website which provides these services? Does your other website booksoarus (is that what it’s called?) provide these services?
    Thank you.

  21. Smeet,

    At Booksoarus, we’ve stopped taking new editing and mentoring requests.

    You’ll find many freelance editors on the web.

    However, not all of them are competent, professional or even ethical. Just ensure you do your background research before hiring anyone.

  22. Ashutosh Mishra says:

    Very useful. Just shared the article on twitter.

  23. G says:

    We Are a bunch of aspiring writers(fiction) who meet up regularly in Mumbai share the progress we have made with our work and review the work brought in by others. For aspiring writers, this is a good place to be as we believe in completing this journey of writing a book together. And no we are not some moneymaking scam, the only thing we ask for is your commitment to writing.

    Sameer, feel free to delete the post if you are not okay with people sharing their contact details.

    I can be contacted on [email ID deleted]

    • Hi G,

      If you have a public forum (e.g. Facebook group etc) where interested writers can see and judge for themselves whether the initiative fits their needs, I’d be happy to add it here.

  24. Kripa says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I would like to start editing books on a freelance basis. Would you be able to guide me on how to go about it? I’m not sure which websites or blogs to enlist on. Any advice would be welcome.

    K

    • There are tons of websites to get your profile listed, but considering the number of editors competing for work, it’s tough to get visibility.

      The alternative way is to try and build your own brand and promote yourself via your writing.

      See if being part of my self-branding initiative (called Careerizma) would help. Here’s the rationale behind the idea: How to build, improve or change your career

  25. hi sameer…. i want to know which publishing house should i prefer to publish a thriller
    drama fiction…

  26. Subhajit Dey says:

    Hello Sameer,

    Hope you are doing well.

    I am looking forward to have my book, fiction, edited from a good pair of hands and considering the option of approaching literary agents like Siyahi and Writer’s side who also provide editing services. Do you have any insight on how much do they charge or in general how much one should spend on editing.

    Thank & Regards,
    Subhajit

  27. Suhasini Janeja says:

    Article is very informative. I want to have editor for my book. Those are seeking this job as per your site how to contact them?
    Those who are searching customers for editing have not given their email address

  28. @Subhajit: I don’t like the idea of hiring a literary agency for editing work. For the same reason that a publishing company won’t get their marketing team to do the work of journalists.

    @Suhasini: Many self-proclaimed editors have tried to spam on this page, some even offering to edit manuscripts for free. I wouldn’t like my readers to be taken for a ride by folks who I have no clue about. Which is why I’ve not allowed editors to share their email IDs and market their services here.

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