May. 12th, 2012

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This is the second installment of my series about hiring a freelance editor. You can see an index here and zero in on the topic that most interests you, or find all of the topics under the 'editing' tag.

Before I began my search for a freelance editor, I knew I really had no idea what I was in for. I wasn't sure if it was going to be like searching for a publisher, where I would need to prove myself and hope someone was willing to look at my work. I also didn't know how long it was going to take. So I came prepared for a long, difficult search.

It turned out not be nearly so difficult as I feared, but I still feel that the steps I took to get organized before I began helped out.

I created myself a spreadsheet, modeled after a spreadsheet that I had seen in the "Writer's Market", which is supposed to be used to organize a search for a traditional publisher or agent. I set the spreadsheet up like this:

Manuscript TitleOrganizationContact NameQuote RequestedResponse ReceivedQuoteComments
The Sleeping DeathJane Doe Editing Ltd.Jane Doe
04/12/2012
04/13/2012
$800Liked the website and blog. Referred by John Smith. Sent synopsis and first three chapters on 04/13/2012.


The idea behind the spreadsheet is just to keep track of who you've contacted, where you found them, and how long it's been since you heard from them. This is to prevent you from accidentally contacting the same person multiple times, or from forgetting who people are when they contact you back.

The comments section can be used to record details that don't fit anywhere else. I used it to mention anything unusual about the particular person, and to leave myself reminders about what we had talked about already.

It also gives you an easy way to check whether enough time has passed that it might be worthwhile to follow-up. This basic spreadsheet can be useful for a lot of applications, and you can always add in more columns as needed. I set it up so that I can reuse the spreadsheet for other projects, maybe contacting people I've looked at before, for OtherWhere when I'm ready to do so.

As I did my research, I threw in links and information about various people I had looked at, even if I didn't think I was likely to contact them, so that I wouldn't ever repeat my work or cover ground I had already spent time covering.

In the end, I contacted three people at the end of my first day of research, though I had looked at about ten on various websites. I sent a short, polite email letting them know where I had found them, and describing what I was looking for the editor for - a fantasy novel of approximately 110,000 words - and requested a quote.

Two of them got back to me within 24 hours, both of them to tell me that they didn't have time to deal with my project right now, but both offering to refer me to people they knew who might have time.

I accepted those offers, noted down in the comment section whom they had referred me to, and added new lines for the two new people. In the comment section for those people I also noted who had referred me to them, so I could tell them if they asked. I wound up hiring one of those referrals, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there.

As you can see, just a tiny bit of organization goes a long way. I immediately had a place where I could compare the people I had spoken to, and knew exactly when I had heard from whom and about what, without having to poke through my emails. And if none of those initial contacts had panned out, I had a central place where I could move on to my next choices and contact others, or recognize that I had to widen my search and go back to the drawing board to get more names.

Next time I'll talk about the places where I found editors, and the various pros and cons of each!

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Jessica Steiner

February 2016

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