How to choose an experienced, qualified copyeditor or proofreader who’s a good fit for you

14 February, 2024

Welcome to my first blog post! This week, I discuss a topic that puzzles many authors…

On Facebook and other social media, I see lots of posts by authors who don’t know how to choose an editor, or who are worried that their editor might scam them. So if you’re looking for an editor or a proofreader, here are some ways you can ensure that you’re hiring someone who’s trained, qualified, and the right fit for you.

Do your homework…

Authors have to do some research to find the editor that will suit them best. If you’ve spent months, or even years, writing a book, why trust it to the first person who says they can edit it?

Editing and proofreading are completely unregulated. This means that anyone can say they are an editor or a proofreader, but they may have no qualifications, no training – and no idea what they’re doing. You only have to look at Facebook groups for authors – and editors – to see that plenty of people are offering editing when they don’t have the first clue about grammar or punctuation, never mind about all the skills and tasks involved.

What if an editor runs off with your money?

Some authors report that their editor has ghosted them or has done a poor job – or has not sent in a finished edit at all. But there are ways that an author can minimise the risk of this happening. Read on to find out how!

So, what should you do before you hire an editor? There are several things to check:

  • What training does the editor have? This should be listed on their website.
  • What experience does the editor have? This should also be described on their website.
  • Does the editor have a website? (They should. It’s the best way to show off their credentials to the world.) What does it look like? Does it show some projects that the editor has worked on? Does it contain testimonials from satisfied authors? Is the website clear, well written and free of errors? These are all good signs!
  • Is the editor a member of an editing organisation, e.g. the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) (my professional organisation), AFEPI Ireland, the EFA, ACES or IPEd? Although not all professional editors belong to an editing organisation, membership is a good sign, as it shows that they’re serious about their career. The next thing to consider: what level of member are they? Some organisations have various levels of membership: CIEP membership levels go from Entry Level (for someone with no editing/proofreading experience) to Advanced Professional (for someone with considerable experience and training).
  • There’s another good reason to choose an editor who is a member of the CIEP: they have to abide by the CIEP’s Membership codes, which means that they must act professionally and ethically at all times. If you have a problem with an editor who belongs to the CIEP, you can contact the CIEP and they will investigate. This helps to give authors peace of mind.
  • Does the editor appear in an editing directory? The CIEP has a Directory of Editorial Services. Only Advanced Professional Members and Professional Members can appear in this Directory. (Here’s my Directory entry.) You can search the Directory using relevant key words (e.g. ‘fiction’, ‘romance’, ‘development editing’) to find qualified, experienced editors.
  • Does the editor belong to an authors’ organisation, such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)? If so, do they appear in ALLi’s Partner Member Directory? This shows commitment and professionalism.
  • And importantly: are all the editor’s communications with you clear, polite, professional and grammatically correct?

So if you have found an editor you’d like to contact, read the list above. If you can tick off most of the items on this list, you can be sure that the editor is trained, experienced, and knows what they’re doing!

But what should you do next? Read my next blog post to find out the best questions to ask an editor, so that things go smoothly and you can start to build a great working relationship.