The beginning of many big projects is a simple idea. As a writer, your work is to refine that initial thought and to build a narrative around it to express it holistically. As an author, on the other hand, your work does not end after you have written your piece. They essentially start with a stack of yarn and folds it into a neat ball by the end of their writing project. This process requires several steps, some of which are technical. Writing is a collaborative process. You need to ensure that you are working with the people who understand and are on board with your vision, so that you can focus on your passion without worrying too much about housekeeping.

A crucial part of this process is editing. J. Thorn, the founder of Author Copilot, believes that authors should hire an editor when they believe their manuscript is as good as it can possibly be. It is important to self-edit your work before getting an editor on board. This allows you to get a better understanding of what exactly it is that you are hiring your editor for and makes it easier to brief them. 

Ask yourself the following questions and find the correct editor for yourself!

Do I even need an editor?
As an author, you are, rightfully so, personally invested in your work. A third party reviewing your work can increase the quality objectively. Authors often use beta readers to get feedback, but this is not the same as the comprehensive analysis a professional editor can provide. An editor is qualified to critically evaluate your work and help you produce a fine-tuned version of your initial idea.

What can an editor do for me?
There are various services an editor can provide for you. These include

»Developmental Editing
»Copyediting
»Proofreading
»Line Editing 
»Substantive Editing

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and sometimes you may require multiple editing services, depending on your work. Editors can specialise in these areas or provide multiple-services. If you are not sure which service you want from your editor, discuss with them and explain your requirements. Accordingly, make sure you hire the correct editor depending on the type of editing you require.

How flexible are editors in terms of the services they provide?
At the end of the day, you are the author. An editor will only change your work as much or as little as you want. If you have hired an editor to proofread your work, they will not suggest narrative changes unless you want them to. An editor is not familiar with your work in the way that you are. They will only edit as extensively or minimally as you ask them to. Once again, discuss with your editor. Explain to them what areas you think may require heavier editing and which parts you are more or less comfortable with.

How do I make sure my editor does not leave my work worse off?
Like you would check the credentials of a potential employee before hiring them, make sure you are hiring a qualified editor. Check how they have received their formal training and the previous experience they have. Focus on the kind of texts they have previously edited and the genres. For instance, fiction has space for dramatic metaphors, and long winding plots while non-fiction needs to be clear and concise. Different genres require different styles of editing, so it is crucial to hire an editor who, in the past, has dealt with the material you are writing on.

I am sensitive to feedback regarding my work. How can I work well with an editor?
Your relationship with your editor is like any professional relationship. There needs to be mutual respect and an understanding of each other’s abilities to work efficiently. Make sure you are professionally compatible with your editor. Many editors offer trial edits, which is a great way to gauge their editing style and feedback mechanism. Some editors may be gentle with their editing whereas others may strike off complete chapters. No matter how qualified or reputed an editor is, if the way they provide feedback is not suitable for you, there is no harm in looking elsewhere. After all, their feedback is of no use to you if you are unable to register it.

All that said, it is crucial to go with your instincts while hiring an editor. Your writing is your baby, and your editor is its babysitter. You do not want to put your work in the hands of somebody you cannot trust. Do a thorough research before you select your editor that clicks with both you and your work!