In For Writers

Your manuscript is done…now what? Today, professional freelance editor, Marlene Adelstein, is answering your questions about the value of working with an editor and how to make the most of your experience.

Q: What does a freelance editor do? What value can a freelance editor add to the book I’m writing?

MA: There are different kinds of editors. There is copy editing, line editing, developmental editing. I mostly do developmental editing which is helping the writer with the overall story.  I also do line editing when called for. The value, I think, of hiring a freelance editor can be the difference between your book selling or not. But I’m biased, of course! An editor can be that objective voice. Many people don’t have really good critical, objective readers who know how to critique a book. They have wives or husbands or friends or parents who love what they’ve written. That’s nice but not very helpful. An editor can see the big picture and help determine what might be holding the book back, where the story needs reshaping or restructuring, cutting, further developing. Or if the book is even marketable at all.

Q: How do I know when my book is ready to be reviewed by a freelance editor?

MA: I think you want to be at a point with your manuscript where you feel like you’ve done all you can do at that particular point and you really need some fresh eyes.  But you also don’t want to let it go too soon. I think you want to finish two or three drafts, let it sit a bit, re-read it after you haven’t for a while and go back in there. Maybe you’ve given it to a few good readers for feedback and made some revisions. But when you feel you’ve done all you can do that go-round, then it’s probably time to send it off to an editor.

I have gotten books sent to me too soon…a very early draft, really fresh out of the printer. I can tell the writer hasn’t done his or her own editing at all. They haven’t let the book sit a while and gotten ‘cold’, gone back in and examined each sentence or really thought about it as a whole. They’ve gotten too excited about being done with a draft and shipped it off hoping I’d say it was great, a bestseller waiting to be published.  So I’d advise to take your time and when you think you’re done, re-read it and try to do more work, set it aside, read it again.

When you’re really all out of ideas, then think about hiring an editor.

Q: What can a writer do to get the most out of working with a freelance editor?

MA: Think about what you are really looking for from an editor. What are your concerns about the story? Make yourself a list to share with your editor, any questions or concerns about plot, character development, pacing, whatever. And if you have a specific intent or goal, things you really want to achieve and to get across to the reader (that might not be crystal clear) let the editor know so he/she can evaluate if you’ve accomplished that.  I also find a good synopsis helps me and is worth including in the package. 

After the editor is done and you’ve gone through his or her notes and the manuscript, jot down any questions or concerns so you can discuss them with the editor. Or maybe you have been inspired and have some new ideas on how to address some problem areas. This would be a good time to share them with the editor.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes writers make when working with a freelance editor?

MA: Probably sending the manuscript off too early.  Also, expecting the editor to return a rewritten, perfect book that will be a bestseller, let you quit your job and become rich. That just isn’t going to happen.  So the expectations for what you will gain from working with an editor need to be realistic and discussed ahead of time.  The writer needs to know he/she will have to roll up their sleeves (again) and dive back into that book. Revising, rewriting, the whole editing process is a lot of work for editor and writer.

Q: How can I find the best freelance editor for me? What things do I need to consider?

MA: Do your homework. There are lots of websites with editors listed. But don’t believe everything you read. Check out the books the editor has worked on. Talk to the editor to make sure you ‘click’ and are on the same page.  Each editor has her own way of working. Make sure what it is you want to accomplish by hiring an editor is exactly what you’ll get.  You want to be sure the editor has worked on the same genre of book you have written. Don’t assume. Ask questions. Ask for references.  Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

Q: How much should I expect to pay to work with a freelance editor?

MA: There are many ways editors charge for their time. By the hour, by the page, by the overall project, word-count. And each type of project may have a different fee. Copy editing is different from developmental editing is different from line editing. So discuss it with the editor up front and be sure it’s clear so you know what you’re getting for your money.  I don’t want to give general numbers since what editors charge varies so much. And what I charge depends on word count and what exactly I’ll be doing and how long it will take me. After I’ve read a sample and determine it’s a project I want to work on and feel I’d be a good match, then I discuss my fee with the writer up front.

If you’re interested in learning more about Marlene and her editing services, head over to her website:

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Showing 5 comments
  • Suzanne

    Thanks to your sharing your experience with using an editor with your WIP, I can see the value of doing the same in the future. Great interview.

    • Erika Liodice

      Glad you found the interview valuable, Suzanne!


  • Denise Tharp

    Invaluable advice for first, second, third, etc. time writers. To both of you, thanks for taking the time for the interview and passing it along.

  • greg gutierrez

    Thanks. Great info.
    Greg Gutierrez
    Zen and the Art of Surfing

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  • […] this time around. And I have newfound confidence in the plot (thanks, in big part, to my editor, Marlene Adelstein, who continues to serve as a terrific sounding board and source of motivation). So now I’m […]

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