Identifying the Best Freelance Independent Editors—Indie Editor FAQ

We’re talking about the four questions I get asked most frequently. I’ve answered: 1. Must you write to a preset wordcount, classify your novel in a predetermined genre, ‘dumb down’ your novel? And we’ve talked about 3. What is this Line Editing thing of which I speak and why do I keep speaking of it? and 4. What’s the inside scoop on the state of publishing these days i.e. POD, ebooks, self-publishing, multimedia, et cetera? I mean, what’s really going on out there?

So let’s talk about the second of these four most Frequently Asked Questions:

2. How do you know which freelance independent editors are good and which ones are shysters?

I understand that you guys don’t come here only for editing, you also come here for reliable, trustworthy advice on the writing industry—so I will give you a bulleted reference list just in case tomorrow I go out and get hit by a bus, leaving you all alone in this world of excellent editors and terrible shysters.

The answer lies in one word:


If you happen to live in a town where editors hang out their shingles on real street addresses, all I can say is you live in one FABULOUS town. But if you don’t, you’re probably shopping for an editor here in the blogosphere.

So do your due diligence.

Look them up.

Good editors have a vested interest in demonstrating the difference between themselves and shysters, especially at this particular moment in publishing history. Not only that, but their online presence should make that demonstration really easy to locate.

Check out their sites—do they share their knowledge of the craft?

  • Blog

    I’ve been maintaining this blog on writing since early 2009. Until I turned off comments in late 2012, I tried to stay active and respond to commenters, although sometimes I got swamped with editing work and let you all carry the ball. (You’re great conversationalists!)

    That’s years of backlogged proof that I know what I’m talking about when I talk about writing. All except the posts I took down, polished within an inch of their lives, and put in my. . .
  • Books

    In 2010 we at La Favorita Press released Art & Craft of Writing Fiction: 1st Writer’s Manual.

    You guys even helped me with this. Remember when you all voted on the cover? And you were really patient with me when I blogged gibberish for a few days right before the ebook release date? And you cheered me on when we finally got the print book released too (seven months later)? You people are so wonderful—the very essence of self-publishing, I swear.

    In 2011 we released Art & Craft of Writing Stories: 2nd Writer’s Manual.

    And in 2015 we released Art & Craft of Writing: Favorite Advice for Writers.

    I also now have a FREE EBOOK Art & Craft of Writing: Secret Advice for Writers.

    I love writing these books. Wow. I love being—to all of you and to the aspiring writer who still lives in my head—the mentor I needed myself when I started out in this craft thirty years ago. And I love hearing from writers who’ve read my books.

    Thank you all. From the bottom of my heart.

    Showing you that I know what quality published books look like helps enormously.

    If you like my books, you’ll probably like working with me.
  • Sample work

    I post examples of my Developmental Editing Letters and my Copy & Line Editing. This stuff is all up on my Editing Services page. I even used to run freebie editing specials once in awhile when I had time.
  • Client testimonials

    I maintain a page of client testimonials, snippets of which appear at the top of my blog. I also post the names of my published clients on my sidebar, so you can see some of the authors who hire me. I also list the highly-regarded literary agents of my publishing clients.
  • Interviews

    I run around the Web getting myself interviewed periodically. You can’t trust me with your manuscript if you’ve never met me.
  • Freebie advice

    One year I wrote the editorial advice column, Ask Victoria, for the Writer Unboxed newsletter, opposite literary agent Donald Maass and Ask Chuck, by Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest.

    And I still maintain my own Advice Column on this blog, where you can ask questions. There’s a lot of stuff there, and it’s still active. Ask a question!
  • Twitter

    I’m on Twitter. Ask me a question—you’ll be amazed how many people chime in.
  • Facebook

    And I’m on Facebook. That’s where I post my favorite quotes by my beloved favorite authors and talk about my current editing projects.
  • About page

    Of course, every website has an About page. You need to know who this person is.

    I’ve been published a number of times—by a Big Five publisher, by literary magazines, by lots of technical companies, until I decided I wanted to go indie with my books on writing. I had also been editing a lot of journalism and nonfiction for years before I became a freelance independent editor. And I’ve received one or two humble accolades.

    I put all that information there, where it’s really easy to find.

All of this shows you “who this freelance independent editor is and what she knows.” Those of you shopping for an editor get the chance to make up your own minds about my qualifications before you ever even think about contacting me. It requires a sizable commitment of energy and dedication from me, but I want you to make an educated decision.

An editor’s very best marketing technique lies in revealing the full extent of their knowledge and experience—and trusting the rest to their clients’ intelligence.

17 thoughts on “Identifying the Best Freelance Independent Editors—Indie Editor FAQ

  1. sarah says:

    novice here! i’ve learned so much from your blog, victoria, and i just got my copy of your book. i’m drinking it in. thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Victoria says:

      You’re very welcome, Sarah! Watch for the typo in the chapter on grammar. We’re fixing that, so you’re going to wind up with a collector’s item edition. 🙂

  2. Cathy Keaton says:

    I totally agree about passing up the editors who aren’t transparent about their rates on their website/blog. I don’t want to jump through hoops just to discover I can’t afford their services. It also makes me ASSUME they charge too much!

    1. Victoria says:

      Yeah, it pretty much makes me assume the same thing. But when you’re shopping for an editor, you’ll see a wide range of prices due to the wide range of editing that can be done. This is extremely important to understand—Copy Editors do not improve your writing, they just clean up what’s already there. (I throw copy editing in for free.) Developmental and Line Editing are the essential skills a editor brings to your ms. They take years of apprenticeship to learn, just like any high-level professional skills, before an editor is qualified to perform them properly on your work. The cheapest high-quality you can hope for is a one-time Developmental Letter from someone really excellent at structure and character development, and even then it’s up to you to implement their advice.

      Of course, ‘too much’ is the cost of editing in general, as we’re all used to a world in which serious, quality Developmental and Line Editing were once paid for by the publisher. Gottlieb, Covici, Cowley, Athill. The greats. Editing properly simply costs a lot of money. Writing a really excellent book takes way more time than anyone thinks it will, plus the editor’s time.

      Now that editors have to market their own services, we wind up having to average out what we make per hour with the number of hours we actually work. Between my presence online and my clients, I work 45-50 hours a week, and if f I charged the industry standard of $85-$100/hour, I’d be making a reasonable living. But I don’t, so it averages out to be a little less than what I could make cleaning motel rooms.

      My one comfort is knowing—as a published author—that even a mildly successful author makes about the same thing.

  3. Kathryn says:

    Voting on your first book cover was fun. I hope we get an advanced preview on your second.

    I found you when you did a guest post on an agent’s blog.

    1. Victoria says:

      I remember that, Kathryn! I got my first major wave of clients from that blog post. And M. Terry Green just cited it in her Amazon review (I put it in as an Appendix), quoting Einstein as saying, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

      Everything You Need to Know About Writing a Novel, in 1,000 Words. Someone once linked to it saying they almost didn’t because of the title. But of course they probably didn’t realize it’s exactly 1,000 words. 🙂

  4. Jeffrey Russell says:

    That’s how I found you too. That same 1,000 words post. I read through it several times. I liked everything about it immediately.

    Then I thought to myself “Hmm, I wonder if…” So I did a word count, and when I realized it was exactly 1,000 words, I immediately liked everything about you!

    1. Victoria says:

      See, Jeffrey checked before contacting me. That’s what I call due diligence.

  5. Exactly 1,000 words? Exactly?!

    I had no clue!

    Is this what genius writer/editors do for fun? “Today I will craft the ultimate summary of novel writing in 999–no wait, 1001, no, that’s not right either–1000 words!”

    Einstein would be proud.

    1. Victoria says:

      This is what OCD people do for fun. You should see me taking one word out and putting another back in when I edit to a particular wordcount. It’s an illness. There should be meds.

  6. Hey, Victoria. I LOVE your blog. I really do. I’ve been recommending you to all of my writing friends. I am so interested in your line editing entry. I don’t know much about it, and I do have a HARD time editing my own novels and shorts.

    Thank you for being so visible on the Net!

    1. Victoria says:

      Thank you, Heather. How kind! Yes, Line Editing is a huge issue, especially now that publishers don’t edit and even a lot of Developmental Editors don’t understand what Line Editing really is.

      When I spoke at the Mendocino Writers Club a few weeks ago, I told them, “Line Editing is Robert Gottlieb fighting with his authors over a particular adjective or a specific semicolon and even dragging other editors in from their offices to back him up.”

      Not that I fight with my clients. But Kathryn has said when she first opened her Copy & Line Edited doc and saw all the Track Changes she thought she’d been scammed. . .

      1. 🙂 That’s funny. I look forward to your blog, and I hope to hear more from you soon!

  7. Thanks for helping us wade through the swamp! And thanks for chatting with me on twitter the other day.

    1. Victoria says:

      Oh, absolutely, Ollin. Thank you for inviting me! It’s always fun to talk with aspiring writers in real-time. They have so many great questions, and they’re so appreciative of getting straight answers. I picture them all today busy working away on their ms’s.

  8. Thank you for such a helpful breakdown of what to look for in a quality editor. This is going to be most helpful.

    Something I hope people take away is to look not just at rates, but what you are getting for those rates. A good editor is the eyes and brain you simply cannot have as the writer who is too close to the work.

    1. Victoria says:

      It’s true, Anthony. That’s why the writer absolutely must perform their due diligence—investigate the independent editors they’re interested in, read everything those editors put out there, make a decision for themself about how knowledgeable those editors are and how much they like how the editors express their grasp of craft.

      It’s your manuscript, and it’s your money. What you do with them is up to you.

Comments are closed.