This post is for writers trying to figure out how to know if they've found the right editor, and also for me to tell you more about what I do as an editor.
If you're looking for the right fit for your book's editing, here are some things to think about.
1. Do you want mainstream editing or indie editing?
Mainstream editing is more what you'd find in big publishing and bestsellers. The fat is heavily trimmed, adverbs are axed, passive writing is rewritten, and the content of the book is more streamlined into traditional stories. The good side of this kind of editing is that the majority of readers will find your book easy to read and will feel satisfied at the end that everything in the book was as it should be, or wrapped up. The bad side is you might lose your unique voice and some readers might find the book to be an average read.
Indie editing is more voice-centered. An editor who says they edit to the writer's voice will leave adverbs that fit, allow some passive writing if the sentences are effective, and will encourage unusual stories' plots to unwind in a non-traditional manner. The downside to indie editing is many people may not want to read something experimental and could find the language of the book too out of the box for them.
2. How do you know if you can trust the editor you hired?
Ask other writers who they used, what their experiences were and read other books the editor has worked on. See if you like the editor's style. If the editor has a Web site, look over it carefully for mistakes. If you see a lot of errors, the editor might not be the best choice. Also, read forums and message boards on editing subjects. You'll find lots of advice and testimonials from other writers. Make sure your editor knows your genre or area of non-fiction. Don't be afraid to write the editor with questions. Get to know her personality. You're trusting her with your baby, so you should feel like you can without stress.
3. How much can you spend and how much do editors usually cost?
Most editors will cost from $300-$600 for a 75k word book. Watch out for editors who ask for large amounts of money; they are often scammers. As of now, some of the more sought-after and experienced editors may ask for more than the standard going rate, and if you have that kind of money and know the editor is gold, it's probably worth it. If you have a tight budget, look for new editors, ask for a sample edit, which is usually a free 5-page edit, and show it to other people who know editing to see if this newbie is getting her feet wet and trying to get new clients with low prices and is really good, or doesn't know what she's doing.
4. Learn from your editor.
When you get back your first edit, look for common mistakes you make that she corrected. This will make your next book so much better than the last. I suggest you even ask her what she thinks your strengths and weaknesses are. Take what she says with a grain of salt, though. Consider carefully the advice you get and see if you can apply it or if you agree with it. If she says you use too many adverbs, ask her when you think you can use them. I have a post about when to use adverbs, but that's only my opinion. Every editor has a different opinion on this, and on many other areas of style.
5. Don't be scared of your editor, but don't be rude, either.
Editors are often writers. We're all in a creative field. Editing a novel is an extremely creative project. If you have even the smallest question, don't hesitate to ask your editor. If you disagree with her on a certain point, discuss it with her, tell her what you think, and reflect on the conversation.
About my editing style.
I am more of an indie editor than a mainstream editor. I love unique voices in fiction. My opinion is that's the heart of any written tale. I do what I can to keep the voice strong, encourage it in rewrites I suggest, and point out to each writer what part of their voice makes their book unique.
I go for consistency. I look for things plot-wise that should be there. For example, if a little girl's cat attacks the stranger who breaks into the house, somewhere earlier in the book, it must be shown the cat is either oddly attached to the girl, has an irritable personality, or already is known to attack people he isn't familiar with.
I also make the writing consistent. Usually in the editing stage, I leave some things as they are to see how each writer does these things throughout the book. For example, if a writer uses 's instead of "s in places, or does both, in proofreading I'll pick which one I think works best and change it all to be the same. By this, as an example, I mean those phrases where the character is thinking a word.
I didn't like her eyes. They screamed, 'I hate cats.'
Or it would be:
I didn't like her eyes. They screamed, "I hate cats."
I make some style decisions when editing. I take out "that" whenever possible. For example, "He didn't think that the cat would eat the whole chicken."
I like, "He didn't think the cat would eat the whole chicken."
If I see the same word or words used too much, I'll usually take one of them out and replace it with another word like it. I tell my writers I do this and advise them to change any word choices I make to one they like better if they don't like the ones I throw out there.
I love to read. I've enjoyed every book I've worked on, gotten into the plots, the styles, the voices, the characters.
My greatest weakness as an editor is that I'm not always on time, sometimes as much as a few weeks behind. Because I feel editing is a creative job, and I'm working on another person's artistic heart and soul, I only edit when I know I can do my best work. We all have moods and life problems. When I have crazy things going on in my life that keep me from focusing and doing my best work, I will not edit or proofread. I do this because my clients are paying me a lot of money, putting a lot of trust in me, and I want their books to shine, I really do. Money is tough everywhere right now, and I know how hard it is for an author to shell out $500 for editing for a book they don't even know whether or not it will sell. My job is to strengthen your faith in your book, make your story glow in all its uniqueness and have as few distracting errors as possible.