When is the Right Time for Me to Hire a Professional Editor? + Novel-Writing Timeline

It seems as if this is one of the most unasked questions amongst aspiring authors. They either start looking for an editor much too soon, or they look for them much too late, and miss personal (or even publisher-induced) deadlines as a result.

Today, I’m going to work through a quite abbreviated timeline of the process leading up to hiring an editor for your manuscript. Of course, all of this is subjective—don’t be afraid to stray from this timeline if you find it doesn’t work for you!

So let’s jump right into the general timeline for an editor search!

First things first: finish writing the book!

Whether you’re writing a fiction novel or a nonfiction memoir of a special moment in your life, it all starts with an idea. From there, you can brainstorm and prewriteuntil you feel ready to dive right in. That’s when the fun begins!

If you’re writing fiction, the next step is to finish the entire book. Yup. The whole thingIf you’re here and you’re not even halfway through writing your manuscript, pin this post and come back later!

Finishing your novel can be a months or even years-long process, so take your time and do it right the first time.

When you’re getting close to finishing your draft…

This is when I recommend you start really researching the publishing industry.

Pick up a copy of Writers’ Market, read writing blogs (like this one!), and just generally become acquainted with the publishing process. Joining writing groups and reading other books in your genre are great places to start!

Included in your research should be the compilation of a list of potential editorsfor your novel. See who is being recommended by your fellow authors, search your writing groups for editors, and even do some old-fashioned Google searching to get together a sizable list.

Then it’s time to start eliminating.

Read up on all of the editors on your list one-by-one, and decide which ones are worth further research. If you find that one editor doesn’t edit in your genre, or that they just aren’t qualified to do the job, delete them from your list and keep going. All the while, don’t forget to keep working on finishing that novel!

Once you finish your draft, it’s time to self-edit.

I usually recommend to my writers that they take a day or two or three off from writing to breathe after finishing their first draft. Then, it’s time to come back and get to editing and revising.

Meanwhile, it’s time to keep narrowing down that editor search! 

Get a few free or cheap sample edits from the last few editors on your list, or at least ask for a before and after comparison from them of a work they’ve edited before. See if you can knock a few more potentials off your list that way!

Once you’re down to two or three possible editors, find out who has room for you in their schedule. Even if you don’t think you’ll finish self-editing within 3 months or more, editors can fill their schedules months in advance. Don’t be afraid to book your favorite early!

With an editor anxiously awaiting your manuscript, you should have all the motivation you need to finish up that revising and self-editing.

Then it’s time to send your manuscript in and wait!

As you read, hiring an editor can be a lengthy process, so it’s best to get started early. That way, you’ll know you can get the editor you want when you want them!

Michelle sign off

Looking for an editor for your novel? I’m currently accepting new clients! Learn more here.

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