Editor Spotlight – Courtney Koschel

Questions to ask When Hiring an Editor, by Courtney Koschel

You’re finished. The End has been written, and you’ve tweaked to the point that if you look at it one more time you’ll curl up in the fetal position with your hands wrapped tightly around your knees and weep.

After you’ve given it your best, you decide the next thing you want to do is hire an editor. If you Google “freelance editor,” a million searches will overwhelm you, threatening to send you back to the fetal position. Finding someone to work with can be a scary task. There are many editors out there with different areas of expertise. You’ll want to ask different editors about their specialty in order to pick the right one to work with on your project. Be aware that the different editors often use different names for the type of work they do. I’ve included those in this post. Here are some questions to keep in mind during your search.

  • What types of editing do you do? Like I said earlier, different editors have different areas of expertise. There are developmental editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders. Developmental editing (sometimes called content editing) is pretty extensive and comes before copyediting. This is when an editor will look over your work for the overall picture. They’ll analyze the characters, their motivations, the flow of the story, plot holes and inconsistencies, sometimes rewrite and restructure the work, and look for any other major big picture problems. A copyeditor (sometimes called a line editor) focuses more on grammar, style, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. and comes before proofreading. A proofreader is someone who looks for anything a copyeditor would miss. Their skills lie in looking over a piece that’s already pretty polished. They will look for grammar, punctuation, and misspelled words. All of these different types of editors are important, but make sure you choose the right kind for your project.
  • Do you have references? Most experienced editors will have references. Ask to see them. You’ll want to look at what their previous clients said about them, and note their strong points. Ask yourself if they match what you want for your project.
  • Do you edit my genre? Crucial question. You want someone who is familiar with the type of writing you do. Some editors work on multiple genres, and that’s fantastic. But someone who edits primarily adult romance may not be the right pick for your young adult fantasy, and someone who edits mostly children’s picture books may not be the right fit for your adult thriller. You get what I’m saying.
  • Do you offer a sample? A lot of editors offer a sample, even if it’s a small one (and honestly, that’s still generous. It takes me an hour to perform developmental edits and hard copyedits on 4-5 pages). I am highly favorable of this. This gives you the chance to see what type of editing the editor sees for your manuscript, and it gives the editor a chance to preview your work to determine what type of editing they recommend. Both are important. Once you receive your sample, go over it. Is your writing stronger? Were they thorough?
  • What can I expect from you? This is important for a variety of reasons. You’ll want to know what their communication style is like, what is offered with the editing package, how long it will take them, and how they go about giving updates on your work. Everyone has different communication styles. Some people prefer email, and others prefer Skype calls. Find out what your editor likes and decide if it fits with your style. The editing package will vary for every editor. Some will offer a consultation, others may not. Find out what is offered and decide if it’s best for you. It’s important to know how long it will take them because you’ll need to make sure the editor can meet your expectations or deadlines. I’m pretty confident that most editors are aware of how stressful the writing/editing process can be. Most are mindful of this and will give updates to make sure you’re comfortable with how things are going. Ask the editor when can you expect to hear from them. Will they contact you once a week? Will it be the same day every week? What will they provide in an update? Don’t expect them to take a ton of time to go over things they’ve done that week, that’s a waste of your money. Just ask them to check in, and maybe include where they are in the project. Figure out if this works for you.
  • How much will it cost? This one is tricky, and it will definitely vary. Some editors will be more expensive than others. You have to decide what’s best for you. The most expensive editor may not be the right one for your particular project. The cheapest one may be what you need. Just make sure you’re not choosing someone strictly based on price. As long as you’re educated in your decision, you’re probably making the right choice.

Make sure you ask these questions, and you’ll probably think of more. Like I said, the best decision is an educated one. Have you worked with an editor before? What questions did you ask?

Courtney Koschel

Courtney Koschel has been writing since she could hold a crayon, but now she writes fiction for young adults. She has a BA in journalism and a MS in environmental science. In the past seven years she has worked as a journalist, an editor, technical writer, technical editor, and freelance editor. She charges $20 an hour for copyediting and $50 an hour for developmental editing.



C. K. Scribes




I realize that not every editor/proofreader is perfect for every writer. This is why I am presenting the series, Editor Spotlight. If you know an editor or proofreader who would like to participate, ask them to contact me at karenselliott AT midco DOT net. The Editor Spotlight series will be presented throughout the next several months in between my regular blog posts and special theme weeks. – Karen S. Elliott

Editor Spotlight – Shonell Bacon

Editor Spotlight – Chris Eboch

Editor Spotlight – Heidi Thomas

Editor Spotlight – Shawn MacKenzie

Editor Spotlight – Wendy Reis


Filed under Editing & Proofreading, Editor Spotlight

12 responses to “Editor Spotlight – Courtney Koschel

  1. Thanks for hosting Courtney on your blog, Karen. Fantastic advice. Filing it now for future (hopefully near future!) use 🙂

  2. Great list, Courtney! I only have one (minor) caveat, regarding your genre warning. I found my critique editor through a writing group (Writer Unboxed). I knew she wrote romance and urban fantasy. I write epic historical fantasy. Since I knew she was a fan of some of my favorite fantasy authors going in (through the process of getting to know her via WU), I felt safe enough to initiate the conversation. It turned out to be a wonderful match.

    Her years of writing two contract books a year for a romance imprint gave her a firm grasp of story mechanics. Mine tended to sprawl, so she really helped me hone my work around the story points for each character. I think it was a brilliant match, and I might have rejected her out of hand had I not gotten to know her a bit first.

    Again, great post, and good specifics. Just be willing to keep an open mind.

    • I totally agree with your comment, Vaughn, and I hope everyone sees this, because you are 100% right. There are a lot of editors out there who edit multiple genres. I actually edit adult romance, adult fantasy, and all YA. I should have reworded that. I think the editor should *read* all genres, but most do anyway. Thanks for this correction.

  3. I once had a writer reject my critique – in full – because she felt I didn’t get sci-fi at all. She even said, “Have you ever read sci-fi?” Though I haven’t read as much sci-fi as horror, I do get when a story is good and riveting or when it drags and is boring. So, I agree, Vaughn. Sometimes a completely different view – from a “non-fan” of the genre – can help. Some of the writing I have edited might not be my favorite genre to read, but all stories can take an honest edit on plot, characters, scene-setting, and so forth.

    • I agree with you, Karen. The ultimate fundamentals of a story are the same, regardless of the genre, but there are different rules that apply to different genres. Things that aren’t okay to do in YA are okay to do in adult, and so on. I think reading the genre helps. I started reading adult romance (honestly, I’m not the biggest fan), but I feel like I can do a better edit because of it.

  4. I’ve favorited this post. Thank you, Karen, for hosting Courtney and other editors here. It can be overwhelming for a writer to know what’s best. There are a lot of questions involved. I’m still waist high in revisions, but I enjoy planning out the next few steps as well, helps me focus on the project at hand.

    This is a great list for reference.

  5. Heather Reid

    Courtney, thank you for putting together such an awesome list! I think it’s important to shop around to find the best editor for your work. I’ve paid for an edit that I wasn’t happy with and if I had known what questions to ask, it would never have hired him. I wanted more of a developmental edit and he gave me more line editing. I could have saved myself a lot of time and money.

    • I agree with you. Some people just mesh well with others and so on. Sometimes it can be a stylistic difference that keeps two people from connecting. I’m sorry you weren’t happy with an edit you paid for. I love developmental editing. There’s something awesome about digging deep into a story and really getting to know it. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I am so glad I started this special feature for editors, and I am glad that it appears to be so helpful! One other step I like to take is to follow an editor’s blog. You can learn a lot that way, too.

  7. These tips are enormously helpful, Courtney. A new or aspiring author has so many elements to consider, and having this guideline will be terrific for many. Thanks again, Karen, for this very informative series.

  8. Pingback: Editor Spotlight – April Michelle Davis | Karen S. Elliott's Blog

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