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What Indie Authors Look for in Editors

In order to attract the right kind of clients for you, you have to understand what indie authors look for in editors.

Some authors want you to do all the work. (These are often nonfiction authors, but some novelists do this, too.) If you’ve identified a plot problem, they want you to rewrite the story to fix the plot problem. If you think the book needs to be restructured, they want you to restructure it.

Since that’s coauthorship or ghostwriting, not editing, you should be getting a lot more money for this than you would from editing!

If you don’t want to appeal to people who want you to do all the work, then make sure you don’t give the impression that this is what authors will get from working with you.

“Sit back and let me do the work!” is going to communicate the idea that you’re the one who’ll be doing the revising. That’s fine if ghostwriting is your goal. But for an author who doesn’t want you meddling that much with their prose, this kind of approach would be a sure turn-off.

Some authors don’t want you to do all the work but they don’t want to do much work, either. You can sweat bullets trying to create a terrific edit for them and they’ll just shrug and ignore everything you’ve done and said. It’s one thing for an author to disagree with certain recommendations (very common and to be expected) and another for them to just ignore your entire edit.

Obviously there are things you can do to try to avoid this, such as making  sure that your edit clearly states how the author can accomplish the necessary revision. If you just say, “I was so confused by the plot” that doesn’t give the author anything to go on. Of course they’re going to ignore that remark. But if you can say specifically what the plot problems are and specifically what can be done to address them, it’s more likely the author will do a successful revision.

Other than that, you can try to avoid these types of clients by making it clear in all of your communications (whether via social media, a newsletter, etc.) that the author will have work to do if they choose you as their editor. “Revising is hard work but I can help make the process clearer and more successful” is different from “Revision is simple and easy with my edits!”

Some authors need a lot of encouragement and hand-holding. They’ll come back to you with lots of questions about whether some idea they have will work. This might be the kind of author you can establish a (lucrative) coaching relationship with, and if you can, that’s great!

Otherwise, be clear about what the author can expect from you: “I’ll give you everything you need to know to go off and do the revision successfully yourself!” is different from “I’ll support you every step of the way.” (Neither of these approaches is wrong, they’re just different and appeal to different clientele.)

In addition to your general approach to editing, other things writers look for in an editor include:

  • experience as an editor
  • experience in the genre
  • a feeling of connection and trust
  • transparency about fees, deliverables, and deadlines
  • reliability
  • testimonials and references

In all of your marketing communications (website, newsletter, social media presence), you’ll want to bear these concerns in mind. Show that you have experience as an editor, make sure you’re clear about what genres you edit, be transparent about fees, and so on.

dark ocean water with coral with text overlay about what indie authors look for in editors.
In this class you’ll learn exactly what indie authors look for in editors!

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