Sutton Writers member Kathryn Parsons recently spoke to us about her experiences engaging and working with an editor on her debut novel. These are her thoughts…

What to do when you finish:

  1. Put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for at least a month
  2. Consider working with an editor or beta readers
  3. Don’t query until you’re sure your book is the very best it can be

Why get an editor? 

  • Perhaps you’ve finished writing but you’re not sure if your book is any good. It’s hard to be objective when we’re so close to something.
  • Get an idea of where your book is at, and how much more work is needed before it’s ready to be queried
  • Working with an editor – it’s still your book. 
  • Give your book its very best chance at getting picked up by an agent/publisher.

What kind of editor do I need?

Editors offer different services to authors, the main ones being:

Editorial Assessment

A good place to begin if you’re not sure how close you are to publication. This is a general overview that will highlight strengths and weaknesses of your novel.

Developmental/structural edit

If it’s your first book, this is probably the kind of edit you’ll need, and a great process to go through to get your manuscript ready for querying agents. It’s a big picture look at your novel, looking at plot, structure, characters, setting, etc. and making sure you have the big building blocks in place. Different editors work in different ways, by my structural edit included a 20+ page chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what needed work, along with extra comments and suggestions for overall improvement. This was accompanied by an annotated manuscript with in-text suggestions.


I wouldn’t recommend paying for this service unless you are intending to self-publish. A copyedit, also known as a line edit, is a line-by-line edit of your book, looking at sentences, language, clarity, voice, spelling and grammar.


This is the very last stage of editing, and should only be completed when your book is about to go to print. There’s no use paying for a proofreader before you’ve done any of the above work, as so much is likely to change.

How do I find an editor?


Society of Editors and Proofreaders 


I Am Self-publishing

Sites to avoid! 

  • Fiverr, Upwork
  • You get what you pay for – anyone can register on such sites
  • Anyone can advertise here without having professional credentials 

Finding an editor who’s right for you and your book

  • They should be interested in your genre
  • If they aren’t excited by your book, don’t work with them 
  • What does your gut say?

Tips for communication

  • Be respectful. Editors are often very busy people.
  • They will have a process of how they work, and a good editor will explain this and give you the chance to ask ask questions. Do not try and dictate how you should work together. 
  • Ask for a sample edit to get an idea for how they work
  • If they’re a professional, they know the industry and their advice is worth it
  • Many editors will have waiting lists. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to work with someone and if they are worth the wait. I waited for a month or two, which I think was very lucky. Others I spoke to offered a space 8 months down the line.

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought! The process has been incredibly helpful to me. Happy to answer any other questions you may have about it.

Kat’s slides from her presentation are below.

Main image: Photo by Web Hosting on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *