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How to Find a Romance Editor

Finding the right editor for your romance novel can feel really overwhelming, right?

How do you know what type of editor you need?

How do you choose between editors? Based on their rates or their experience?

I'll tell you how: you read this article! By the end, you'll know what to look for, and how to choose.

There are three steps to finding the right editor for you. The first? Identifying the type of editing your manuscript needs.

This is usually the head-scratcher for most authors, because it means discovering a wealth of jargon, and nothing will make you more frustrated than encountering a bunch of words that are ostensibly part of the English language, but might as well be in Klingon for how much sense they make.

So, let's take the fear out of the equation and define those words, and while we're at it, let's put a price on them, too.

Note that I'm giving basic definitions for these editing terms, but different editors define these terms in their own, unique way, so it's always a good idea to clarify what an editor means when they say developmental editing, copyediting, etc. If you're not sure, just ask them!

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing solves big-picture issues. It identifies problems with the romance’s essential components—characters, tropes, and the romance itself—that you as the author may not notice because you’ve spent so much time with the story. It also evaluates how well your book will meet reader expectations in your specific sub-genre, so if, for example, you're writing romantasy, a developmental edit will check that there's a plot within your story that can be explored fully, as well as an overarching series plot you can continue in future books.

Developmental editing works best on completed manuscripts and is typically done before a copy/line edit. Think of editing a bit like constructing a house; developmental editing makes sure the house's structure is solid.

It's often the most costly type of editing, with average US rates between $0.02/word-$0.04/word. However, some editors charge by the hour, and some offer deals on combination edits, where you get both a developmental edit and a line edit at a reduced price.

If you know there are particular scenes or chapters in your book that need work, instead of a developmental edit, you can hire a book coach to help you work through those sections and find the best way of writing them in the context of your story and characters.

Book coaches usually charge per session, and their rates vary widely, from $50/session to $250/session. If you're considering a book coach, make sure to check out what support they offer after the session—will they review your work once you've made changes? Be available for future issues with the same scene?

Substantive Editing

Substantive editing falls somewhere between a developmental edit and a line edit. It's a murky term, and it's not a type of editing often offered by freelance editors. I've honestly only come across substantive editing in my work with publishers, and in that context, it's used for manuscripts that have a few developmental or structural issues, but whose basic plot and character development are solid.

Substantive edits come before a copy/line edit.

Substantive editing rates are hard to average because it's not a commonly offered service, but a guesstimate is between a developmental and line edit rate, so ~$0.02-$0.04/word.


Copyediting looks at spelling, grammar, punctuation, tone and style consistency, clarity (whether any sentences are phrased in a way that could confuse readers and interrupt their reading flow), word choice (whether you repeat any words or use ones that aren't quite right for the context or are overly complicated/simplistic), and syntax (how your sentences are structured). Copy edit rates average $0.02-$0.04/word.

After a manuscript goes through a developmental or substantive edit, it then moves to the copy/line editing stage. Because, remember, if a manuscript is a house, once you've dealt with the structure, it's time to focus on smaller details like walls and floors.

Line Editing

A line edit will look out for errors like the copy edit, but it also looks at the story. A line edit studies chapter beginnings and endings, scene transitions, point of view shifts, pacing (how well the story flows in a particular scene), emotional cues, the way tropes are used in specific scenes/chapters, and how the characters are conveyed. Like copyediting, US line editing rates average $0.02-$0.04/word.


Proofreading catches the errors that have slipped through the line/copy edit. Most often, these are the errors that readers pick up on—the misused you’re or it’s, the incorrectly spelled last name, or the sudden change in the hero’s eye color. This is the last editing stage a manuscript goes through before going to print. Proofreading rates in the US are usually between $0.01-$0.03/word.

If you're not sure what type of editing your manuscript needs after reading these definitions, you can seek out a manuscript assessment/review/critique. These look at your manuscript's strengths and weaknesses, identify what's working, explain what isn't, and which type of editing will fix it and why. Not all freelance editors offer these, but there are those (including me!) who do. Rates for them vary widely, from $300-$1000.

Now that you know what type of editing your book likely needs and, therefore, can narrow down a list of editors to the ones who offer that specific type, it's time to talk about cost.

How much do romance editors charge?

Freelance editor rates vary based on a variety of factors—the editor's experience, overhead, where in the world they live, to name a few. But what matters isn't really what they charge.

It's what you can afford.

Get the best editor you can afford, and choose based on what type of editing you need, your budget, and, just as importantly, your personality.

Because when you're looking for an editor, you have to consider whether their approach will work for you. Whether it fits with your personality.

Wondering what I mean?

Some editors suggest small tweaks in clients’ manuscripts to improve their skills over time, while others show no mercy with a red pen.

Some editors walk you through every change they suggest in your manuscript, while others point out what needs changing and leave you to do the rest.

No approach is better than the other; they are all valid and useful, but you have to decide which one meets your needs.

How do I decide if an editor is the right fit?

If you're not sure what approach you need based on your personality, ask yourself these questions: Are you sensitive to criticism, or do you like it when someone points out all the things you can improve on?

Do you enjoy receiving detailed instructions on how to do something, or do you prefer general guidance so you can figure it out yourself?  

If you're sensitive to criticism, you'll want an editor with a gentle touch. If you like being walked through processes, you'll want an editor who shows you how to make changes, rewrite scenes, or tweak dialogue.

And don't forget to factor in triggers; editors have triggers like everyone else, so it's a good idea to mention what triggering content, if any, your book includes when you reach out to editors. If the one you've had your heart set on an editor who doesn't work with content included in your book, they can usually recommend a colleague who does. And if you're wondering what qualifies as triggering content, check out Eve Pendle's article.

Most editors detail their approaches on their websites, but if you want to make sure you're a good fit, you can also do a sample edit.

Sample Edits

Many editors offer them (though this is less common on freelancing platforms because sample edits are inexpensive and, after factoring in the platform's fees, it might not be financially viable for the freelancer to offer them) as a way of helping clients figure out if they'll work well together.

Some editors do sample edits for free, while others charge a nominal rate of $20-$50. If an editor you like doesn't offer a sample edit, ask about booking a discovery call instead. Most editors are more than happy to schedule a Zoom call where they talk you through what it's like to work with them.

If you're on a freelancing platform like Upwork or Guru and want to know about an editor's approach, but they don't offer a sample edit, you can reach out to them with a kind, introductory message saying something like, "Hey! I came across your profile and think you might be a good fit for my editing project. I have a manuscript in this sub-genre that's this many words long, and I'm looking for someone to do this type of editing. Can you explain how you approach that type of edit?"

Now, before I finish this article and send you off into the interwebs to find your perfect editor, there's one more thing we need to consider: timeline.

Why is my timeline important when contacting romance editors?

Some editors take on last-minute projects, though their rates will be higher for rushed deadlines, while others book out months in advance. There are also editors who do a mix of both rush work and scheduled work, so it's worth reaching out if you're not sure about an editor's availability.

A good rule of thumb, though, is to reach out at least 3 months before you want to start the edit, because that gives you time to find the right person and get booked into their schedule. That rule of thumb works for writers who've found their ideal editor, too; it's always better to get in an editor's books early!

So, what have we learned in this very long blog post I'm hoping you've read to the end of?

Finding the right editor for you is about balancing the type of editing your book needs, your budget, your personality, and your timeline.

You might have to go through a few sample edits or discovery calls before you find the best editor for you. But a good editor who champions your characters, understands your voice and vision, and charges a price you can afford is worth their weight in gold!

Until next post, happy reading and writing!





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