The Author’s Guide to Professional Book Editing

This post is also published on the Australian Author website –

This guide presents the four main professional editing options for Australian authors and the key issues to consider when hiring a book editor. Australia isn’t short of quality editors, but it’s incumbent on you to do your research, and find the most appropriate editing option for you. It’s your book and you must take charge of the editorial process.

Who is this guide for?

It’s aimed at a particular type of Australian author. One that wants their book to be successful but can’t necessarily pay an exorbitant amount for book editing. I think the majority of Australian authors fall into this category.

A quality editor is often a crucial factor in the success of any book. Whether you’re going the self-publishing or traditional route and whether you have commercial aspirations or something niche, every book requires quality editing. However, the reality is that not every Australian author is as wealthy and successful as Tim Winton.

Most Australian authors can’t afford a content edit, line edit, copy edit and two rounds of proofreading in order to perfect their book. Similarly, they can’t countenance a developmental editor spending a month dissecting their plot and character development, and producing a twenty page summary letter. Although every book author would love an editor of Maxwell Perkins ilk, not every author (yet!) is in the same category as F. Scott Fitzerald or Ernest Hemingway.

So this guide is not aimed at famous and wildly successful authors. It’s aimed at those that require good editing to genuinely improve the quality of their book, but whose resources are finite.

Editing options in Australia

Finding the right professional editing option that’s affordable can be difficult – the editing world is a crowded and noisy place at times. Hopefully this guide will simplify things for you and help clarify your options. The following are four editing options that are suitable for the typical Australian author:

Professional editing services

One option is a professional editing company. There are a number of online editing services operating in Australia, so as a consumer, it’s up to you to do your research and find the one that’s right for you.

Professional editing services that operate online aren’t suitable for everyone. Not every editing service encourages collaboration between author and editor, although at a minimum they should put you in email contact. If you’re seeking a long-term and deep relationship with an editor, an online service may not be your best option.

However, professional editing services are an attractive option for others. High quality editors gravitate towards working for editing companies because they provide a regular stream of work, without editors having to spend time and money marketing themselves. Another attractive feature is flexibility. A company may have multiple editors on their team, and they can usually begin work immediately. If an author has a short deadline for publication, this is particularly helpful.

Search Google for “book editing Australia” and the top four or five Australian book editing services will appear on the first page. Do your research and evaluate each one – no two services are alike in their affordability and level of service they provide.

Tip: Although you’re going through an editing company, your editor shouldn’t be faceless. Don’t accept assurances that your editor is “highly qualified” or “skilled”; you should ascertain exactly who will be doing your editing, their skill-set and editing background. If a company won’t disclose who is doing your editing, be wary.

Freelance editor

Another popular option is to find your own freelance editor. Some freelance editors have a website with their skill-set and background spelt out, but many do not. So it’s important you touch base with any potential candidate, ascertain their skill-set and background and establish exactly the type of service they’ll provide.

Perhaps a fellow author can recommend a quality freelance editor that they’ve worked with previously. If not, an effective way to find a freelancer is to approach state and national editing societies. The following societies have a list of individual editors that are accredited with them:

Online workplaces

There are a number of online workplaces around the world in which editors offer their services. However, they are international platforms, so if you want an Australian editor specifically, you will have to search each site. The three most popular platforms are Elance, and oDesk.

This is potentially the most affordable option for any author. Write a small brief about the task and freelancers on the site will bid for the job. The large number of freelancers on the site, coupled with the competitive nature of the bidding, can result in low-ball offers.

However, be careful. The quality of editors on online workpaces is mixed, so it’s important to choose your editor wisely. Look at their work history and always touch base with them before awarding the job.

Tip: Specify in your brief that you require a native English speaker. If you don’t, 95% of bids will come from non-native English countries, like India and The Philippines.

In-house editing

Many major and small publishing companies – both traditional and self-publishing – offer editorial services. Online self-publishing companies, for example, may offer a package deal whereby they provide editorial, publishing and cover design for a fixed price.

A key thing to note is that some of these companies outsource their editing to freelance editors. So you’re back to square one. Maybe you would prefer to find your own freelance editor?

Tip: Similar to editing companies, you should insist on ascertaining the identity of your editor and their background and skill-set. If a publishing company cannot provide these details, how can you be sure your editor is qualified and equipped to make your book successful?

Factors to consider

The main issues to consider when choosing a professional editor are:


This is a key issue for many book authors. Although Australian authors may not necessarily desire the cheapest option available, they do require value for money. Does your editor charge per word, hour or project? It’s important you establish at least a ballpark figure before work begins, and ideally a fixed cost, so you’re not left with a nasty shock at the end.

Level of service

Will your book editor be copyediting, developmental editing or proofreading, or will they provide a combination of all three? How do they define each level of service? Do they evaluate the book?

Skill-set of the editor

Is your editor a specialist book editor, or are they merely an English major straight out of university or a jack-of-all-trades that dabbles in book editing? Do they specialise in fiction or nonfiction or, even better, in your genre? A specialist editor should know the intricacies of the book publishing world and will be in a better position than a generalist to make your book successful.

Work history of the editor

Does your editor have a proven track record of successful book editing? It’s important to find out which authors they have worked with previously and the books they have edited. Can they provide written recommendations from past clients?

Turn-around time

What is your editor’s approach to turn-around times? Will they charge you extra if your return date is tight?

Sample edit

Will your editor provide a sample edit? Most editors will provide a sample, perhaps the first chapter, for a nominal or discount fee – don’t necessarily expect it to be done for free. A sample is an inexpensive way to establish your editor’s capability.

A closing note

Remember that an editor should always accommodate an author and not the other way around. You may have spent months or even years crafting your book, and therefore it’s imperative you take charge of the editorial process. Don’t be hesitant to question your editor about costs and their skill-set and background – after all, they work for you. Finding the right editing option demands that you be assertive and inquisitive about what exactly the editor will provide.

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