I recently wrote an article for the Editors’ Weekly where I posed the following question:
Writers are often told to “write what they know.” But what about editors? Should we only take on projects that are squarely in our comfort zones?
I discussed this question with a number of my editing colleagues, who came back with varying opinions on the matter. I decided to post the article here because I felt it would be an interesting discussion point for those of you who work with editors.
I believe it’s critical that the writer and the editor are a good fit for each other, but I also believe “a good fit” can mean different things to different people. Writers who are looking for knowledgeable advice relevant to their genre should definitely hire someone who has experience in that genre. But writers who are looking for an “outside eye” may specifically want an editor who is unfamiliar with the topic at hand.
Regardless of the specific types of experience they are looking for, I feel writers should confirm that a prospective editor has both editing training and good references. And writers should always ask for a sample edit, so they can see if the style of editing suits their needs.
Speaking from an editor’s perspective, I have posted the genres I typically edit on my site because I want prospective clients to know my background before they hire me. Does that mean I would never edit anything outside of those genres? No. I love a great many types of stories, and I have editing experience in other areas, such as business and technical topics. It just happens to be that my current focus is on the types of fiction that I enjoy reading the most. And I feel that having enthusiasm about projects (in addition to having the required expertise) makes me a much better editor.
What do you look for when hiring an editor? Would you consider hiring an editor who wasn’t familiar with your genre if you liked their editing style? I’d love to hear your thoughts.