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Blind Dates and Editing Samples

There are many reasons that I’m grateful for my husband, but I’m especially appreciative that I will never have to go on a blind date again. I know some folks hit the jackpot when their friend sets them up with their roommate’s cousin’s brother. My best friend is living proof that a blind date can turn into a lifetime romance. That said, horror stories abound, like the time you faked a seaweed allergy just to get rid of a bad date, never mind the fact that you chose the sushi restaurant.blind date
Yahoo, no more blind dates for me! Except I’m an editor. And every time I open my inbox and see an email from a potential client, I’m reminded how much editing samples are like blind dates.
1. It’s a Cold Call.
Most often a request for a sample edit comes from a stranger. He found me online and liked my website. She got my name from a friend.
2. Make Small Talk.
We exchange witty emails. I try to dazzle them by sounding fun and professional. Who wants to date a boring editor? Little does the prospect know I spend ten minutes agonizing over the greeting.
3. Online Stalking Commences.
In the interim of email exchanges, we check each other out on social media. We reach out to any connections to get the skinny. Believe me, I don’t want to work with a prima donna lunatic who will leave me in the lurch when it’s time to send payment. And the prospect wants to make sure that my red pen isn’t deadly.
4. A Date Is Set.
If we’ve both passed the initial hurdles, we set a date for a sample edit. The prospect scrounges for the best material to send me. They worry that I’ll think the sample is fat or ugly or boring. I sweat over the sample, spending longer than I should. I worry they’ll think my editing style is out of shape or arrogant or cheap. We agonize over the moment of the truth.
5. If All Goes Well, We’ll Get Naked.
No, not really! But kind of. Metaphorically speaking. If the material is a good fit for me and the prospect likes my style, we dance. We agree to fees and schedules. And then we get busy. Editing, of course.
While I may never have to endure another painful meal with a stranger that I’m hoping will be my man, I do have to put myself out there with each prospective client. The next time you’re looking for an editor, remember they’re probably just as nervous as you are to make a good impression.
Be sure to subscribe to see what I have to say about the best ways to find an editor in the Wild West market of today’s publishing industry. And tell me in the comments what questions you have about finding an editor. Or entertain me with a blind date horror story. 


  1. Hi Nicole. Thanks for your amusing take on sample edits. As an editor, I find it’s helpful to phone the writer, as speaking with them is less impersonal than simply emailing. I also find it gives you the opportunity to ask questions, get more information about the writer’s experience, as well as explain a little more about the sample editing process and the importance of being on the same wavelength and having a rapport. Often, one ten minute phone call can actually take less time than crafting long emails or sending emails back and forth. I don’t do this for every prospective client (sometimes they are overseas or they don’t provide a phone number – or sometimes I’m just snowed too snowed under and emailing is more time efficient), but I have found making that connection is useful and generally, writers are grateful you’ve taken the time to call them and I’d like to think that if they are considering two or three editors, as they should, the fact I’ve made the effort and have broken the ice might help with their decision.

    • Nicole Ayers

      November 12, 2015 at 8:27 am

      You’re right that clients feel like you’re going the extra mile when you offer a phone chat. I make the phone/Google Hangout offer during my initial email, but only about half of my clients like to talk on the phone. And only a couple have taken me up on the Google Hangout/Skype chat. But then my local people love to meet face to face. The bonus there is that it forces me to work in “real clothes.” It’s funny how personalities affect how we like to communicate, too.

  2. Hi Nicole,
    Thanks for an entertaining article! Yes, indeed, there is an element of dating and sometimes even marrying the wrong editor. I am talking from an author wannabe perspective.
    Editing on line paraphrasing dating on line is indeed a murky river. But I would rather have a bad blind date or a few of them than a wrong editor. At least, my dates always offered to pay for my dinner:)
    An editor has an imprint on an author’s writing whether they realize it or not. Editor’s life experiences count- when editor was never married or had kids, chances are she would not get your “kids tell the truth as it is” jokes while an editor with the kids would. Editor, whose humor is less dry than yours, would’t appreciate the “laughing through tears” in your writing. If editor is less educated than you are, you might find that you have married down while you were hoping on marrying up.
    Some editors bill you upfront and you end up with a ‘pig in a poke” when the manuscript comes back. A structural editor you hired and paid for in a deposit way, turns out to be a line editor, because that is what she chose to do versus what you paid for upfront.
    Even if an editor comes from a large publishing house, all of the above applies.
    One almost wants to offer an editor a live in arrangement instead of an one night stand ( a witty chat or an email banter) to test the waters before offering a manuscript for edit…
    However, just like in dating pool- there are wonderful, highly skilled, professional and conscientious editors, who would take your ugly duckling of the manuscript and turn it into a swan you have never even expected it to be!
    Who, like a husband of a good kind, who, early in the morning looking at your pillow compressed face and would sincerely say “honey, you are so beautiful”! Because like a great editor, he is able to see you through the same eyes a good editor sees your manuscript- a pearl in the rough…

    • Nicole Ayers

      November 13, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Angela, if your live-in arrangement comes with laundry and dinner, may I apply? Ha! I love your descriptions, so witty and true. Relationships are so complicated, yet when you find your person (editor, husband, best friend), it all clicks just so.

  3. I’m super glad we’re dating! 🙂

  4. I really like the idea of the harem…One wife for laundry, one for cooking, one for ironing..Darn! I forgot that I don’t even buy anything that requires ironing …

  5. Notes from a prima donna:

    I think there is a great confusion among editors as of what a client expects from an editor-for-hire.
    Sorry to break it not so gently but nobody really “needs” an editor-for-hire. A manuscript is not a broken plumbing. A desire to improve a manuscript classifies as a “want” and not as a ” need”.
    Whatever falls under the “want” category is a kind of luxury. Luxury products are defined very strictly-they have to be a way better than a needed product. An editor needs to really keep in mind that for the amount that a client spends on an editor, a client could easily buy a nice travel package, a gold bracelet or a ring- a luxury item. Hence, whatever you deliver to a client, better to be a luxury product and not a hand-me-down, I work hard story. We don’t need you to work hard, we need you to work smart, professional, effective. Editing is not plowing, it requires different skills. I am always uneasy when people say “I work hard”, in my area of expertise, it usually justifies ” I messed up but tried my best”. If you worked hard, everyone would know it without you verbalizing it.
    Since private editing is a luxury product, hence a product is expected as a result and not a “process”, as many editors are trying to convince an author. An author is “paying for the music” hence he/she orders the music. Specifically what they want to see happening with their manuscript. An author is an employer of of an editor -for- hire and the requests of the employer should be delivered, vs an editor behaves like he or she is doing a favor to an author by providing whatever they deem fit. Example, if you are hired to provide a bird view editing (big picture editing) you have to read the manuscript upfront as a whole, and not do the reading and editing at the same time. You can’t provide a bird view while sitting on the porch.
    Unfortunately, there are no degrees in editing, the field is unregulated and lacking standards. Also there are no “book boards” to breathe down the neck of a home based editor and forcing them to perform as they would be forced and supervised in a publishing house. There is also no a higher grade editor to come to the rescue if they don’t know how to handle the manuscript’s difficulty. So, what an editor-in-trouble does? He/she edits in whatever way they feel like, and an author gets the same situation when you hired a plumber and after his “process of plumbing” is performed, the toilet is still not flushing.
    Only in the case of plumbing, you know for sure that you were screwed right away, with editing, you will get the bells and whistles of the “imitation of a proper edit” with a large bill and the manuscript that is just as badly structured as it was before the editor started.
    Don’t get me wrong, the editor was doing something but with no a product of editing delivered. Yep, you were delivered an “editing process” and not a product. Plus your editor is already seeing the dollars signs on additional services due to the lack of the very product delivered.
    So what is expected from an editor:
    !. Professionalism. And not like in a man who says ” I am a gentleman”. To tell you the truth, a gentleman would never declare himself as such- he simply doesn’t know any different than being a gentleman. Same for an editor- don’t declare- show me! If you can’t do what the manuscript needs, you simply say ” It’s above my expertise”. Just like the professionals in other fields do.
    2. Expectation of a “product” as a result of an editor’s work, not a “process”. When an editor claims to be a structural/developmental editor, the expectations are that the returned to an author manuscript will be indeed:

    a) Re-structured properly.
    b) Developed properly

    The product of edit should not look like it’s time to call in “the real editor” vs whoever it was who claimed to be the one.

    • Nicole Ayers

      November 15, 2015 at 12:44 pm

      Vetting potential editors is so important to make sure you receive the editing services you’re paying for. Preditors and Editors ( is a helpful site to use when you begin a search for the right editor.

      • Dear Nicole,
        I wouldn’t even dream to look for an editor on the “street”. I work only with the editors who have a proven major publishing house experience in editing capacity. My note was about the reputable editors, who are now editors-for-hire, but without the built-in safety nets of a publishing house: book boards and more senior editors to supervise their work to keep the book on track. However, an editor-for-hire is a “product” editor not a perpetual “process” editor, as some of the editors think. Unfortunately, there is no licensing body, established standards, even a formal education in editing.

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