Most great developmental editing relationships begin with a sample read. This stage of building the author/editor relationship helps both parties understand how the other works, how they communicate, and what they do. No amount of reading about developmental editing can replace the experience of actually seeing a piece of your manuscript edited by the editor you’re considering working with. Here we’ll discuss what a sample read looks like, and ways you can use yours to maximum effect.
A Sample Read is Short
Most sample reads for developmental editing are short. Editors vary in their preferences, but five to fifteen pages double-spaced, size 12 font, is pretty normal. The editor needs enough space to get a sense of how your story begins, and to see genre, character, setting, voice, and pacing on the page. But they don’t need thousands of words, and they only have a limited amount of time for each sample. Your sample may cut off partway through a chapter, but that’s okay. It’s only a sample.
Use Your Opening
Most writers intuit that their opening provides the best opportunity for an editor to evaluate their novel. If you’re wondering whether your instincts are correct on that, let me assure you they are. Because the opening is such an essential and difficult part of a book, seeing it helps your editor get a sense of the level of your craft and whether they’re going to be able to help you. For the same reason, using your opening for your developmental editing sample means you’re likely to get a good sense of the editor’s working style. They should have ample opportunity to evaluate your writing in those first few pages. You’ll be developing a character and a setting, establishing voice, creating a mystery, hooking the reader into the plot, and more. Even if you’re doing that flawlessly, your editor should be able to write back and tell you what’s working and why.
Get Multiple Editing Samples
One sample read will help you pick an editor. Three will help you pick the right editor. It can be difficult to gauge how good an editor is if you don’t have anyone else to compare them to. But once you have two or three samples sitting next to each other, you should be able to figure out which is the best fit for you. Trust your gut, and don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions about an editor’s vision for the book and their scope of work before you make your choice. I recommend ranking your editors by preference before considering price. You may find out later that you can’t afford your first-choice editor, but knowing the difference between first and second choice may help you decide whether to adjust your budget to get what you really want.
Next we’ll talk about evaluating genre. You can also go back to our developmental editing resources.