• S.M. Ryan

4 Reasons You Need That Sample Edit

Updated: Jul 11

There is so much to be excited about when you find yourself ready to partner with an editor.

You've worked hard on your story and you're so close to sharing it with the world, you're shaking.

On the tail end of that excitement tends to ride a few other feelings. Butterflies because someone new is going to be reading your work. A little anxious because you have to explain your novel to a complete stranger whose job it is to critically assess your work, and a little hesitant to hand over your project and money to someone else in the hope they can help you polish your work.


Wrapped up in all of that is a bit of wanting to give your manuscript to the first editor available, or that you like, and get through the whole revision process as quickly as possible. Often riding the rush of excitement leads to picking the wrong editor and therefore, wasting your time and money.

It's important to remember that when you're looking for an editor for your work, you're not just looking for a quality editor, but you're also looking for the best editor for the work itself. You may come across editors you'd like to work with, that are qualified to do the job, but that doesn't automatically mean they would be the best fit for what your project needs.


The best and easiest way to make sure you're finding the right partner to help you in the editing phase of your journey is through the trusty sample edit.


A sample edit is a small section of your overall work that you would send out to your editor(s) of choice so they can perform a short version, or test, of the type of edit you're requesting, which they would then return to you with their specific feedback. This feedback is usually made up of their assessment of the sample, a time estimate, a cost estimate, and what their availability looks like for your specific project.


This sample edit has benefits for both you as the author and for the editor, which is why it's an important step in the overall process of hiring an editor.


Keep in mind that every editor has their own process of things they do and questions they ask before requesting a sample of your project to edit, and they each may request varying sample sizes, this doesn't take away the importance of the sample edit and the benefits of getting more than one.


There is a lot of information exchanged when reaching out to an editor and submitting a sample edit, and I've got four reasons why you shouldn't try to rush the process.



An Introduction

Outside of the initial contact you have with a potential editor, the sample edit is the first introduction to your work that will allow a potential editor to best assess if they are the right person for the job. By reading through your sample, an editor will be able to let you know if they are a good fit for the work and assess what type of editing your work appears to need, and in what order.


This gentle introduction to your work allows the editor to make fully informed decisions.

  • Is this within their scope of experience?

  • Does the work fall into their (potentially) limited genre experience?

  • Are they the right person to assist you in the type of edit you're seeking?


Some editors only accept limited sub-genres. Others may accept your genre but be wrong for line edits, and a good fit for developmental edits. Every editor is different, therefore each editor has their strengths and experiences that may or may not be of help to your particular work.


The introduction to your work through a sample edit lets you both know if this will be the start of a harmonious partnership, or if one of you will have to swipe left.



Editing Expectations

When it comes to editing, terms tend to get mixed up and misunderstood. What one client or editor files under copyediting may be considered a proofread to another client or editor.


The sample edit presents a chance for both parties to get clear on the definition and terms they will use to describe the scope of work. This also helps to clear up the expectations of the edit being requested, and the editor will get a chance to assess what service is required, regardless of the word chosen to describe it.


Outside of this, and something just as important, is that this sample edit is where you'll get the first look at whether or not you like the editing style of the editor.


Maybe their straightforward way of leaving comments reads as cold to you and you find you prefer an editor who is more about the compliment sandwich. Maybe you're seeking a line edit but their suggestions feel like they alter your voice as an author instead of refining it.


The sample edit clears up and sets the expectation for both parties. For the editor, it clears up the type of edit they are expected to conduct. For the author, it sets the expectation for the type of edit, what the returned document will entail, and if the editor's way of working works for them, too.



Informs The Timeline and That Invoice

Each stage of editing takes its own amount of time for the editor to do a quality and thorough job. Because we editors are still mere mortals, we all work at different paces within each stage of the editing process. One editor may be able to copy edit a 50k manuscript in two weeks, another editor may take three weeks.


The length of time isn't a measure of an editor's quality of work, however, it is a measure you need to consider in regard to your own deadlines, and that invoice.


Sample edits allow an editor to assess not only how long it will take them to edit your work based on the word count and editing type, but also where in their schedule they will be able to fit your project based on that information.


In return, the estimated timeline and overall service cost will allow you as an author to decide if the price fits your budget and if the availability of your editor works for your own publishing timeline.


Yes, there is such a thing as right editor, wrong time. And that's okay. Don't be afraid to ask for a referral, most editors are friends with other editors.



You Have To Explore Your Options

The best way to give your book its best chance is to choose an editor that is not only good at the type of editing you need to be done but is also the best fit for your book. Going through the sample editing process with multiple editors gives you, as the author, the information you need to pick an editor that is the right fit for partnering with you on your project.

  • Does it feel like the editor understands where you're trying to take your story?

  • Do their suggestions help refine your voice and writing style or change it?

  • Is your editor easy to communicate with? Did you like working with them up to this point?

  • Are you confident in their feedback and experience in this genre?

  • Is their estimated timeline going to work for your publishing timeline?

  • Does it work with your budget?


There are a lot of questions and combinations of questions you have to ask yourself when choosing an editor, some of them are going to be specific to your project, and the more information you have the better informed a choice you can make for both you and your story.


The best way to get a bulk of that information is to reach out to multiple editors you'd like to work with, walk through the process of a sample edit with them, and take your time before making a final decision.



Throughout the process of a sample edit exchange, you'll have a lot of up-front chances to ask questions and filter through the editors you're interested in working with. The more options you give yourself as an author the better chances you have at partnering with the right editor that is as passionate about your project, your success, and is the best equipt to help you get there.


While I can think of a ton of other reasons you shouldn't rush to hire an editor, or try and skip any of the steps, the biggest reason is your story.



Collect the sample edits. Give your story its best chance to be great.


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