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How to contact a freelance book editor

Wondering how to make the first contact with a freelance book editor? Maybe you're interested in enquiring about my editorial services and want to know how to reach out.

Introducing yourself to a book editor is an exciting time in an author's journey to publication, but it can just as quickly become overwhelming if you're not sure where to start. Don't be shy! Read on for my best advice on how to make the first move with your ideal freelance book editor.


Are you ready to contact a freelance book editor?

Unlike when querying literary agents or submitting your manuscript to publishers, approaching a freelance editor is, thankfully, a much less daunting process. Since most of us freelance editors are avid book lovers who work from home and thrive in deep focus mode, our email inboxes are much quieter places than office-based publishing professionals, and we’re a lot more able to reply quickly, and to read your email with keen interest.


For me personally—and I’m sure many other freelance editors will agree!—one of the most exciting aspects of running my professional editing business is not knowing which project will land on my desk next. I absolutely love opening an email from a new-to-me author and quickly discovering their book is about to be one of my all-time favorites.


As I’m primarily a romance book editor, it always makes my day to see familiar key words such as “dark romance” or “forced proximity” or “second chance” or “enemies to lovers,” etc. in initial enquiries from authors. (Tropes are so useful for telling a freelance editor succinctly the type of book you’re presenting to them!) Likewise, I enjoy receiving thoughtful book descriptions, no matter how brief, that make me sit up a little straighter because I suddenly need to read a sample excerpt of this manuscript!

A strong author/editor relationship is key!


So, as an author, once you’ve found an editor you’d like to approach with your book, how do you open that line of communication?


Many freelance editors have detailed contact forms on their websites specifying exactly which information they’d like authors to send in their initial enquiry. This streamlines the process and makes it easier for the editor to deal with enquiries from new authors, plus it saves the editor having to email back and forth to get the answers they need.


However, many other editors (like me!) prefer not to use lengthy contact forms and instead use a simple contact form, allowing authors to write their own message as they would in an email.


Different methods work for different editors; there’s simply no right or wrong way to do it. In my experience, keeping a more basic contact form allows me to streamline my process even faster than having authors fill out a lengthy form. Why? Because I like to know I'll gel with the authors I work with (it’s an important part of the author/editor relationship, and it's something that matters a lot to me as an editor). Most of the time, it’s easy for me to see from the very first email if a connection is likely, based on what an author has chosen to send.

hands typing on MacBook keyboard

Try to avoid making these critical mistakes . . .


Contacting a freelance book editor for the first time is not a test, but there are times when an enquiry from an author hits so far off the mark that it jumps out like an immediate red flag.

Take, for example, the authors of personal memoirs who want to know my availability for helping to restructure their manuscript. I know immediately they haven’t read my website or any of my professional editor profiles very deeply, otherwise they would’ve seen I edit fiction only, and that I have no experience with editing memoirs. Professionally, we wouldn’t be a good fit. Besides, there are plenty of editors out there who specialize in memoirs—why is this author choosing to contact me? It could be a sign they haven't researched their options.


Then there are the authors who email me for the first time as if we’ve already signed a contract, attaching their full manuscript and asking when they can expect it to be returned to them fully edited. Not only does this alert me to the fact this author may be arrogant, entitled, and possibly difficult to work with, but they’re also demonstrating a critical lack of understanding of how the editing process works. Are they wanting me to proofread, copyedit, line edit, or structurally edit this manuscript? Are they expecting me to drop all my other authors’ work and dive in straight away?


(Spoiler alert: A professional freelance editor would never drop everything for a new client—or an existing one. I tend to schedule projects a few months in advance, so unfortunately, even when my favorite authors contact me with books I’m itching to read, they do still need to book in well before their start date.)


It goes without saying that other instant passes include impersonal one-sentence emails with absolutely no useful information for me to work with; emails that go a little too hard on wanting a free sample edit, with extra emphasis on “free,” and then a long spiel about about budget and discounts, but no word about the actual book (side note: I do offer free sample edits, but only to potential new clients—which this type of person isn't!); and enormous, over-long copy-and-paste jobs that could be the full manuscript or could just be an extended synopsis—but either way, I’m not about to read all of that to find out. Time and place, guys. None of these are great first impressions.

Take the time to make it personal, but don't stress the small things!


Knowing firsthand how frequently freelance book editors receive these types of red-flag emails, I completely understand why so many of us default to standardized contact forms for first-time enquiries from authors.

And sure, having a detailed contact form with neat little boxes for authors to check off might help me to avoid time-wasting emails too . . . but it would also make my first contact with an author much less personal. Not to mention, it would mean assuming every author who contacts me has all the expected information readily available at the time of first contact. I know that just isn’t the case sometimes, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of anything bad.

I wouldn’t want an author to feel they can’t get in touch with me yet because they don’t know their final word count, or because they’re not 100% sure which type of editing service they need. These things can be communicated later on!


Besides, what I really enjoy about first-contact emails from new authors is the sense that we’re introducing ourselves to each other. Most of my contact with authors is done entirely by email for the duration of our work together, so it’s important for our communication styles to align.


It’s extra useful for me if I can get a sense from an author’s first email that they’ve taken a little bit of time to research the editing process (again, I’m not expecting they’ll know everything, or even which service they’ll need, but a general idea of the different types of editing available always helps), bonus points if they’ve read my website to learn more about the services I offer, and it definitely helps if I can see that they’re confident in the reason they’re contacting me.


I know that may sound a little intimidating, but what I’m looking for isn’t a perfectly polished opening email where the author already knows what they need; I’m just looking for an email that reassures me this author is a real person and that we’ll get on well, that they’re genuinely interested in working with me, and that they’re taking themselves and their work seriously. After all, I want to be proud to showcase their book cover right here on my website once the fully edited manuscript is published. Cheerleading for the authors whose books I edit is one of the biggest perks of being a professional book editor!


And when I say "take their work seriously," I don't mean the first contact email has to be stuffy. Obviously, if an author can throw in a reference to the Jonas Brothers or mention a book I’ve edited that they recently read and loved, I’ll take that as a sign they are exactly my type of person. (Just kidding about the Jonas Brothers thing. Well, not really. Okay, I am. But I’m also not saying it wouldn’t work . . .)


What to include in your first email to a freelance book editor

There are a few pretty universal things a freelance book editor will be hoping to see in an author’s first email. Generally speaking, we’ll want to know the following:


  • The book’s genre

  • The total word count (or approx. if the manuscript isn’t finished yet)

  • Which editorial service the author’s interested in, e.g., line editing, copyediting, or proofreading (but an educated guess is totally fine here since all reputable freelance editors will offer a sample edit to ascertain this)

  • Any deadlines the author is working towards

  • The language/style the manuscript is to be edited in (US style, UK style, etc.)

  • When the manuscript will be ready for editing

  • The plan for publication (self-publishing, indie, traditional)

  • A brief description of the plot (emphasis on “brief” since short and sweet is best for the initial contact)

  • Any other information that might be important for an editor to know in advance (e.g., if the book is part of a series, any unique circumstances that could affect deadlines, content warnings, etc.)


Something for authors to keep in mind when contacting a freelance book editor is that they’re reaching out to a real-life book-loving word nerd just like them—one who will hopefully share a healthy dose of enthusiasm for their book—and that, generally speaking, editors are more concerned with fostering a genuine connection with an author than they are with receiving the most professionally polished, perfectly constructed enquiry. This is a milestone moment to enjoy, not something to stress about!


For the benefit of the book, the author/editor working relationship is one of the most important to get right. Indeed, the first enquiry can lay the foundation for a long-term publishing partnership, or even a solid friendship. Several of my own author clients have gone on to become close friends (one of my first clients was even my maid of honor!), and while that’s not going to be the case with everyone, it’s important for me as an editor to know I’m on the same wavelength as the authors I work with.


So, with that in mind, the single most important thing an author can do when contacting a freelance editor for the first time is to make sure their chosen editor is someone they truly want to work with. A strong working partnership will reflect well on their work, and it'll improve their overall publishing experience. Once that's decided, there's only one thing left to do: head on over to the contact page, and don’t be shy!

Are you in need of a professional book editor?

If you're searching for a professional book editor for your manuscript, I offer a range of freelance editorial services for self-publishing authors! With 10+ years' experience, I specialize in editing romance, women's fiction, contemporary, romantasy, and new adult fiction, and I work with authors publishing in the US and the UK. You can learn more about my professional book editing services here, or you can get in touch with me directly by using the contact form on my website, or by emailing me at

All images in this blog post were sourced on Unsplash.




Bryony Leah is a full-time professional book editor. She lives in England but works with self-publishing authors in the UK and the USA.


With 10+ years' experience writing and editing fiction, Bryony is a Professional member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, the Editorial Freelancers Association, and ACES: The Society For Editing.

Bryony specializes in editing romance, women's fiction, contemporary, romantasy, and new adult fiction. Her favorite stories include pulse-racing twists, irresistible romances, or a combination of both!


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