By Dori Harrell


You’ve hung your Editor for Hire shingle. You’re reaching out to authors through targeted marketing and networking, and word-of-mouth referrals are trickling in. You’re receiving inquiries, some from authors or for projects you’d consider a dream fit for your business—but you’re struggling to close the sale.

Before launching my freelance editing career, I never considered myself a successful salesperson. I’m not pushy or aggressive. I don’t want to talk someone into a service or product the person doesn’t need. And I certainly never considered a career in sales (before editing, I wrote full-time for newspapers and then freelance-wrote)—but now I thrive on the sales aspect of my business and consider my ability to close the sale one my greatest assets as a solopreneur. And I’ve learned that consistently closing sales depends on more than an editor’s ability to deliver a knock-the-author’s-socks-off sample edit.

It depends on the ability to form a relationship with an author—and that starts before a writer even contacts an editor:

  • Pay attention to your online reputation. Ensure the online image of your business (and you personally) is one that promotes editorial professionalism and instills authors with confidence, so that when they approach you, they’re sold on you as their editor long before you provide your sample edits. In this case, when I say “online reputation,” I mean what shows up when you search your name or business name on Google, Bing, Edge, or another browser. And don’t just check the initial page. Review the second and third pages, too. What might you need to change or word differently? A professional online image that defines you as an editor is the first step to closing the sale. Example: For my business, I want an image that portrays passion for helping authors, energy, and success, and if I see something online that doesn’t line up with that, I make changes.
  • Decide on a tone. When corresponding with authors by e-mail, what kind of tone do you want to use? Be deliberate about your tone. Do you want a strictly professional approach, or one that’s more relaxed and casual, or a combo? Example: Early in my business, I adopted an engaging, friendly, and inquisitive approach. And no matter what mood an author’s inquiry seems to set, I respond in a manner that maintains my tone.
  • Develop strategies for responding to inquiries. Rather than respond off the cuff, outline several responses, in your tone, to potential inquiries so that you come across as knowledgeable and engaged with the author and the publishing industry. I don’t recommend cutting-and-pasting, but at least have brief outlines handy to boost your confidence when responding. Example: I wrote brief sample responses to debut authors, traditionally publishing authors, and well-published authors. I tailor my initial replies to each author’s request and needs.

Most authors will check you out thoroughly online before contacting you, so ensuring your online image reflects how you want to promote yourself as an editor is essential to gaining their trust early on. And once you’ve done that and they’ve reached out to you, your initial communication is the next step to closing the sale. Part 2 of this post will include sample editor responses to e-mail author inquiries, and ideas on ways you can seal the deal before you submit your sample edit.


For further reading: Closing the Sale Starts Before You Meet the Author, Part 2

doriharrellDori Harrell owns Breakout Editing and edits full time. As an editor, she releases more than twenty-five books annually. Her client list includes indie authors, best-selling writers, and publishers. She also serves as a senior editor for a major editing agency. An award-winning writer, she’s published more than a thousand articles.