How to find a memoir editor?

A memoir editor is a professional who can help you refine your manuscript, ensuring that your story resonates with your target audience. Memoirs are powerful narratives recounting the turning point of the author’s life. Crafting a compelling memoir can be cathartic and transformative. However, because the author is so close to the events they are describing, they may need a second pair of eyes to connect with target readers effectively. For this reason, this blog post discusses finding a memoir editor who can assist in evolving a manuscript into a publishable book. To find the right memoir editor, writers should review the editor’s portfolio, ask for a sample edit, turnaround time and price and check if they are a member of an accredited organisation for editors.

What is a memoir?

A memoir is any non-fiction narrative based on the author’s memories. Memoir is a subcategory of biography or autobiography. However, it differs, presenting a narrowed focus, usually a particular period in one’s life or career, often a touchstone moment or turning point. In contrast, a biography or autobiography covers a longer span, for instance, the author’s life story.

What are examples of a bestselling memoir?

Here are some examples of bestselling memoirs:

Educated by Tara Westover recounts Westover’s journey from growing up in a strict, survivalist family in rural Idaho to eventually earning a PhD from Cambridge University. The book had spent 132 consecutive weeks on the The New York Times Best Seller list.

Becoming by Michelle Obama chronicles her life from her childhood in Chicago to her years in the White House as the First Lady of the United States. It became a bestselling book released this year in the US just 15 days after publication.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls describes her unconventional and often chaotic upbringing with her dysfunctional family, including her eccentric parents and their nomadic lifestyle. The memoir spent over 260 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. In 2017, Brie Larson starred as Jeannette Walls in the film adaption of The Glass Castle.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed follows Strayed’s journey of self-discovery as she hikes over 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail following a series of personal tragedies and struggles. The film adaptation was released in December 2014 and stars Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed. The book reached no. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance explores his upbringing in Appalachia and examines the social and economic struggles of the working class in America. In 2020, it was adapted into a film directed by Ron Howard and starring Glenn Close and Amy Adams. The book reached the top of The New York Times Best Seller list in August 2016 and January 2017.

What type of editing a memoir might need?

There are several types of editing that prepare a manuscript for publishing. The first process is developmental editing, which looks at the ‘big picture’ of the manuscript and diagnoses any issues with the structure, clarity, tone and flow that the author might be unable to identify. Line editing involves an editor working line by line through your manuscript to discover the words and rhythm that effectively tell the story and bring out the authentic authorial voice. Copyediting acts as a gatekeeper, spotting any issues relating to consistency, correctness and clarity. Proofreading ensures that all spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct and that there are no format and layout issues. It is the final check before publishing your text. 

How to find a memoir editor?

Find out the editor’s accreditation

Consider if the editor is a member of a professional organisation, which often offers peer network support, professional development opportunities and codes of practice that their members abide by. So when you face the dilemma of choosing a memoir editor, find out if they are a member of such a professional body.

For instance, in the North America, there are:

In Europe, there are the following associations for editors:

Editors in Australia and New Zealand can be members of the Institute of Professional Editors Limited. In Africa, there is the South African Guild of Editors.

Ask for a sample edit, price and turnaround time

When choosing a memoir editor, ask for a sample edit, which is a standard practice in the industry, and it may the best way to get to know the editor’s skills and approach. A sample edit will demonstrate how the editor can help the manuscript and if they are a good fit. It is an opportunity for them to showcase their expertise and estimate what editorial intervention the text requires. As mentioned earlier, there are different types of editing.

Understanding the needs of the text will help them provide a quote for their services and assess the turnaround time. This way, before choosing an editor, the authors can understand what the editor does, how much it will cost and when they will deliver the edited memoir.

Check the editor’s portfolio

Checking if the editor’s portfolio can verify if the editor has previous experience working with memoirs. If they specialise in editing horror novels, they might not be the best choice for a memoir. They should have a portfolio on their website or online platforms for publishing professionals, such as Reedsy or Upwork. The portfolio should be verifiable, ideally with hyperlinks to where the books they worked on are sold or reviewed (publisher’s page, Discovery, Google Play, Amazon or Apple Books).

Read the testimonials

Looking for testimonials from previous clients who worked with the editor can help make hiring decisions. Their feedback can reveal the quality of the editor’s work and if they met the project requirements. It is essential to notice if the authors who provided the testimonials can be contacted or verified as real people. It cements the editor’s credibility if they provide full names and contact details of their past clients.

Conclusion

After reading about how to check the editor’s portfolio and accreditations and getting a sample edit, price and turnaround quote, writers can compare the candidates and choose an editor most suitable for a memoir. 

If you are still unsure, here are some ideas for additional questions to ask when hiring an editor. You can also ask me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount). If you want to hear more from me, including self-editing and writing tips, follow me on MastodonTwitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or join my newsletter.

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Magda

I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).