Why a free sample edit is essential for your manuscript?

Finding the right editor for your manuscript might seem like a hurdled marathon, but asking the shortlisted candidates for a sample edit will bring the finish line closer. Most editors provide a 500 to 1,000–word sample edit for free, and it is essential for numerous reasons. It will allow the editor to understand your manuscript, assess the level of editorial intervention required, and provide an accurate time and cost quote based on the sample edit. This is a perfect opportunity for you, the client, to get to know the editor’s approach and evaluate if their expertise, experience and skill set is the right mix for your manuscript, publishing timeline and budget. Thus, this post will discuss using the free sample edit as an evaluation tool to help you find the right editor.

How can the free sample edit be used to evaluate the editor’s skills and style?

A free sample edit is vital in the process of hiring an editor. It showcases the editor’s skills and expertise and demonstrates the value they will contribute to the project. For the sample edit to be a successful evaluation tool in this process, you should remember the following points.

Give the editor a brief.

The editing brief should define what you think the manuscript needs and why you are looking for an editor. For instance, this could be very specific, like flagging issues with missing segues or inconsistent point of view of the narration. You could also state more broadly that your manuscript needs, for example, an editing service, such as:

A good editor will focus on the brief, but they may also indicate other issues they noticed in the manuscript — this is the best possible outcome. However, if the sample edit does not meet the brief and the editor cannot justify it, they either did not understand what you requested or did not have sufficient skills and expertise to deliver it. Either way, in this case, it will be clear they may not be a good fit for your manuscript.

Ask the editor to explain the edits.

One of the important rules of professional editing is for the editor to be able to justify every change they introduce in the manuscript. Whether it will be dictated by the language localisation conventions, style guide advice, dictionary rule or industry practice, they must be able to explain the reasoning behind their work. If the editor has no answer to support their intervention, they may lack knowledge or editing experience.

How can the free sample edit be used to assess the compatibility, communication and timely delivery?

Analyse the editor’s comments and feedback.

Editors do not usually rewrite content when providing light-touch editing services, such as copyediting and proofreading. Still, they may leave some suggestions or flag issues when language is inappropriate for the target readers. Analyse how they convey these comments: they should be polite and recommending rather than authoritative. For instance, if the editor brings to your attention how the readers may receive certain words or phrases or flag that some interpretations may not align with your intended meaning, this is a good sign and a helpful note. If they use vague statements (‘This is bad.’) or orders (‘Change this.’), their feedback may not be useful, and their communication needs to improve.

Compare the editor’s estimated delivery time with the actual delivery time.

A free sample edit is a chance to understand the editor’s time management skills. If they said the sample edit would take them two working days, but they delivered it a week later, then their communication and time management may be a problem and may be indicative of potential delays if you decide to work with them. Even if unforeseen circumstances happen and they cannot deliver the sample edit on time, they should contact you and explain the new timeline.

How to use the free sample edit to consider the quoted cost and turnover time

Determine if your budget and the editor’s quote agree.

You should communicate to the editor your budget so they do not waste time on the sample edit if their rates are outside your budget. But the free sample edit will give the editor an idea of what work the manuscript requires, and on this basis, they will provide an accurate time and cost estimation for the entire manuscript. This precise quote is the final benchmark for you to consider: can you afford to work with this editor?

Editing may appear expensive, but it adds value to the project since messy language and mistakes, incohesive plot or unsupported argument in your argument may discourage the publishers and readers and prevent your publishing success. Professional editors can justify their rates with years spent building expertise and skills.

Decide if the editor’s turnover time works with your timeline.

The free sample edit will allow the editor to estimate how long it will take them to deliver the edited version and how this project fits their schedule. On the other hand, you need to decide if their turnover time work for your project timeline. Publishing a book is a multi-stage process, so you should always consider how editing will affect other tasks, such as typesetting or indexing. The sample edit helps you to avoid the situation where the editor does not have compatible availability or will take too long than the time you dedicated to editing in your publishing schedule.


A free sample edit gives you an ideal opportunity to make an informed decision about hiring a particular editor. It requires zero financial investment, presents zero risk to your publishing project and generates benefits. A free sample edit will help you determine if the editor’s approach, expertise, communication, estimated time and cost are all the right fit for your manuscript.

So do not hesitate to ask an editor for a free sample edit when you are ready to take your manuscript to the next level. If that is the case, request a free sample edit from me or use my early bird discount for editing in the coming months. 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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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).