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Samples of work when hiring for editors

Hello to the wonderful community here,


I'm at a bit of a loss because I need to hire copyeditors for literary work that's been translated to English, and I simply know of no efficient way to interview other than request samples of work for a couple of paragraphs. Seeing as I had a job post deleted for requesting samples (pardon the ignorance!), I'm keen not to violate ToS. Please let me know your thoughts on what would be best!


I just really need to know an editor's style and how they are able to handle translated content. It's editing for sentence structure and confirming English idiom usage, nothing about plot/character development as I need to stay faithful to the original literature, but it has to be a lot more detailed than simple punctuation and grammar. 


I posted a job posting that didn't violate the ToS thankfully, and was flooded with 50+ proposals, replete with beautiful resumes and cover letters. Some actually were so proactive as to provide a sample themselves, which I adored, but I quickly saw how their style and/or level of skill wasn't what I wanted. I cannot go through each proposal and then ask them to do test jobs -- it's too time consuming to evaluate ~50 test jobs, and I still might not find the right editor at the end, after paying everyone, since style is so subjective. 


This isn't quite like art where I can get a good sense of the artist's style from their portfolio, because they are creating something that's 100% theirs. So question for the wonderful community here, how best to go interviewing the editors?

Community Member

You may well get 50+ bids, but that doesn't mean that 50+ will be worth testing. You can start off by asking yourself some questions and defining your parameters. For example:


What style of English are you looking for? American or British? This is important in light of: 'It's editing for sentence structure and confirming English idiom usage'. Sentence structure and idiom is different. Or you might want a Canadian or South African tone (for example). 


What sort of rate are you anticipating paying?


Do you need someone who has an understanding of the source language/culture?


Do you want a particular style guide used? If so, you can dismiss those who aren't familar with or unwilling to use that style guide.


Does the way they've written their bid make you want to slap them, make you feel stupid or anything else negative?


Not suggesting you answer such questions here, but if you're clearer about what you need in your own head, you can probably immediately dismiss a large number of bidders. 


Then you could consider dropping everyone from your shortlist who hasn't supplied a sample (or doesn't supply one on request).


And when you've glanced at their profiles, you can probably remove even more people from your list. (That's me trying to be tactful.)


And can those on your preferred shortlist fit in with your schedule?


You should be able to reduce your list to 4-5 and simply pay those a nominal fee - assuming they agree to that.

Hi Kim,


Thanks for the response! And I agree, not all 50+ even make it to the interview stage, but a good amount -- say 30 of them do. It's in part due to very lax standards, so to speak. I'm not in a time crunch, prefer American English, don't need a particular style guide as long as they're consistent, don't need knowledge of other languages, and have the rate denoted when I post the job posting. And this is with me requesting 90%+ job satisfaction and 500 Upwork hours already! 


Is there... possibly a magic bullet of sorts in terms of questions I can ask that make it easy to see who I should pass on to the next round?

I charge more for magic.


The closest you'll get is skimming through their profiles if you haven't already done so. There'll be some who either can't demonstrate experience or their experience will be the sort of experience you can live without. (And you won't want to hire anyone who says 'experience' three times in one sentence.)


> 500 Upwork hours already! 


That won't help. A sizeable proportion of editors here only work on fixed price projects. Low number of hours doesn't equal lack of experience (again). I've done OK here and have *very* few hours.


You could ask for links to published books they've worked on. Not only does this show they've worked on book length texts, the type of book might indicate something about their style.


You could ask what sort of fiction they like reading (assuming your book is fiction).



Brilliant point about the hours worked. Thanks very much Kim, much food for thought!

Community Member

I always just offer to read 1000 to 2000 words and do a sample of the potential client's work. It lets me know what I might be getting myself into and also lets the clients know. I waste a lot of time doing samples, and that stings a bit. Waiting for the right job to hobble along...

@Richard L wrote:

I always just offer to read 1000 to 2000 words and do a sample of the potential client's work.

 That is really unfortunate.

You train clients to violate the terms of service (because it is forbidden to ask freelancers for free work) and undermines freelancers who tell the same client that they won't do the same, in line with the terms of service.


Just something to think about>Not ALL editors have their names attached to the books they have edited>I could point you to various books I have had a hand in, yet you would have no proof as my name is not mentioned anywhere.


Another thing> using work you have edited for someone else in a proposal is, in my opinion, NOT on. This breaches client confidentiality. As a freelancer, you own no rights to anything you do on Upwork, ergo, using edited work done via Upwork (or anywhere else without express permission), is in breach of contract.

@Irene B wrote:


As a freelancer, you own no rights to anything you do on Upwork, ergo, using edited work done via Upwork (or anywhere else without express permission), is in breach of contract.

 Assuming you haven't retained the right to do so or requested permission. This is a good point, but don't plant the idea that any freelancer who offers it is breaching a contract or confidentiality. Many have standard arrangements that allow for samples, or have secured permission from select clients.