… is not to leave a comment asking them to help you with your book.
That’s a short path to the trash bin, seriously.
Here’s my thought process. The person who would leave that kind of comment is likely to be nowhere near ready for an editor. Such comments read like they came from someone floundering with the process of writing, not from someone with a nearly finished MS (manuscript). Does that sound cruel? Well … experience has taught me it’s likely more accurate than not. “Help with my book” doesn’t equal “editing” in my world. Keep reading, though, to see what it does mean.
If you’re looking for “help with your book,” consider what kind of help will do the most good. Would you benefit from a writers’ group, where folks bring their WIPs (works in progress) and take turns critiquing each other’s writing? If that concept freaks you out, what about a CP (critique partner), someone you can exchange MSs with and give/get one-on-one commentary?
Is your book nowhere near written? Are you struggling with the actual act of writing? Maybe an online writers’ group, such as one you’d find on Facebook or Google+, is the answer. Virtual support is tailor-made for the introverted writer who wants feedback but is uncomfortable with leaving the house to sit with strangers (that writers’ group I mentioned earlier) and hear that their work needs work. The online versions will still provide that kind of feedback, but for many folks reading it is easier than hearing it in person. (I used to be a very active member of such a group at G+, until I started getting requests to edit people’s work for nothing right there in the virtual space, or to teach them better English, or what have you.)
Would a course in fiction writing help you? Local colleges are an option, and these days so are virtual schools online. Some might even be free of charge. Google is your friend.
Maybe a writing coach is what you’re looking for, but you don’t know such a thing exists. Click that link for information on what one does.
And, I’ll be so bold as to suggest that you might even be at the “I don’t have a good grasp of English or writing” stage. Again, courses are your best bet here. Editors aren’t here to teach. We’re here to help you polish your work once you’ve made it as good as you possibly can. That’s not to say we don’t do any teaching as we perform our work. Personally, I can’t edit without a little teaching in my comments. However, I’m not following a lesson plan; I’m not teaching grammar or Composition 101; I’m definitely not teaching lit crit. (If you don’t know what that is, look it up. Researching is one of the best skills you can develop as a writer.)
If you really are ready for an editor–your book is finished, it’s been through a few rounds of editing by way of a CP or beta readers, and you’ve at least run spelling and grammar checks on it–consider the best way to approach one (me or someone else). An email is a good option. It doesn’t have to be a formal business letter (do they even teach those in school anymore?), but it shouldn’t be “chummy,” either. Something like:
I’m a writer of [genre or nonfiction or whatever it is], and I’m looking for an editor for my book. [Now give a little idea of how you found this person. Did they come recommended to you? Did you find them online, through FB or Twitter or maybe their blog?]
I’ve looked at your website and read your information about rates and payment, and I’d like to discuss contracting you. [Of course, if you haven’t done this, don’t lie about it. Maybe the editor doesn’t have that info on their site. Tailor this to your own needs, as necessary. I’m spitballing.] My MS is a YA novel and currently it’s about 60K words. Do you have time in your schedule in the next few months? [Editors often book their work months in advance. If you need an editor now, you’re already too late to be looking for one. Think ahead. FAR ahead.]
Thank you for your time,
There you have it. Keep in mind this is all my opinion, based on how I work with clients (both established ones and brand new ones). No two editors are alike, but I believe the basic concepts will transfer across the board. “Help me with my book” is not the way to find an editor, no matter who you’re asking.