To hire an editor or not to hire an editor. To trust my own instincts to catch every dangling modifier and wrong POV… My apologies to Shakespeare. But this is a question that often plagues writers. It’s on the top of a list of things we must decide as we prepare our manuscripts for publication. And it is in my humble opinion the decision that can make or break your career.
Editing isn’t cheap. At least it’s not if you hire someone who really knows what they are doing. An editor can realistically charge $35 to $200 an hour. GULP! If you have never taken the time to edit someone else’s work, you can’t truly appreciate their value.
Why you don’t want to rely on free edits
Think of the hours you’ve spent crafting your book. Hours of self-editing (at least I hope you do.) You hand it off to a writer friend to give it a once over. (Translation: look for blaring errors.) That can take hours of their time. And because they are doing it as a favor to you, they are not going to give you a detailed edit, they don’t have the time. Unless they are OCD about finding every dot and tittle that needs fixing. You will get some good help but errors may still abound.
You get what you pay for. Free can leave you wanting. Besides, your fellow authors may focus on specific things that are always red flags for them. While other obvious things like head hopping may not be a concern. Your friend who is a high school English teacher might find every grammatical error and red mark all your sentence fragments or run-ons. But they may not understand POV or how to write tight for a magazine.
Magazine editors, unless they also write fiction, are not going to be the ideal help for your novel. Actually, it could be more harmful than helpful to solicit free editing from those without the specific editorial skillset needed for your project.
When and how to benefit from free edits
Using free help such as critique groups and fellow authors in the crafting stage is a great way to make you conscious of frequent mistakes you make. But once your baby is done, you need to consider paying an editor.
Find a good fit
Get recommendations from other writers. Ask for a sample edit. You want to see if the editor you’re going to give your hard earned money to gets your voice. Nothing is more disheartening than asking someone to edit your work who changes it so much it no longer sounds like you. I had a friend whose writer friend edited his thesis because he wasn’t really a writer. When he received it back, it sounded like his friend. And the editing changed some points so drastically that the meaning was different. Fortunately, for him this was a free edit. Unfortunately, he was back to square one in the process.
Pay back from a professional edit
My final thought, if you pay an editor before you send your manuscript to a publisher, you’ve got a better chance of getting a contract. A better chance at looking professional in the eyes of the publishing world. You receive a first-hand education into editing by paying close attention to the things the editor has fixed and suggested in your work. It can be a win-win on many levels.
What has your experience been with editors? I love to hear about it.
Over the coming months I’ll be interviewing some editor friends of mine. So….
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