Whether you’re self-publishing your book or looking to publish traditionally, chances are you’ve probably thought about whether to hire a freelance editor. Today, we’ll look at whether hiring a professional is a good idea.
If you’re self-published: Yes.
It’s a scientifically proven fact that writers miss flaws in their own work. Take it from me: I edit for a living, and I still fail to spot glaring (and frequently mortifying) errors in my own writing—usually long after I’ve hit “Publish.” You want anything you’re putting into print to represent you in the best light possible, and hiring a freelance editor is a great way to make sure your book isn’t plagued with typos and grammatical errors. Many—if not most—highly successful self-published authors work with a freelance editor.
In addition to going over the nuts and bolts of your writing, however, an editor can provide the equally important asset of a neutral set of eyes to look over your book. Critique partners are great, and can be enormously helpful in the writing process. But editing is serious work (and a serious skill), and an experienced, eagle-eyed editor is worth his or her weight in gold. An editor can point to larger structural issues in your book that aren’t working, plot points that don’t make sense, and characters who are behaving out of character. An editor should also catch continuity errors that may escape a less-experienced critique partner.
Hiring an editor isn’t cheap. But some particularly savvy editors are turning themselves into a full-package deal—someone who can help you through every step of putting your book out into the market, from editing your manuscript to formatting it for publication. The publishing world is changing rapidly, and many professionals are amping up the services they offer in order to remain competitive (StyleMatters, of course, offers one such full-package service).
If you’re seeking an agent: Maybe.
Agents and editors want to know they’re working with you, not you and a crack team of outside professionals. When an editor at a traditional publisher buys your book, he or she is paying for the right to edit your work as well. Agents and editors will be concerned that if you rely heavily on a professional editor for help with your book, you may not be able to deliver another book on your own recognizance. It’s important to understand that no freelance editor in the world can guarantee you a book deal (or even representation, for that matter—and any editor who promises otherwise is scamming you). And whatever you might hear to the contrary, if an agent loves your book, he or she isn’t going to pass because of a few typos (which is not to say you shouldn’t proofread!).
That said, an editor can point out places where your book isn’t working. If you aren’t able to find a critique partner with whom you can share your work, an editor can provide much-needed support. A good editor should pay exceedingly close attention to your manuscript—something a critique partner may not be willing or able to do. If an agent sees a lot of potential in your story, but thinks the writing isn’t up to snuff, he or she may suggest you work closely with a book doctor or critique partner to improve the quality of the writing, as agent Rachelle Gardner noted in a recent blog post; in that case, hiring a freelance editor might make sense, if it’s within your budget.
As usual with publishing, there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer. If you do work with a freelance editor before submitting your manuscript, it’s up to you whether or not you mention it. However, I’d strongly recommend against having the editor submit the book for you. This is almost always a huge turnoff for agents—again, they want to work with you, not the person you hired.
Next week, I’ll talk about the different types of editing, and how to find the editor who’s the best possible match for you.