Why you won’t hire an Editor, but need to. #4 is especially compelling.

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So if you’re a writer, or have friends that are writers, ultimately the question of Editor comes up.  There are several (bad) reasons to not hire an editor.  Although all of them sound good in theory.  I’m going to go through some of them, and then rebut the points.  I am not on the New York Best Seller’s list, nor a world-famous author, so don’t take anything I say as gospel.  I will be speaking from my own experiences and research along the way.

  1. Hiring an Editor is complicated, I don’t know where to begin.
    1. Hell yeah it’s complicated.  Just like writer’s there are 7.8 billion Editor’s.  (That may be an exaggeration)  A quick google search will bring up multiple options for finding and hiring editors.  My advice?  Find a freelance editor or use a recommendation from an author you know and trust.
    2. http://www.guru.com is my go-to for freelancers – I’ve ONLY had good experiences.
    3. http://www.elance.com and http://www.freelancer.com are also reputable sources
    4. You can also find great people using your local Craigslist.
    5. I like the freelance editors because you an compare qualifications, have upfront conversations, and get a feel for mid-range/fair pricing.
  2. An Editor will want to change my story too much.
    1. An Author’s job is to tell a story, an Editor’s job is to fix it.  I believe that sincerely.  That doesn’t mean that an Editor takes over the story though.  If you have found an Editor that you are thinking about hiring make sure to discuss your expectations with them up front and clearly.  If you’re only looking for language errors (grammar, spelling, etc…) make it known.
    2. I don’t recommend that though.  Writing is a labor of love.  That means that the author is a little too well-connected to their story and the characters within.  Something that may make sense in our heads may not translate well on paper.  Just because you know that John like’s to shotgun beer on Saturday nights because that’s what his father and grandfather did before him doesn’t mean that you conveyed that message well to the audience.  In fact, it may seem disproportionately out-of-place for John to do unless you gave that piece of history.  You know who will notice that error?  Your audience and your Editor.
    3. Having a neutral set of eyes on your manuscript is going to give you a better look at any potential pacing and plot line flaws.  That doesn’t mean an Editor can outright change your work (unless you give them that power, many Editors also act as ghost writers).  Any changes that they think should be made should be done as a suggestion with clear reasoning when it comes to the story line.  You can evaluate it and judge whether or not you agree.
    4. Your manuscript is yours, and no one can change that but you.  If you use clear and concise communication between one another you’ll have a positive experience.
  3. I’m good enough to do this on my own.
    1. That may be true.  Many writer’s have a good grasp on language.  Some are even scholars or professional Editor’s themselves.  I bet any of the successful ones will tell you the same thing.  It doesn’t matter.
    2. An Editor’s job is to look for the things you missed, a fresh set of eyes on not only the proper usage of grammar but also story development.
    3. You’re too close to the subject, let someone you trust give you a hand.
  4. Editors are TOO EXPENSIVE.
    1. Yes.  They are.
    2. When was the last time you got some quotes?  It’s asinine.
    3. Kind of.  Hear me out.
    4. There are two types of Editors.  Those working with large publishers and with people who are already successful.  Than there are those working with smaller or no publisher as well as less known or independent authors.
    5. The big Editors charge.  Like.  A lot.  Sometimes they have multiple editor’s doing revisions, making suggestions, and handling corrections.  Every Editor that touches the manuscript you’ll have to pay for, and we’re talking about thousands of dollars.  This is all right for the J.K. Rowling’s and Stephen King’s of the world but not for the average writer.  Again, writing is a labor of love, very few make a living off of it, and if you do, more power to you.
    6. The smaller Editors usually assign one Editor to each manuscript, unless they are a freelancer in which they individually handle it themselves.  No assigning necessary.  They are generally a little more focused on what your goals and tone are also.  They are generally less expensive also.
    7. But you get what you pay for.  Is going to be what any ‘expensive’ editor sells you on.  Don’t get me wrong, expensive, is relative.  $4000 to edit a manuscript may not be much for you, or it may be a heartbreaking amount.  Just because an Editor charges a lot doesn’t mean that they are the ones best qualified to work on your manuscript.
  5. Okay, that was a lot of information and I still don’t know what to do.
    1. Decide whether or not you’re going to use an Editor.
      1. You should.
    2. Decide whether or not you are going to try to submit your manuscript to big players or freelancers.
    3. Vet your potential Editor.
      1. Are they familiar with your Genre?
        1. An Editor that generally works with Romance Novels may not be the best one to work with a Sci-Fi Novel.
      2. Do they have experience/qualifications/a portfolio?
        1. If not, ask why.  Perhaps they are an English Professor that is now doing the work on the side.  If that is the case, it doesn’t mean they’re not qualified, it just means they haven’t built a book of business.
      3. How do they plan on handling your manuscript?
        1. You should be 100% in control of any changes.
        2. If you need assistance and want to use them as a potential ghost writer, you still want 100% control over any changes.
        3. Editors do a great job of making things more precise, eliminating plot holes, and improving flow.  At the end of the day though you still want it to feel like it’s your story.
      4. How do they communicate?
        1. A simple enough question, but a very important one.  If they only communicate through e-mail it may be some time before you can get a hold of one another.  Are they within your country or outside of it?  That may eliminate the ease of phone calls if you want to discuss things further.
        2. Technology has made global reach much easier.  Things like Skype are making it simple to communicate overseas.  It’s all dependent on your preferences.
        3. Communication is THE MOST important part of the editing process.
      5. How much should I pay?
        1. Get some bids, find a median to give yourself an idea of cost and ability to negotiate.
        2. Set a limit for yourself – stay true to it.  Be honest about it.
        3. Pay whatever you can that isn’t going to break the bank, you still have advertising and marketing to do.
    4. Use someone you trust.  If you get a bad feeling, don’t go with it.  Always trust your gut instinct.

We could talk about finding an Editor all day long if we wanted to.  The in’s and out’s of the business are complex and sometimes hard to navigate.  I wanted to offer my two cents on the subject to help give clarity to questions newer authors may have.

Should you use an Editor?  Yes.

Tell me some of your best Editor advice or give some Editor recommendations in the Comment’s below!