Part 2…To Edit or not to Edit, that is the question…

thSo, in the second part of this blog I would like to look at more of the professional side of editing. As well as the appropriate time for you, as a writer, to consider help from a professional. I mean a professional editor, however, there are probably times after finishing your manuscript or stuck in the rewriting process, that you feel like you might need more of a mental health professional. LOL!

So let’s get started shall we?

The people who benefit most from a freelance editor’s work are:

  • Self-publishers. If you’re not working with a publisher, you do need to hire an independent editor before uploading your book. Most writers are blind to typos and our own pet crutches and quirks.
  • Experts whose primary field is not the written word. This includes self-help books by psychologists or medical professionals, specialty cookbooks, local history, etc.
  • Memoirists who have a unique, marketable tale to tell, but are not planning a career in writing.
  • Writers who have been requested by an interested agent or publisher to give the book a polish. Many agents will ask a writer to hire an independent editor at this stage. (Just don’t hire one owned by the agency, because that can be a major conflict of interest.)
  • Novelists who have polished their work in workshops and critique groups, but after many rejections, can’t pinpoint what is keeping them in the slush pile.


If you decide to hire an editor, do some research and be clear in your goals. You don’t want just any out-of-work English major. If the editor doesn’t have a good knowledge of the publishing industry, your money will be wasted. I’ve seen “professionally edited” manuscripts that are ridiculously long or too short to be considered by a contemporary publisher, or contain song lyrics (prohibitively expensive) or copyrighted characters. You want an editor who knows the business, preferably somebody who knows what’s selling now and how to write for today’s marketplace. The best way to find a good editor is by referral from satisfied clients. A lot of self-published authors will sing the praises of their editors, so visit their blogs. Or ask a favorite indie author for a recommendation. The standard pay scale for editorial services is posted by the Editorial and Freelancers Association. Plan to spend from five hundred to several thousand dollars for a book-length manuscript.

There are also a lot of scammers out there, who just run your book through spellcheck or give you bogus advice. Check Writer Beware for in-depth advice and a list of some hair-raising editing scamsThe Edit Ink scam of the late ’90s bilked thousands. Here are some warning signs:

  • Extravagant praise and promises. Anybody who guarantees you a place on the best-seller list is either crooked or delusional.
  • Claims that all publishers require a professionally edited manuscripts. Not true. It’s also not true that an edit will get you a read. In fact, do not say in a query that your work has been “professionally edited.” Agents don’t care who you’ve hired. They care how well YOU can write.
  • One-size-fits-all. You need somebody who’s familiar with your genre. I can’t picture sex with elves without laughing, and torture scenes make me retch. You do NOT want my help with your paranormal erotica or horror novel. Conventions that are required in one genre, like romance, can be poison in something literary or action-oriented.
  • Direct solicitation. Scam editors purchase mailing lists from writing magazine subscriber lists. Beware.
  • Sales pressure. “Limited time offers” are rarely good deals.
  • No client list on their website. You should be able to get a list of clients and a sample of the editor’s work. Some editors often will offer a sample edit of a few pages before any money changes hands.

There are many kinds of edits, priced differently, so be aware of what you need.

  • Manuscript evaluation: A broad overall assessment of the book.
  • Content editing: Help with structure and style.
  • Line editing: Reworking text at the sentence level.
  • Copy editing: Attention to grammar, spelling, punctuation and continuity.
  • Proofreading: Checking for typos and other minor problems.

A good editor can make the difference between a successful book and a dud. Just choose your editor carefully and wait until you have a marketable project.

And most of all, don’t hire an editor too soon. Editing is polishing, not re-writing. Re-writing is some of the tips I gave you in Part 1 of this blog. These are things you can do yourself which will help you and whatever editor you end up hiring.

For even more in depth on editing and its process check out this blog which interviews a professional editor, Jen Blood.

Let’s do this! Happy Editing & Rewriting ya’ll!

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