13 February 2019

Why Do You Need An Editor, Anyway?

Editor Pens

As an author, you want to produce the best book you can. An intriguing plot, engaging characters, interesting dialogue, great writing - they all add up to a good book. But do they, without the proper editing your book needs to be error-free, or at least nearly so? And can you do professional-grade editing yourself?

I read once that your book is “ready” when you’ve gone through it so many times that you’re sick of it. At this point you’re not doing your manuscript any good; it’s time to hand it off to someone with fresh eyes. You are no longer seeing what’s really in your manuscript, you’re seeing what you THINK is in your manuscript. You’ve lost the ability to see that extra word or that the words are out of order or that you use too many commas in your writing. You need a second pair of eyes. But does this pair of eyes need to belong to a paid editor?

If you have outstanding beta readers and belong to an engaged writing critique group, then maybe, MAYBE, you can get by without a professional edit. But these beta readers and critiquers must be excellent writers and avid readers. They have to be willing and able to tell you in the clearest, most specific words possible that your writing needs work. They need to be able to spot plot holes. They need to ask the “what if?” questions that you didn’t think to ask yourself. And they need to be able to spot all of your grammar errors, misspelled words, punctuation errors, and so on. And you’re expecting all of this from them without paying them. They have to balance your project with their paying jobs and their own writing, so don’t be surprised if they can’t do all of this for you, even if they do have the skills. These volunteers can be a part of getting your book ready to publish, even if you have an editor, because you should get valuable feedback from them. But don’t expect them, alone, to fix your book’s problems for you.

So what if you can’t afford to pay an editor? Can you afford to publish your book at all? Can you do so with a minimum of small errors and no large errors? The cost of NOT hiring a good editor could be huge. If readers put your book down because they are tired of wading through the mistakes, you’ve lost a reader, not only of this book but probably of future books. They will tell their friends and family to save their money and not buy your book(s). They may leave negative reviews that lead to lost sales. You’ve disrespected your readers and produced an inferior book. Why?

I read once that you should do what you do best and outsource the rest. So what do you do best? Write, hopefully. Marketing? Producing content for your website, perhaps. Leave the rest to the professionals.

One way to save money on an editor is to self-edit to the best of your ability. Use the spelling and grammar check in your writing software. You may be able to learn about self-editing your manuscript from a book or video. Use suggestions from your beta readers and critique group to improve your book. This will decrease the number of errors the editor must find and lower the price of the edit.

How do you find a good editor? Do your research. Get recommendations from other writers who like their editors. Read the books they had the editor refine so you can see how well-edited their books are. If the editors have reviews, read the reviews to be sure they do what you expect an editor to do.

I found my editor on a platform called Reedsy. Reedsy gives you access to a number of professionals including editors, designers, marketers, ghostwriters, publicists, and website developers. You choose the type of service you’re looking for, your book’s genre, and the language it’s written in, and the search engine pulls up the professionals they have available to work on your book. I just ran a search for an editorial assessment in science fiction written in US English and it pulled up 72 editors. These editors have profiles and reviews and response rates. You would then research the editors by reviewing their profiles and personal websites, then choose five you’d like to get bids from, send them some information about yourself and your book and a writing sample, and wait for the quotes to come in. The editors I selected submitted their quotes quickly and were clear about the services they would provide. It made choosing an editor easy and I loved the process!

I chose my editor, Bryony Sutherland, from the five I’d selected based on three things:
Bryony is amazing! Her price is reasonable, and I know that because I received four other quotes. In editing my book, VIVOS, she raised questions that my first editor (who I wasn’t happy with) did not. She pointed out plot holes that I, and my first editor, had overlooked. She gave me another viewpoint which helped me come up with ideas I hadn’t thought of before. I became a better writer and editor just by working with her. She works with my genre, so she helped me write for my target audience. Every step of the way we collaborated to make VIVOS the best it could be. And she explained her reasons for recommending changes so that I had the information I needed to decide whether that change was best for my book. 99 times out of 100 I followed her suggestions. She also helped me write my query letter and synopsis. I trust her judgment and value her insight. When I look back on the draft I sent to Bryony, I see how far VIVOS has come by working with her.

  1. Cost
  2. Her enthusiasm for my book
  3. Her additional ability to ghostwrite

Deciding whether to hire an editor is a personal decision, but it’s also a professional one. Give your book the best chance it can have and invest in the services you need to make it your best book. Maybe that includes hiring a professional editor.