Why Do You Need An Editor, Anyway?

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:

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

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.

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.


Participating in Twitter Pitch Contests

I participated in #SFFpit (a pitch contest for science fiction and fantasy books) on January 30th. Twitter pitch contests happen on certain dates during a specified time window and allow for tweets every hour or two. For a list of upcoming Twitter pitch contests, check this great calendar out:


All of the pitch contests allow for only specific genres of manuscripts. #PitMad is one that’s open to all types of books. For all of the contests you must have an unpublished, complete, full-length book to pitch. You’ll want to have a query letter template and synopsis ready to go.

January 30th’s #SFFpit allowed authors to use all 280 characters for crafting their pitches. Some contests still allow for only 140 characters, Twitter’s old character limit. It’s important to check out the complete contest rules before participating in any pitch contest. You’ll be able to find those using the hashtags when it gets closer to time for the contests. #SFFpit is hosted by Dan Koboldt, and #PitMad is hosted by Brenda Drake, so check out their profiles and follow them. They are super helpful!

You’ve got 140 or 280 characters for your pitch, and it has to include a lot of information. You need to introduce your main character. Using a description is better than using a name, as the name doesn’t give the agent/editor much to go on, but a description, such as “bipolar ninja,” paints a picture. Include the character’s goal or conflict. Also, tell the agents/editors what the obstacles are to the character achieving the goal or overcoming the conflict. Finally, what are the stakes if the character fails? Be specific about the stakes. “Or the world will never be the same” doesn’t tell an agent/editor as much as “or her family will die.”

Be sure to use active verbs and show off your writing skills as best you can within your pitch. Pitching is not the time for emojis, Twitter abbreviations, or ALL CAPS. Avoid using questions. Asking questions in your pitch weakens it since the answer is always “yes.”

In addition to your pitch, you have to include the hashtag, a genre tag, and an age group tag. This last #SFFpit also allowed us to include a subgenre tag and the following additional tags:

  • #POC = People of Color
  • #OWN = OwnVoices
  • #LGBT
  • #IRMC = Interracial/Multicultural

My tags for this #SFFpit were: #SFFpit #DS #SFT #A (Adult Dystopian Sci-fi Thriller)

But all of your tags have to fit in your tweet, plus your pitch, so you have to choose your words carefully. In addition, Twitter doesn’t let you post identical pitches, so you need to prepare a few, and then you can vary them by moving the tags around. For #SFFpit I did 5 different pitches and did 2 different variables of each pitch, for a total of 10 tweets – one per hour. I set my tweets up on Hootsuite so I didn’t have to manually send a tweet out every hour. There are other social media scheduling tools out there too:


Prior to the contest, agents and editors will usually send out a tweet using the contest’s hashtag telling you what they want you to send them if they “favorite” your tweet. If not, check out their website and follow the submissions guidelines you find there. Favorites, likes, hearts – whatever you choose to call them – should come only from participating agents and editors. If you would like to support an author or really like someone’s pitch, you can retweet that pitch so it has a better chance of being seen.

Agents and editors may “like” your pitch late that evening or the next day, so it’s not necessarily over when the contest ends. If you receive a “heart” on one of your pitches, be sure and research the agent/editor. You’re not obligated to send your materials to them; it’s merely an invitation to do so.

On January 30th I had several of my pitches retweeted by supportive tweeps, and I had one “favorite” by an editor. I consider both to be signs of success. I thanked my supporters and the host of the contest. I researched the editor and felt good about what I found, so I sent VIVOS and the other requested materials off the next day. The editor very kindly sent an email acknowledging that he’d received my submittal. I love it when they do that!

If you have an unpublished, complete manuscript I encourage you to participate in an upcoming Twitter pitch contest. It’s good practice for creating short pitches. You get to interact with other authors. You may have the opportunity to send your work off to an agent or editor, and it’s not unsolicited – you’ve been invited to send it in. It’s one more avenue on the journey to publication. There have been some Twitter pitch contest success stories, authors who have become published because they put in the time and effort to enter a Twitter pitch contest. You could be next!


Beautifully Said: Our Country, Our Military

Having served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer for 4 years, I have a deep respect for all those men and women who have served, or do serve, our country, honorably.  I’m third-generation Army on my mother’s side:  my maternal grandfather, my mother, and then me.  My dad was a Marine.

Even before joining the military, though, I loved my country.  The United States of America is truly a great nation.  Traveling around the world strengthened this feeling.  Sure, I visited some great places, but would I want to live there?  No.  I know we have our problems.  But every time I hear The Star-Spangled Banner, I cry, especially when they get to “And our flag was still there!”  Every time I stand for our American flag and place my hand over my heart, I cry.  Every time I see a flag draped across a casket, I cry.  So this post is dedicated to the men and women who fight and defend our country, past or present.  My examples may not refer to American military heroes, but they are about the military and are “Beautifully Said”.

My dad introduced this poem to me, which refers to the Great War 1914-1918.

In Flanders Fields


Poppy photographed on the First World War battlefield of the Somme near the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.


Flanders Poppy on the First World War battlefields.

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

On the sign outside the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sheridan, Wyoming:  “The price of freedom is visible here.”

And some photos that don’t need captions.

Image result for photo of soldier with folded flag at the vietnam war memorial

Image result for photo of soldier with folded flag at the vietnam war memorial

Image result for photo of soldier with folded flag at the vietnam war memorial

And yes, I cried while researching this and posting each item.  Please feel free to include your own “Beautifully Said” items related to loving our country or our military heroes in the comments.

Colleen Eccles Penor

Beautifully Said: Pets

Shadow dressed as a witch and Stormy as a devil for Halloween a few years back.  They weren’t too keen on the idea.

I lost my beloved pets in 2013.  Shadow, my 60-pound chocolate lab, went in January that year due to an acute case of pancreatitis.  She was 12, and she had so much energy right up to the point that she got sick, that I thought for sure I’d have her for a couple more years.  I didn’t get to say goodbye because she died in the night at the vet’s office.  Stormy was my 85-pound black lab, and she died in July of 2013.  She had really long legs and had a blown ACL since 2010, and I think the other one went too.  One morning she couldn’t walk.  She also had heart problems and laryngeal paralysis for a few years.  So I got to say goodbye to her because I had to make the difficult decision to put her down.  I knew it was her time to go, and I got to talk to her and hug her before she went.  It was easier than getting the call in the early morning to learn about Shadow’s death.  Still, I wish that neither one had suffered, even for a minute.

Yes, I’m crying right now.  They were my kiddos, and we took care of each other.  They brought so much joy into my life.

I saw this in the veterinarian’s office I went to for so many years, although I couldn’t read it every time because it makes me cry.  The author is unknown.

I hope to be reunited with my girls someday.

Please share this with friends who have pets, or who have lost them.  Please share your stories here about the beloved pets you’ve lost, or a picture, poem, quote:  anything about losing a pet that you believe is beautifully said.

You can follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn as Colleen Eccles Penor and at Twitter @ecclespenor.  Thanks for stopping by.

Ladies, support your peers’ endeavors


I wrote this letter to More.com after reading an article in More Magazine:  “Is There Still Such a Thing as Women’s Issues?”  The article had a political slant, but my response could apply to our need to support other women writers so we can all find success.  Follow one another’s platforms, share posts, buy books, recommend books and authors to friends.  Suggest good editors and agents and publishers.  Don’t tear each other down based on jealousy or envy.  Writing is a lonely business–we all can use the support of other writers as we make this long journey from written word to publication.