Do I need a professional freelance editor?

questionsFirst let’s clarify what we mean by “freelance editor.” There are several types of editors in the publishing industry. The ones you’ll deal with fall mainly under three categories:

1. Acquisitions editors—representatives of publishing houses who are looking for new manuscripts and new authors to “acquire” for their houses

2. Publishing house editors—hired by the publishing house to polish your manuscript after it has been accepted.

3. Freelance editors—people hired by authors to help them improve their manuscripts, to increase their chances of acceptance by a publisher, or to self-publish professionally written material.

In this article, we’ll be dealing with that third kind of editor—the freelancer.

So, do you need to hire a freelance editor?

It depends on where you’re at and what you’re looking for.

If you’re just starting to think about writing for publication, you probably don’t need an editor yet. First you should learn writing skills and hone your craft. Although a freelance editor can certainly teach you what you need to know, that can get expensive. You may want to start by reading books and taking classes about how to write for publication, or attending a writers’ conference and taking all the workshops you can, or visiting some of your favorite authors’ websites (many have a page or two of helpful tips).

If you’ve learned some basic things about writing, but haven’t actually written anything yet, you still probably don’t need to hire an editor. You can’t really use a freelance editor if you don’t have something to be edited.

Many new writers start by writing short pieces: articles, short stories, play scripts, devotionals, Sunday school take-home papers, curriculum. That’s great practice. And it can be helpful to show your writing to others—fellow writers, a critique partner or group, members of your target audience—to get valuable, objective feedback. If you’ve written a few short pieces or a few chapters of a book, but no one (other than family and friends) has seen your work yet, you might want to get a professional edit on them.

If you’ve at least started writing a book—whether you’ve done just a few chapters or you’ve finished a first draft of a complete manuscript or you’ve been working on it for years—an overall critique can help you get your writing to the next level of quality.

If you’ve already had your chapters/manuscript critiqued, you may benefit from a second (or third) critique. Every editor will have something different to offer, and each opinion is equally valuable. Just like every reader has his or her own likes and dislikes, various editors will provide a unique perspective.

If you haven’t been able to find a critique group or partner, you do need a freelance editor to catch errors and polish your manuscript. None of us can see our own mistakes near as easily as a fresh pair of eyes. Though you may get some good suggestions from friends or family, they probably don’t know writing techniques, so their advice will not be deep enough. Their suggestions may even be wrong if they don’t understand the rules for the type of writing you’re doing.

If your manuscript has already been reviewed by a critique group or critique partner, this is a great time to start working with a freelance editor who can catch things your critique partner(s) didn’t. And a good editor will know the industry-standard rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling that your critique partner(s) may not be sure of.

If you’ve put together a book proposal but aren’t sure if it’s ready to send to agents or publishers, you’ll greatly increase your chances of acceptance by having it critiqued first.

If you feel you’ve polished your manuscript as much as you can, you’re ready for an in-depth substantive content edit and/or a line-by-line copyedit to take your writing to the next level.

If you think your manuscript is ready to submit to an agent or publisher, you should definitely hire a freelance editor before submitting. You only get one chance to make a powerful first impression. Having an editor check your manuscript optimizes your chances of acceptance.

If you’ve self-edited to the point where you don’t want to look at your manuscript anymore, hire a freelance editor who can give you fresh insights. You may be revitalized by the editor’s ideas and fall in love with your manuscript again.

If you’re planning to self-publish, you should absolutely hire a freelance editor. Some subsidy publishers offer editing services (usually for an additional fee). But there’s usually a limited amount of time allowed per project. So unless your manuscript is extremely clean when you turn it in, there’s a chance their editor will miss a few things. And you don’t want to end up with a garage full of books you paid good money for, because you mistakes in them too late.

If you think your work is perfect and the only thing you want is someone to tell you how wonderful it is, don’t bother hiring an editor. If encouragement and raves are all you’re looking for, show your manuscript to your mom.

If you’re ready to hire a freelance editor:

AUTHORS Seeking Editors

PUBLISHERS Seeking Editors


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