Do You Need Professional Editing?

Is it worth it to pay a professional editor before submitting to publishers?
It depends on how clean your skills are.

First, you always, always, always need several content readers to go through your manuscript before you send it in. These should be fellow writers, your critique group and/or others who are well read and who have no emotional investment in protecting your fragile psyche. These readers should do what we call a "content edit" to evaluate your story, characterization, flow, style, plot, etc. to help you find inconsistencies and plot holes. They'll probably also pick up a good portion of your grammar mistakes and typos.

Second, you always, always, always need someone to do a copy/line edit of your manuscript before you send it in. If you're highly skilled in editing yourself, then you can probably get by with a proofreader who has a strong grammar background. This could also be a fellow writer or someone in your critique group.

If however, you know you have difficulties, or you don't know anyone with the appropriate skills who'll read it for free, then yes, hire someone. Make sure they have credentials and experience--a high level of grammar and writing skills; an idea of what is currently selling (as in, they read a lot of popular writing, as well as the classics); and happy, repeat customers who have been published.


Tristi Pinkston said...

I could not agree more. Even when you think you've found every possible mistake, someone will come along and find a ton you overlooked. You get blind to your own work after staring at it for so long. I would be toast if it weren't for my pre-readers.

Anonymous said...

Where do you find pre-readers? Critique groups?

Before hiring an editor how do you find out if he/she has the proper credentials/satisfied customers?

Tristi Pinkston said...

I'll take a stab here, if you don't mind, LDSP!

I get my pre-readers from my family and friends who all like to read. It's important that you choose people who are very literate, who have read a lot in the market you're shooting for, and who aren't afraid to point out your mistakes. If you get feedback from a reader and they say they didn't find anything wrong with the book, use someone else next time -- it's impossible to have a whole book with nothing wrong with it. That reader either didn't see the mistakes (which is bad) or was chicken to tell you about them (which is bad)

As far as hiring an editor goes, I'll let someone else handle that. I've never actually hired anyone -- I usually trade edits with other authors who also edit.

LDS Publisher said...

I agree with Tristi on where to find readers. You can find critique groups by going to local writer conferences. Talk to the people you meet there. Find some that you're comfortable with and see if they have a group you can join or if they'd like to create a group with you.

As to the editors, ask your author friends (from the conference or critique group) who they would recommend. Then ask the editors themselves what their experience is and ask for a list of 5-10 satisfied customers. Then call those customers and see what they say about working with the person and the quality of work they feel they've gotten. You can also ask if they'll do 2 or 3 pages gratis so you can see if you like their style. Some will, some won't.