Do You REALLY Need an Editor?

Posted by Kristen Hamilton on November 23, 2012 at 11:30 PM

In a word: YES. And here's why...

Most writers think that because they write well, they haven't made any mistakes in their manuscript...WRONG! Even the best writers make plenty of mistakes. They leave out crucial details. They use confusing and wrong word choices. They spell words wrong, make grammatical errors, or use punctuation incorrectly.

Using an editor will help you realize the mistakes you've been blindly making in your writing. Not only will an editor perfect and polish your piece, they will TEACH you what you're doing wrong and help you write better!

Though you can recruit your friends and family to "edit" your work, only a professional and qualified editor with years of training and experience has the skill set to effectively edit your writing project the right way, allowing you to have the best possible manuscript.

Published author and blogger Dave Bricker put it exceptionally well: "No matter how capable you are as a writer and proofreader, you can't accomplish your best writing entirely by yourself. Producing an exceptional book requires skills...beyond the capabilities of even the best writers. Skimping on...editing—even for the most experienced writer—are surefire ways to diminish the quality of your final product." (See this same sentiment echoed here and here and here.)

You've spent this long writing your manuscript—you naturally want it to do well, right? Don't let all your hard work go to waste! Some writers choose to forgo editing, and that's always a bad idea. Below, some of the common reasons why people hestitate before hiring an editor, and why you should toss those reasons out the window.

1. Some new authors think that editing is too expensive. 

A professional edit of an average-sized fiction manuscript (think 80,000 words) will rarely cost below $700 or $800 for the minimum edit. Though it may be a large chunk of change, you're much better off getting your book professionally edited. Your readers will notice if you have many grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors, and the sales of your book may suffer. Readers often say negative things about books that are riddled with grammar, spelling, or consistency issues—all things that a skilled editor will take care of.

Nobody wants to a read a book that is loaded with grammar, spelling, or sentence structure errors. In fact, by spending the x-amount of money having your book professionally edited may earn you more royalties than if you self-published your "raw" manuscript. But don't pay too much or too little for editing—see how much editing should cost

If you're planning on submitting your book to a publisher for print publication, it is absolutely crucial to have it professionally edited. Most publishing houses won't take the time to look at a manuscript that is...well, a mess. According to Karen Cioffi, editor at 4RV Publishing, "Publishers, agents, editors and reviewers all know the difference between a professionally edited manuscript and one that is not. If you were building a house you'd want a solid foundation, right? Getting your manuscript professional edited is the same thing - it will provide a solid foundation. There are thousands and thousands of writers and very limited publishers; an edited manuscript will help provide the advantage you'll need in today's oversaturated writing arena."

2. Other authors wonder exactly what editors do. 

So, what do editors do? It depends. Some editors only offer copyediting—they look for spelling errors or incorrect use of punctuation. But other editors (like me!) dive headfirst into your manuscript, noting continuity errors (if a character's hair is brown, then is suddenly blonde on the next page), clarify confusing passages, fixing grammatical errors, improving word choice, etc.

Some editors also make suggestions on how to impove your story. If they think the story would succeed with an element added to the plot, they'll tell you. If you want, you can also hire editors to analyze your plot, characters, dialogue, or a number of other elements in your story in a manuscript critique service. On the other hand, if you're on a tight budget, you can opt for a First Chapter Critique. I am one of the first editors to offer this service. The First Chapter Critique entails an analysis of your first chapter: how are you starting your book? This quick and painless process helps ensure you're on the right track for a successful book manuscript.

3. Some authors believe they can self-edit their own work. 

Bad idea! Most authors are so comfortable with their work that they simply overlook the errors. Their mind automatically sees what they're trying to describe, even if the words lack the appropriate power. When you self-edit your own work, you read it from the perspective of knowing what you meant to write, instead of seeing it exactly the way it was written.

In every case, it's absolutely necessary to have a fresh pair of eyes go over your work. You can have a friend look it over, but even your most grammar-inclined friend lacks the skills that all professional editors offer. It requires years of practice to edit effectively. Keep in mind, too, that not just any editor will do. Know what type of editor you need in order to find the right editor for you and your book.

The alternatives to hiring a professional editor to review your manuscript are frightening. You've spent hundreds of hours poring over writing your book manuscript, so naturally you want it to succeed. If you take your writing seriously and want your novel to be taken seriously, professional editing is a necessity. Once you start to see your edited, published novel start to gain attention and draw in the royalties, you'll see the investment for a quality editor was well worth it.

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Book editor Kristen Hamilton is the owner and sole employee of

Kristen Corrects, Inc., where she provides manuscript editing

services for traditionally and self-publishing authors. Several

authors whose books she has edited have won awards and have

topped Amazon's best sellers lists.

Reading is Kristen's passion, so when the workday is over, she

can usually be found curled up with a good book alongside her

four cats. She loves watching cat videos and scary movies,

eating pizza, teaching herself French, and traveling, and she is

likely planning her next vacation. She lives outside of Boise, ID.

Categories: book editing, author business

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