Professional Editors

You’ve finished your book and are now looking over your options. Should you immediately send this book to your dream publisher? Should you first go over the whole manuscript with a fine tooth comb, searching for those tiny errors that might result in a rejection rather than a contract? Or should you hire an editor to go over your work, and pay someone else to do the boring, hard work?

One of the first things you need to know is that no professional author ever sends out their first draft. The ideal situation is for you to allow that first collection of idea to rest, to take a nap while you reconnect with family and friends. A first draft should never be seen by anyone except yourself.

Now that you’ve moved forward, begun a new book or pounded out a few short stories to keep your mind sharp, it’s time to consider what you’re going to do about your book. Its presence has never really left your mind.

There are other options, albeit ones that won’t finish your book faster than hiring an editor to go over your work. First, though, you have to ask yourself this—Are you prepared to shell out up to three or four thousand dollars to have a professional go over your book to ensure it’s as tight as it can be prior to looking for a publisher, or self-publishing it?

The first thing any writer or author should do once they feel they’re ready to read over their recently completed book is find a group of dedicated beta readers. They should ignore the entreaties of family and friends to do this job, as those people tend to return with glowing praise about how great your book is and how it will soon be topping the most prestigious Best Seller charts. Instead, opt for people who you think can be critical, who can step back from the beautiful prose you’ve created, and be capable of telling you where you need to improve your work.

Another option is to join an online critique group. It can take a while to find the right group, and then you’re faced with the probability that you’ll have to wait months if not years for your book to progress through that process, but it well worth the time for a first time author attempting to find a good publisher.

The least popular option is to spend days and months going over your book with a fine tooth comb. That often becomes a lesson in frustration, as you rewrite many elements of your book numerous times, in an attempt to get rid of a sagging plot point.

Then there is the professional editor. There are many of those available for you to hire, and their prices vary from reasonable to outrageous. You should be wary of any professional editor you hire, no matter how much they charge. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what a professional editor charges, that isn’t an indicator of what the quality of their work is.

The professional editor used to be confined to the major publishing houses located in New York City. Theirs wasn’t a glamorous job, unless they held the top position in their company. Most spent day after day redlining contracted manuscripts with dreams of one day becoming an author themselves. Then publishing changed when we arrived in the twenty-first century. It was slow progress, but the self-published author was beginning to make their presence known. There was a need for good editors in order to make their books saleable.

However, as with every other profession, there were those editors who weren’t as good as they professed. To do this job well, you must not only understand the basics of whatever language your author is writing in, but also have a good grasp of the rules of writing. This is not a job for the faint of heart, nor for someone just starting out to be picky about the jobs they want to take on—you really can’t be turning down the latest blood and gore vampire series, nor can you afford to say erotica isn’t my thing.

That’s not to say you won’t luck onto a good professional editor, but there are a few things to look for. A quick search for “book editors” brought me 63,100,000 hits. The top search produced a company who not only edits, they also proofread, provide indexing, and publishing consulting. That sounds like a self-published author’s dream, everyone they need in one neat package, except for the cover art. What more can one ask for?

First, find their FAQS page. Seek out the cost to you. Some of these editors  charge by word count, others by the number of pages. All good editors will consult with you before deciding on price and what needs to be done. Be ready to work hard once they send our book back to you, and be prepared to fork out anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

Even if you go through this process, there is no guarantee that you’re going to like what the editor has done, or you may find your book is in worse shape. Dig in, dig deep into your internal editor, and clean up what you’ve received back. You can ask for a refund, but don’t expect one.

A word of caution at this point. While you may utilize a professional editor, once you’ve signed a contract, your publisher will in all likelihood assign an editor to you prior to publication. Don’t come back with “Editor so and so, of this online company, has already edited my work. There’s no need for you to  do it again.” That produces a pained wince on the editor in chief’s part. Even though you feel you have the best book in the world, there is always something to fix in it.

One final word on hiring a professional editor—spend the time to learn about the rules of writing. Don’t decide that because someone has said you don’t use certain words much in a book, or you have to use this or that punctuation that you can ignore that advice. You might discover that’s a mistake that can derail your dream of having a book published.