First off, I have hired a few professional editors through the years, but never for a full manuscript edit, so what my take is, is based on partial submissions only thus far. If I can ever afford to have a full manuscript edited, I'll be sure to update you all on any of my changing views.
From my experiences so far with freelance professional editors, though, I do have some benefits to share. And my number one benefit is:
1) Continuity: In the average critique group you send out a given number of pages at a time to go the rounds. Usually it amounts to a chapter or two at a time and then you have a couple weeks laps before your turn comes around to send in the next few pages for critiquing. You can imagine that in that interim time, each partner has viewed several other partial manuscripts of totally different stories if you're a member of a group, so the continuity of yours is definitely broken to an extend. This has it's benefits for a line-by-line type critique/edit, or for micro tension spotting, etc., but it has its drawbacks for a good picture of the overall flow and ebb of the manuscript. Do all those nibbling questions you posed in the early part of the manuscript really get answered, or at least tied up satisfactorily? If you're depending on your crit. partners to answer that, you probably shouldn't. Too much time lapses between the starting and finishing chapters of any given novel, with too many other stories interrupting the read in your usual critique group.
But, with professional editors, you generally send the whole manuscript, or at least a larger portion than would normally be submitted in a single critique group round, and thus you have far more continuity type edits being observed and checked.
2) They're professionals!!! Yes, most freelance editors are either editors for publishing houses, or have been at one point, or are published and presumably know what the market is looking for and what a well written book looks like, or they just have that highly intelligent editor's eye that we as writers who are way too close to our story need.
Are there dud freelance editors out there? Sure there are, but do your homework (get references), shop around, ask for a free sample edit, and pick yours with care, so that you do gain from the experience. And there is much to be gained!
3) An Unbiased Opinion and Direction: If you've done your homework and picked a reputable editor (and they aren't your best friend), and you're paying them for sound advice and direction then you'll likely get exactly that. And that means no tap dancing around, no spine bending, no praise when it isn't warranted, and most importantly, a fresh set of eyes on your manuscript with a good set of fingers that can articulate in writing what you need to fix in your ms. to make it sing!!
Critique partners can lose their toughness from time to time, and so a weak chapter can slip by them in an off week, but when a professional is being paid, they don't want to be associated with a weak manuscript, they want to be the source of making it better! In turn, they'll attract more business, right!
So that's my take on hiring professional freelance editors. But I will also say this, a good freelance editor will tell you upfront when your work is not yet ready for their eyes--when there is just too much still needing to be learned and applied before their efforts are worth both of your time and especially your money. Don't jump into hiring a freelance editor too early. Be sure your work is showing much promise first. Now a mentor or writing coach is a whole other story on that subject, though. They can be beneficial at any stage in the writing journey.
What about you? Do you have any concerns or further benefits to add to this list regarding freelance editors?
Surrendering to Him,