Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Professional Editors--My Take

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,



Katie Ganshert said...

My concern is the cost. I would LOVE to have an editor though. I wonder if I should save. Another concern is choosing the right one. There are SO many out there!

Hope you have a happy Wednesday, Eileen!!

Jody Hedlund said...


I love your list! Since you've had the experience of both crit group and professional editors, I think you have given some very wise answers!

I've used the Writing Career Coach and I really meshed with her. I was able to get a feel for how we worked when I sent in some sample work for her to critique. I would highly suggest having sample work critiqued before making a committment to the whole book.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Nathan Bransford wrote an informative post on this either yesterday, or in the not too distant past. It was good. I'm with Katie...cost!
~ Wendy

Rebecca Nazar said...

The fit between editor and writer has to be a snug one. I have a service in mind that I intend to use. I do have the advantage, as a short story writer, that if I'm not happy I can easily change editors without too much aggravation, time and money.

Natalie said...

So interesting. I doubt I'd ever use a professional editor, but I can see the advantages of doing so. I have an awesome critique group that includes a girl who is an editor in real life. We read half or full manuscripts at one time, so that solves the continuity issue, and, for the most part, they are all pretty tough.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Great insight, Eileen. I would be concerned with the cost as well, but the benefits, in most cases, seem wonderful.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

If you have a pro look at just a couple of chapters, it's enormously helpful at the right stage of your writing journey. Camy Tang helped me with three chapters of my first novel about a year and a half ago, and at a very reasonable price. The key is being able to take that advice and use it to revise the REST of the manuscript on your own.

Erica Vetsch said...

Very good post! Very informative.

I've never hired a professional editor, though in the past I've had a freelance editor as a critique partner.

My current crit partner and I have determined that it works best for us to send entire mss to each other, so we get the overall picture as well as the line edit.

Jill Kemerer said...

I haven't gone this route but enjoy hearing from people who have.

I think there are two types of feedback: line edits and the overall picture. I'd want a freelance editor well-versed in my genre to give me feedback on the overall picture. Sure, good writing is good writing, but romances require different qualities than mysteries.

Thanks for the information!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Yes, it is costly, but worth it. Like a good investment counselor or realtor. You are investing in your future.
I heard a preacher say, "If God calls you to do a thing, He will finance it." I like that.

Susan R. Mills said...

The part about continuity is so true. I'm beta reading for a couple of people two/three chapters at a time. They want to know if their pacing is working. It's hard to tell when I'm not reading it all at once. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Jessica Nelson said...

Great post Eileen! I think you've nailed everything here. Like others, my deal is the cost. Otherwise I'd totally do it. And actually, a few years ago I did do the full manuscript critique with Harlequin. I think that was one of the best things I ever did for my story.

Tamika: said...

Thanks for sharing both perspectives. I have done one professional critique and while was over a hundred dollars, I received some invaluable information.

I will do it again!

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

I learned a lot from this post and thank you for it. I now have some things to caution my future critique group on when they begin.

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

okay...besides the cost factor, it seems that it's still subjective. even professionals who dont' want to be associated with a weak manuscript. case in point, one of my friends had a professional crit of first 3 chapters, took the advice, when to conference with the changes and had an editor there tell her she should have done the exact opposite. whose advice to take? the editor's, i'd imagine...since she might actually have a say about getting it published. still...if i had the money, i'd probably do it.

Where Romance Meets Therapy

Stephanie Faris said...

I've never done the professional editing thing...but I've been in critique groups with published authors. I also have gotten feedback from published authors in contests I've entered and honestly, that's always the best feedback. It's still opinion but it's based on having been in the industry and their advice just seems different...somehow.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I agree the cost is difficult to swallow, but I like what Rosslyn pointed out. If you get a few chapters professionally edited it's far more financially feasible and if you carry their suggestions throug, it's so very helpful. You won't get the overall continuity check that way, but a whole lot can still be gained.

Kara said...

I've never used a professional, but I like the points you have made. When I am ready I would like to use one...guess I better start saving:)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

A good friend is a professional editor and critiqued a few of my chapters. Her suggestions were worth their weight in gold. As one commenter noted, I was then able to apply her advice to the rest of my manuscript.

Susan :)

Robyn Campbell said...

Super post Eileen. I would love to get my MS edited by a professional. One problem, it costs way too much. I mean it will run upwards of $800.00. That is just too much for a home-schooling mom trying to make it out there.

I know one writer in our Carolina SCBWI group that paid THOUSANDS. YIKES!

I agree that a reputable editor is worth her weight in gold.

Thanks! :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

I can definitely see the benefits, although I've never used one.

I really would need to know the person I'm working with and their style of editing before I paid anything.

Amy DeTrempe said...

I've alwasy shied away from freelance editors because of the cost. But, I may give it some consideration in the future.

Keli Gwyn said...

Another option to consider is hiring an English teacher, especially one who teaches creative writing. You might even be able to barter. Ask if s/he will read your manuscript in exchange for having you speak to his/her class about the publishing world and your experience as a writer pursuing publication.

Early on in my writing journey I had a fourth grade history teacher read one of my stories to see if I had my historical facts correct. In exchange, I visited his class. After the students heard that I'd revised my manuscript seventeen times, the teacher said the complaints he used to receive when asking for a single rewrite all but ceased. :-) I have a treasured folder filled with sweet thank you notes from his students and a warm feeling knowing I may have encouraged a few future authors that day.

Terri Tiffany said...

Great points! I would love to be able to hire one when I can. I know it would pay off.

VR Barkowski said...

I'm not sure I'd hire an editor for a partial even if it were affordable. The problem I see in my own manuscript is blips in narrative flow. And to a large degree those blips are a result of having folks critique one or two chapters then suggesting repetitive revisions/additions based on an out of context read. I'd want an editor to look at the whole work. BTW: That said, I couldn't survive without my critique group! :)