An editor, or not yet? How to Know When You’re Ready to Hire an Editor
The self-publishing revolution
Here at the end of 2020, we’ve all know that nothing can be taken for granted. Remember when self-publishing was a last resort for the would-be writer? These days, self-publishing is thriving industry that brings more books to life.
The best self-published books sit happily alongside those that arrived on the shelf, or in the online store, via a more traditional pathway.
However, the best books from all sources are well-written, well-edited, and well-presented. We all know when we find such a book, and we all know the disappointment of starting to read something that doesn’t quite make the grade.
Whether you want to self-publish or you are preparing to submit your manuscript to a traditional or an independent publisher, you need great editing. True, you can do your own editing. But no amount of hard work on your part can replace the fresh eyes of an outside editor.
Today’s post features some guidelines from Desiree Villena from Reedsy, an author support service for self-publishing – check out their website for loads of free resources as well as opportunities to purchase professional services for your writing.
Thank you Desiree for sharing these tips!
Are you ready for an editor?
Desiree: In all the excitement of putting the final full stop on the page, the temptation to send the first finished draft of your manuscript to an editor can be all too real. Resist the urge! Yes, working with an editor will take your book from an excellent piece of writing to a professional body of work that you and your readers will be happy with. But getting the most out of your editor means hiring them at the right time, when you and your work are ready for it.
So how do you know when that time arrives? In this blog post, we’ll discuss three questions you should ask yourself to determine if you’re ready to hire an editor and take the leap forward on your publishing journey. Let’s dive right in with question #1.
1. Did I do my research?
Determining what kind of editor to hire requires careful research into what various editors offer and how they work. Editing is an umbrella term for the multiple processes that take place at different stages and address different things in your manuscript. These are roughly split into three categories:
- Developmental editing, the first stage, takes a wide-zoom look at your story, focusing on broad issues such as overall narrative, plot, and characters.
- Copy editing comes after the larger issues have been ironed out and looks at your work line by line, checking for coherence, consistency, and grammatical correctness.
- Proofreading is the final big step before your book goes to print, or if it’s an ebook, before it’s formatted and put online. A proofreader looks for minor spelling and grammar errors and any formatting issues that might have slipped through the cracks.
Knowing the differences between each of these means you will a) hire the right sort of editor in the first place and b) have your manuscript sufficiently polished before you pass it along!
Genre and market
Besides what stage of editing your book is in, it’s also important to consider its genre and other niche requirements. Each editor will have expertise in a specific area, e.g. non-fiction or children’s books. It’s important that you hire someone whose knowledge applies specifically to the genre or form of your work.
What’s your vision?
You also want to make sure that the editor you choose understands your vision for your work and meshes with your creative style. It can be incredibly draining and frustrating to battle someone who is trying to take your work in a completely different direction than you’d intended. So if your gut says no, don’t force it! You’re sure to find a better match in someone else.
2. Have I fixed all the problems I can?
Rereading a manuscript you’ve already spent weeks, months, or even years poring over probably isn’t your idea of fun. But working with an editor is a costly process, especially if you’re starting with a full-fledged developmental edit! Therefore your editor’s time (and your money) should be put toward addressing problems where their expertise will be most valuable. That means you need to fix the base-level problems yourself.
Start with the obvious, making sure your spelling and grammar are all accurate. Also look out for things such as inconsistent descriptions and any of your “bad habits”, such as the overuse of a particular word or phrase.
Of course, having spent so long buried in your work, many issues will be invisible to you as an author, at least at first. How can you spot the issues to address before you hire an editor?
Here are three quick tips :
- Step away from your work. Putting your work away for a while after you finish allows you to approach it with a fresher set of critical eyes when you return to edit.
- Listen to your book read aloud, or read it aloud yourself. When you read in your head, your mind may “autocorrect” things. So you end up missing errors. When you read aloud, you are much more aware of whether what you have written actually makes sense and how it all flows.
- Make use of alpha and beta readers. Alpha readers, who read your rough draft, and beta readers, who read your revised draft, can give you some great, useful notes. If you don’t trust your own eyes or simply feel you could use some third-party feedback, reach out to your friends, family, and writer friends to spot any initial problems.
Self-editing may feel tedious, but if you haven’t at least given it your best go, you probably aren’t ready to hire an editor. And don’t worry! If you give yourself a decent break first, you’ll find it’s more fun than you’d think!
3. Can I handle the constructive criticism?
The first time you open up your work, your heart and soul, to a fresh set of eyes may be one of the scariest moments of the writing process. Though you are probably your own worst critic, the idea of someone else voicing that criticism is likely to make your stomach turn.
The last thing you want is for a comment to knock your confidence down so far that you lose faith in your work. If this is a struggle for you, remind yourself that you are hiring an editor because you believe in your work. You want it to be the best version of itself, and an editor’s suggestions will only make it better! Any critical comments they make aren’t personal digs, but genuine efforts to help your work reach its full potential.
When it comes down to it, it’s going to be easiest to publish and promote a book that you are truly proud of, a book you know is the best it can possibly be. A well-chosen editor joining you at the right moment will help you achieve this. Once you can answer a confident yes to the three main questions in this post, you are ready to hire an editor and bring your book a little bit closer to that all-exciting book launch!