“I’m going to self-publish because don’t want anyone changing what I’ve written!”
I cringe when I hear a writer say that. Maybe the published book will be “clean” (no typos, misspellings, or poorly written sentences), but usually it will have sections that are either unclear, repetitious, or totally unnecessary. (I’ve even wished some traditionally published books had received more editing.)
Writers may be able to do a pre-editing, but we need fresh eyes and the opinions of others to make our books stand out.
Even agents, nowadays, want writers to submit (to them) manuscripts that are 90% ready to publish. They won’t take the time to “work” with a writer. They want someone else to have done the pre-editing.
And, when I listened to the panel of self-published writers, they all emphasized the need for an editor. Some suggested hiring two editors: one for line-editing and one for content and continuity. They said writers need fresh eyes on their mss, readers who aren’t so familiar with the story that they mentally fill in the missing parts or skip over the typos and misspellings.
Most writers go through many drafts before feeling they have a finished story. I know, after reading my ms so many times, cutting and pasting words, lines, and paragraphs, I start to gloss over typos, repeated words, and missing sentences. Maybe I think adding the history of growing blueberries adds to the story, but what if that information is unnecessary and slows the pacing to a standstill? Will I realize that?
So, does everyone need to hire a freelance editor?
No. Critique groups can sometimes fulfill that function. But to be helpful, the group must be familiar with the genre, must feel free to and able to give constructive criticism, and must read enough of the manuscript to be able to detect incongruities. Also, the writer must be secure enough to recognize when more than one member of the group has a problem with something that it probably needs work, and equally confident enough to ignore suggestions that are off mark.
Beta readers may be as good as an editor. Beta readers may be writers or readers or both. They won’t see the story until the writer feels it’s finished or nearly finished. The writer needs to respect the beta reader’s opinion and be willing to listen to their suggestions. Beta readers should know the genre well enough to understand the expectations of that genre’s readers. They will, hopefully, act as both line editors and continuity editors. Writers usually “pay” beta readers with gift cards or special events.
And, there are many freelance editors. If a writer decides to hire a freelance editor, my suggestion is to ask other writers for recommendations, either in person or on-line. Some editors advertise on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Some have ads in Poets & Writers, Writers’ Digest, RWR, and other writers’ organizations’ magazines. Besides asking for references, it’s good to ask the freelance editor for a sample of her or his work. Give them an agreed upon number of pages from your ms and see what feedback you receive. Also, make sure you and the editor agree on exactly what will be provided (are you asking for both line editing and continuity or just continuity?) and the cost.
Finally: Whether you use a critique group, beta readers, or a freelance editor, you must be open to the comments and suggestions given and willing to make changes. If not, don’t waste your time or money.