First-time authors typically make several mistakes about hiring an editor. The first mistake, in this age of Amazon self-publishing, is thinking they can go it alone. In other words, they write their book and upload it to Amazon with little or no outside editing. Sadly, many of these books are poorly written and a grammatical nightmare. It is no wonder they don’t sell. But the author can boast that he or she is a “published author.” Sadly, for some, that is enough; they published their book, spent very little money, and for them, that is enough.
Other authors – and I hope that includes you – are more forward-thinking and realize a good editor can make or break their work. So, when in the process do most authors turn over their manuscript to an editor? Some authors do so out of weariness. They are tired of reviewing what they have written and feel they need a different perspective from a second pair of eyes.
Freelance editor Shawn Coyne put it succinctly: “A lot of people just want to dump their goo on an editor and have the editor form that into something for them.”  Amen, Shawn. In other words, when the manuscript is given to an editor prematurely, both parties end up frustrated. Most first-time authors may do this unwittingly because they have not learned otherwise. They have written what they think is a decent first draft and begin looking for an editor. Many of them have not even done any editing of their own. This can result in multiple edits and even a complete rewrite if the plot needs developmental editing.
Motivated by fear or insecurity?
Many authors, especially first-timers, are insecure about their work, fearful that they don’t have the “chops” to be a writer. So, they turn to an editor to validate their work, reassure them about their writing skills, and alleviate their fears and insecurity. By doing so, they unknowingly put the burden of success on their editors.
That raises the $64,000 question: When is the right time to hire an editor?
To answer that properly, you need to answer several other questions and be totally honest with yourself.
Have I done as much as possible to make my manuscript the best it can be?
Am I looking for an editor because I’m tired of looking at my manuscript?
Have I done any manuscript editing on my own?
Has any experienced writer or editor (such as in a local writing or critique group) read my manuscript or early drafts of it?
Do I need to learn more about the craft of writing before further proceeding with writing my book?
Do I have the nagging feeling that something I can’t define isn’t working in my manuscript?
Do I understand the cost, both in time and money, of hiring a professional editor? Have I budgeted for both?
Do I know the difference between developmental editing and copyediting?
Do I have the budget to hire a developmental editor to help me cross the finish line before handing it over to a copy editor?
Am I rushing the process simply to crank out another book?
Am I sending my book to an editor because I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes to be a writer?
If you answer these questions honestly, you should have a good feel for whether the timing is right to move to the next step of bringing in an editor. From the perspective of an editor, I hear the fear that is within every writer’s heart. It surfaces when an author asks me the one question I expect and dread:
What do you think of my book?
Translated, what they are really asking is, “Is my book any good?”
As an editor, wanting the best for my client, I will typically answer the question and give them an honest evaluation. I’ve read good, well-edited books, and I’ve read my share of junk, self-published books. I want my clients to be proud of their book and know that they can proudly share with others and promote to their network of potential readers.
One final thought about doubt:
Even the great John Steinbeck had them over his masterpiece, East of Eden. He recorded this in his journal: “I know it is the best book I have ever done. I don’t know whether it is good enough.”
That is a sobering thought for those of us who write for a living. We all have doubts and wonder if our work is “good enough.” It was true for John Steinbeck, it is true for me, and it will be true for you as well. My advice: Write anyway!
Dave Ficere is an Author, Editor, and Ghostwriter with over 30 years of experience in broadcasting and writing. When Dave is not writing and editing manuscripts for clients, you can typically find him narrating and producing audiobooks.
To learn more about Dave, visit him on LinkedIn.
“Bringing Your Story to Life” is more than just a tagline at Ficere Writing Solutions. We provide clients with top-notch writing, editing, and audiobook services to get your book or audiobook ready to publish. Our portfolio of services includes: Ghostwriting books, editing book manuscripts, and narration and production of audiobooks.
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