5 Things To Do Before Hiring a Freelance Editor
More writers are hiring editors these days, whether they’re going indie or just making sure the manuscript is polished before submitting to agents and publishers. If you’re a newer writer, unpublished, here are some things I think you should do before spending your hard-earned money on a freelance editor.
(1) Get objective feedback.
It’s best to have a critique group or partner, if possible. Try to get the most honest feedback you can—not on grammar and punctuation, but on the overall content of your book. Are readers finding the book engaging? Are they reading to the end? Are they confused?
(2) Edit & revise your book using reputable sources.
Find fiction resources HERE. My favorites for the revision phase are Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King, and Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell.
Non-fiction resources HERE. Writing a memoir or personal story? Click HERE.
(3) Understand and follow 3-act structure.
This is for fiction and memoir. PLEASE don’t underestimate the importance of story structure. If your editor has to spend the bulk of their time fixing your structure and educating you about it, you won’t get the best value for your editing money. You can learn structure on your own—and seriously, your book won’t work without it. A couple of helpful resources are Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland, and Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.
(4) Read your book out loud to catch awkwardness and poor phrasing.
This is especially helpful to make sure fiction dialogue is snappy and believable. But it helps with any kind of writing. Often when you read it aloud, you’ll catch problems you’d never spot by reading silently.
(5) Make sure your editor has edited published books.
It’s difficult to verify the legitimacy and credentials of each editor. So do your best to verify that they’ve edited books that have been published by traditional publishers. It’s your best bet for getting a good edit.
Here are some freelance editors. There are a lot more out there in internet-land! Do your research.
Late breaking update! Robin Patchen contributed a perfect analogy in the comments, so I want to include it here. Hope you find it as helpful as I did!
I have worked with freelance editors, and I am a freelance editor, so I’ve seen both sides of this. I often say hiring an editor is like hiring a housekeeper. You don’t hire someone to pick up your socks and put away your dishes. In fact, before the housekeeper comes, most of us pick run around like crazy picking up the easy & obvious, because we want to pay the housekeeper to do the hard stuff. The “cleaner” your manuscript is, the more your editor can help you make it really shine. -Robin Patchen
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I am fortunate to have a good friend that is an editor. I did hire another editor first (not wanting to take advantage of my friend) but after my friend edited my book, the difference was life changing, and I could see the difference in skill. My friend was not only a great beta reader, intuitive to my writing, she helped ME tighten my story with her suggestions and corrections. I feel very fortunate to have someone so close to me that is in the business. She looks out for me as a friend, but pushes me to a place that my continuing work is only better. She is critical, but poignant. She doesn’t make it easy on me, but she makes me a better writer.( I am responding to this post via email.)
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Thank you for this valuable resource info. All the steps are helpful, and I’m an enthusiastic proponent of #4. It’s free and it works!
Rachelle, great advice, thanks. I made the mistake of hiring a freelance editor too soon. I’d only rewritten once, hadn’t yet joined a critique group, and only my mother had read it. She was recommended to me by an indie published author, but not in my genre. While she said she was familiar with Christian fiction, and she certainly helped me bring the MS along, I have since discovered some holes in her advice. I honestly have learned much more about the craft and industry from my critique partners, ACFW colleagues, and books on writing. It was a lesson I had to learn the hard way as a new author, but I can be thankful for that process. I so appreciate your insights here!
I used an editor before sending my manuscript to the publisher. Although he helped me tremendously, the first round of edits from the pub came back looking like she’d used up all her red ink on my manuscript. 🙂 BUT, I don’t begrudge the money I paid to have him help me with pacing, etc.
Rachelle, Great point. Much as we writers dislike it, there’s a lot of hard work to be done that we have to do ourselves–then, and only then, can we get someone to help us sand off any rough spots and put on the finishing touches. For my forthcoming self-published novella, I used one of the editors you list, and she was great at pointing out areas I really needed to address to make the story much better. Thanks for this post.
Excellent advice. I have worked with freelance editors, and I am a freelance editor, so I’ve seen both sides of this. I often say hiring an editor is like hiring a housekeeper. You don’t hire someone to pick up your socks and put away your dishes. In fact, before the housekeeper comes, most of us pick run around like crazy picking up the easy & obvious, because we want to pay the housekeeper to do the hard stuff. The “cleaner” your manuscript is, the more your editor can help you make it really shine.
I “interviewed” several freelance editors (all found online) before deciding on the one I felt was most suitable for me. Best decision I ever made. Not only has my book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, been subsequently published, there were only two or three minor edits made by the publisher. So it was in great shape, which I’m sure helped me get my book contract!
Great post. I’ve bookmarked it and tweeted it.
This is a great article. I totally agree.
I have hired freelance editors on several occasions. Generally speaking, the editors were worth the price that I paid to have them work on my manuscripts. They were not perfect, however. In all cases, I was later surprised to find errors that they missed.
Hi Ernie, that is common (the stray errors). In fact, published books typically go through no fewer than four edits and proofreads, yet there are always still errors. Shows how fallible we all are!
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