Should I Hire a Freelance Editor?

Lately more and more people have been asking me if they should hire an editor prior to submitting to agents. Here’s my take:

Using a freelance editor can be a great idea – if you use it as a learning experience. You need to do most of the work yourself. I think it’s wasted money if you’re counting on someone to fix your manuscript for you. The point is to get an experienced set of eyes on it to help you identify problems and figure out how to fix them.

Prior to being represented or having a contracted book, the best way to work with an editor is to have them give you notes on your book, but not make changes themselves in the manuscript. Then you can go back to your manuscript, grasp the reasons for the changes they’re suggesting, and implement them, all the while learning how to make your book stronger. Hopefully you’re going to take that new knowledge with you into writing the next book.

It can be very helpful for an editor to give you an evaluation of your first few chapters, so that you can then rework the entire manuscript according to what you learned. It’s a terrific learning experience and can help you grow as a writer. It’s almost like having a writing tutor.

If you get an agent and/or sell your first book based on a manuscript that has been heavily edited by others (or is the product of intense critique group feedback), plan to do the same thing with your second book before submitting to your agent or publisher. And your third book, etc. Over time you’ll grow as a writer and become less dependent on outside help.

Many agents and editors are uncomfortable with writers having too much outside editorial help prior to being contracted, because it can mask a writer’s true abilities. I’d hate to get you a 3-book contract with a publisher based on that stellar first book, only to find out that you had a ton of help with it and are not able to deliver that quality of book a second time.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/creative-writing-editing-library-108545/

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

85 Comments

  1. […] K.M. Weiland has the 10-step checklist to writing an above-average novel, Rachelle Gardner ponders should I hire a freelance editor?, Piper Bayard urges us to get firearms right in our stories, and Fae Rowan discusses subtlety in […]

  2. James Osborne on December 12, 2018 at 5:19 PM

    Hi Rachelle
    You are delightfully diplomatic in your post, but I do believe you will agree that under no circumstances should an author ever submit a manuscript that has not been edited first by a professional editor. To do so is an insult to the agent or publisher. I have four books published traditionally and I am a seasoned professional editor, but none of those books (plus the two upcoming) were/will be submitted without the benefit of an outside editor. Yes, I delivered the manuscripts to the editors in as good a shape as I knew how. When each came back, I was astonished (and embarrassed) every time at how much more work was needed. Self-editing is akin to that lawyer respresenting him/herself — both have fools for clients.
    Cheers!
    James Osborne

  3. Richard Mabry on December 6, 2018 at 2:39 PM

    Rachelle, Obviously you’re recycling some of your past blog posts, but they’re always worthwhile, as is this one. You make the most valid point up front: “Using a freelance editor can be a great idea – if you use it as a learning experience. ”
    Before you were my agent (long ago, in a galaxy far away) I was told by an editor that if I used a certain independent editor to correct a couple of novels, I’d get a long-term contract. I did, he did, but the editor didn’t. What I should have done, of course, is consider what the editor suggested changing and learn from the experience. Thanks for sharing.

  4. […] Agent Rachelle Gardner on “Should I Hire a Freelance Editor?” […]

    • Olivia Smit on December 5, 2018 at 10:47 AM

      This is an encouraging post to read! As a freelance editor myself, it’s great to know that I can offer service to authors (and this post gave me a few tips on how I can be the most helpful)!

      Thanks, Rachelle!

  5. Howard Slacum on December 31, 2012 at 6:42 PM

    Though you posted this long before I began following your blog (which I am thankful I can do via email), it is remarkable that I can find an old post so relevant and helpful.

    Thank you lass.

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  7. Pozycjonowanie Stron Gorzow on January 30, 2012 at 4:59 AM

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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  10. Matthew Rush on March 30, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    >Hi Rachelle, great post and good advice. I can't remember how I found your blog but I have become a follower.

    I will not be seeking the assistance of editor, at least not until I give up on revising myself. The help of one probably could have sped the process up though, since I wrote a MS that was at least twice as long as the upper limit for word count of a debut novel.

    I've been told by 3 agents who requested full or partials that the voice is good and the premise interesting enough but they just can't seriously consider repping the MS at it's current length. I am going to do my best to edit for length by myself but may seek an editor out someday.

  11. Inspire All on March 29, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    >In a nut shell what this article is saying is that a Writer has to be responsible for editing his/her own work but be cognitively aware that they need a fresh, propfessional set of eyes to point out things in their manuscript that may other wise go un-noticed!

  12. Jeffrey Martin on March 28, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    >If a writer wants to be a true master of their craft, editing your own work is essential for optimal success. I always try to give my editor, the cleanest version of my manuscript. I hope to be in this idustry a long time, and already have learned a great deal from my first published novel, to my current work in progress.

  13. Kathryn Magendie on March 28, 2010 at 4:32 PM

    >I'm lucky – my publishers like that my manuscripts are clean, but, I'm also an editor, so I can see the ms from a writer's perspective and an editor's perspective.

    Sometimes my editor friend and I trade our work, just to get that objective look.

  14. Carol J. Garvin on March 27, 2010 at 12:00 AM

    >As the writer I can't be unbiased about my own work. I may think it's a masterpiece (or complete drivel) so putting it in the hands of a qualified editor can reveal strengths or shortcomings that I'm unaware of. That's invaluable.

    I didn't get a full manuscript evaluation, but several years ago Jessica Morrell reviewed fifty pages of my first novel and gave me an extensive written opinion plus a half-hour phone consultation. She didn't re-write a word or suggest any specific changes, but pointed out things I hadn't considered before. That first novel still sits on my shelf, but what I learned then has helped me with everything I've written since. I consider it money well spent.

  15. Heather Moore on March 26, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    >I do some freelance editing, and I definitely believe that the writer should view it as a learning experience . . . especially if the writer is planning on writing a second book. Editing is, of course, biased to some degree, and not every writer can expect success from a "professional edit." But using alpha readers is a must. It's important for us to see our manuscript from another's point of view, and even if we don't always agree with every comment, we need to know the concerns BEFORE it hits the reviewers mail box.

    When I work with my own editor on my books, there's plenty of give and take.

  16. Heather M on March 26, 2010 at 2:52 PM

    >Rachelle – any tips on finding a really good online critique group? They seem like a good option to me but I don't know much about them. Do *you* think they are a good option?

    (You'll get feedback but the work won't be done for you; it's free; and anonymous feedback may be more honest. That's my reasoning, but I could be wrong.)

  17. Catherine M. on March 26, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    >I just finished working with a developmental editor. The experience was…mixed. He did provide great suggestions on improving tension and pacing, and on getting rid of fluff (too many characters, boring scenes). The opening to my novel is much stronger because of his advice, and I learned a great deal about storytelling through the process.

    That was the good…

    The bad…when I agreed with his suggestions, he was fine. When I did not, he became upset. As in, he yelled at me (over the phone) and said a few hurtful things about my character – and me – when I said I wouldn't change an aspect of my character's personality.

    I think he allowed his own personal experiences/values/issues to cloud some of his advice. I was not expecting an editor to take things so personally in terms of what changes I did or did not agree to.

    And while I know aspects of my novel are better after working with him, there are some things that I'm even more confused about than before. Because of the way he handled some things, I'm not sure I fully trust all his advice. But maybe that's a good thing – it requires me to think long and hard about every single aspect of my novel. Each character, every scene, even every line. And that's a very good thing to do.

    Would I work with a freelance developmental editor again? Probably, but I would find someone who really understood my writing and the vision I have for my character. Someone who would hopefully not take things so personally.

    You should be open to the advice – and I made many, many changes to both plot and character. But, you should also know when something just feels wrong – and be willing to stay the course and not make a change if you think it goes against your story or your character(s).

    And in case anyone is curious – the one aspect of my character the editor didn't like was that he flirts with a woman other than his girlfriend. My character is a bit of a womanizer. He doesn't realize how much he cares for his regular gal until later in the book. So, he does flirt with another woman in the first part of the novel. Once he realizes how he feels about his gal, he stops the flirting. And that's all it is – flirting. The editor said that was horrible, just not acceptable, made my character despisable, etc. Seemingly a minor thing, but clearly something he felt strongly about. And so did I, so the flirting stayed in place because I feel is shows how he matures from the start of the novel to the end…how his feelings change, and that is a crucial part of the story.

    So, again – find someone who gets you, be open to their advice, but also be true to your story and your characters. Make those changes you feel will improve your book, but don't make changes simply because someone tells you to. There should be a reason for making any revision or change – and I feel that reason is that it makes your book better.

  18. Erika Robuck on March 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    >I have a writing critique partner and I hired a professional editor. I would do the same again. Both spend less time working with my actual words, than helping me identify the common mistakes I make in my writing (ie: passive voice, not trusting my reader…). With my writing partner, I also get to critique her manuscript–which is often just as helpful to me as getting critiqued.

    Both relationships are very teacher/student oriented, and will, I feel, benefit me in the long term.

  19. Julie Weathers on March 26, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    >I took Barbara Rogan's novel workshop, which was very good. I made changes, cut 35,000 words and wound up with a mess. A good friend, who is a superb writer, read it and basically told me I needed to start all over.

    I kept the bones of the story and focused on the main story line with the important subplots.

    Afterward, I contacted Barbara and asked her if she thought it was worthwhile to hire her to edit the heavily revised manuscript.

    She said no. If there wasn't much to change, it would be a complete waste of money for me. If there were still extensive changes, I had spent a lot of money and I was right back where I started.

    I would probably take her novel workshop on the next one and go through my critique group again. I hope Beth will have time to read it.

    I learned a lot from both experiences and I think I've grown a lot. I just fear many writers hire editors to do the work for them and, unless they are prepared to do that every time with the same editor, they have done themselves and the agent a disservice.

  20. Rachel Hauck on March 26, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    >Rachelle, this is so good! I really think a writer needs to learn on their own, get language and knowledge that fits who they are as a person and writer.

    I've worked with a number of writers through My Book Therapy but we only do the first 10K words. Our goal is to help them see the strengths and weaknesses, work through the overall story question and concept, then send them off on their own.

    I had some help when I started out, but I did a lot of it on my own. I'm very thankful for that experience.

    Great post.

    Rachel

  21. LilySea on March 26, 2010 at 12:21 PM

    >I am blessed with professionally-capable free readers. But I am also a writing teacher/editor myself. So while it is a fact that I can't do the kind of editing on my own work I can do for others, editing for others does indeed strengthen my revision muscles for my own work too. Editing is the flip side of writing–whether for your own work or others'!

  22. Mira on March 26, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    >Yes – there's a difference between hiring someone to edit vs. hiring someone to write your book for you. You still need to own your book and trust your instincts first and foremost – it's your book!

  23. Nicole L Rivera on March 25, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    >I am going to hire an editor to look over my proposal. The publisher I sat down with gave me notes but I want to make sure everything is polished before I send the work in. I will ask them for notes on the first few chapters, not to make actual changes. I want to review all changes before made. Very helpful and reassuring post.

  24. Nicole L Rivera on March 25, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    >I am going to hire an editor to look over my proposal. The publisher I sat down with gave me notes but I want to make sure everything is polished before I send the work in. I will ask them for notes on the first few chapters, not to make actual changes. I want to review all changes before made. Very helpful and reassuring post.

  25. Darby on March 25, 2010 at 6:52 PM

    >I agree with many of you. Having a professional look at your first few chapters is yet another way to learn both the craft and the art of writing. Use it as a tutorial. I think of it as putting another tool in my tool belt. What I build is now up to me.

  26. Steena Holmes on March 25, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    >I've worked with Camy Tang on my current piece. Thanks to her advice it's out on 4 partials. She works exactly like you mention Rachelle – she reads through, makes her comments, shows you where your strengths and weakeness lie, suggests resources to improve and leaves it all in the hands of the writer. The words in my novel are my words – not an editors. You can learn so much by having a pair of eyes look over your writing that KNOW what they are talking about!

  27. Katherine Jenkins on March 25, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    >I hired both a writing coach in the early stages of my book and an editor who has 15 years experience in the publishing business to help me polish up my book proposal. It was the best investment I ever made. If you really believe in what you are writing, money is secondary. I know this is hard to swallow and believe me, it was a lot of money for me. I believe it was money very well spent. I had the material and my editor helped me get my material in the form an agent wants to see. I got an agent with my first query. If you believe in what you are writing, then you will not hesitate in doing what it takes to get your work out there in polished form.

  28. Anonymous on March 25, 2010 at 5:47 PM

    >Great post, Rachelle! I agree fully with your take here.

    Maybe you could give us YOUR experience in being edited–what you gained, what you enjoyed or didn't, etc. What did you learn?

  29. Anonymous on March 25, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    >Anything that can teach you more about craft is a good thing! I have a PhD in English, teach English at the university level (and have for some time), have two published books, and read craft books avidly. I also participate in a critique group. The services of a freelance editor (a good one, properly researched) were invaluable in teaching me yet more craft!

  30. JEM on March 25, 2010 at 4:49 PM

    >Great post! I've thought about hiring an editor myself for various reasons, but I'm not ready for that yet. As far as whether or not it's a good idea…that's difficult to say. As you said in the post, sometimes a good (or overzealous) editor can overtake the writer's voice, and then the writer can't deliver the same results again. In the long run it might make you a better writer to get feedback on what people didn't like, rather than technical feedback on writing skills.

  31. Maggie Dana on March 25, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    >This is a really interesting thread–one that's raised some great questions and a possible confusion over semantics. The word 'editor,' as some have pointed out, means many things, but from reading the comments I get the feeling that more than one author here is confusing freelance editors with freelance copy editors, especially when it comes to how much they charge.

    The former deals with a manuscript's big picture; the latter fixes its nuts and bolts issues.

  32. Shmologna on March 25, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    >I have gone back-and-forth with the idea of getting a freelance editor. I've seen some happy stories in blogland from people who have paid for this service.

    But you've brought up some great points about the risks of becoming too dependant on outside help, of losing your voice, or possibly, disguising the fact that you have no business writing a book in the first place.

    I have great critique group with one aspiring author, one published author, a former agent, and a recent contest winner. They all have different ways of critiquing but they never "fix" anything for me unless it's a spelling or puncuation error. And I learn something from each submitted chapter, use that knowledge, and edit the next chapter before turning it in.

    Sorry for the long comment but this post addresses a topic I've struggled with.

    I think I got my answer.

  33. A.L. Sonnichsen on March 25, 2010 at 2:28 PM

    >I hired a freelance editor for my first book, basically because it was a first book and I wanted to learn. It wasn't as expensive as some people have quoted and I received tons of very useful feedback. I told myself it was like taking a writing course with my own personal instructor. 🙂 The challenge for me was weening myself from my freelance editor. I had the fear that my writing was just horrible unless she looked at it first. I had to remind myself it was a learning experience and that I had to move on! But I'm so glad I hired her because I learned a lot.

  34. Chuck on March 25, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    >I sometimes do some freelance editing myself, as time allows.

    I was talking about this over the weekend when I presented to a writers group in Lexington. The first thing you need to always do is ask for a TEST EDIT with your editor. For example, if we were talking about a book edit, I would ask for the first 15-25 pages of your work and payment for it. We do this as a test to protect us both. You get to see what I do after the first 20 pages and see if my edits are to your liking. If not, you opt out of more. BUT – it goes both ways. I also have to feel a connection to the work, so I have an option to get out after 20 pages, if I wish.

    Ask for a test edit. Never sign a full deal before getting a sample.

    I feel like I need to blog about this, too.

    Chuck Sambuchino
    http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog

  35. Anthony on March 25, 2010 at 1:19 PM

    >I hired an editor that I found on Twitter and it was the best writing experience I've ever had. It was EPIC WIN I tell you, EPIC WIN.

    My writing improved so much. She is also a published author. She had so much street cred, it hurt.

  36. Raquel Byrnes on March 25, 2010 at 12:31 PM

    >I got in touch with an editor and he turned out to be a former english professor…he used "teaching moments" to help me understand pace and conflict by calling me and letting me know where my manuscript needed help…then told me to fix it and send it back to him. He ended up not charging me anything because he said he was happy to see a student take instruction and implement it well…best learning experience ever.

  37. Heather Sunseri on March 25, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    >I hired an editor for a line edit of my first chapter, and it was wonderfully educational. I'm in the process of using what I learned from her to edit the rest of the manuscript before I turn her loose on that. Because I simply don't have the time to be a part of a large critique group, it's nice to pay someone else to be a second set of eyes. Also, I'm paying her to be brutally honest with the condition of my writing. Sometimes you can't get that brutal honesty from those close to you or from critique partners.

  38. sharonbially on March 25, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    >Wow – so many comments! Clearly it's a big topic. Check out a similar post by Jane Friedman at the WriterUnboxed blog a few days ago:

    http://writerunboxed.com/2010/03/19/should-you-hire-a-professional-editor/

  39. wonderer on March 25, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    >Meant to add above: when I get a critique, I apply the advice to the next chapters and also to the next novel I write. As others have mentioned, it's important to understand why something needs to be changed and to internalize that knowledge going forward. That way a critique group becomes not a crutch but a school.

  40. Anonymous on March 25, 2010 at 11:37 AM

    >I was already contracted in the CBA when I approached a freelance editor (who has worked at several houses in the CBA) to be another set of eyes for my project as I worked on meeting deadline.

    The freelance editor didn't do line edits or fiddle with grammar or rewrite me.

    In the margins, he taught the craft.

    He asked all the right questions.

    He pushed to make me my best me.

    Perhaps the best freelancer editors are not the ones who do the work for you — but who know what are the right questions to ask of you.

    That's a true spiritual gift — sharp eyes that can cut away to the essence, eyes that know the anatomy of a soul and what words deaden and what words revive.

    Editors like these are the rarest of finds — and if you can find one… yes, their work is beyond any price.

  41. Southpaw on March 25, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    >Interesting post – a little bit of darned if you do and darn if you don't sort of thing. Good things to think about here.

  42. wonderer on March 25, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    >I think it's a bad idea to hire an editor. It's an unnecessary financial burden (money flows TO the writer!), when there are so many free critique groups around. Finding a good group or partner can take a while, but when you do, it's worth it. Between my critique group and my own reading and thinking about craft, I feel as though I have all the help I need.

    However, I reserve the right to change my mind if this method doesn't get me an agent…

  43. Karin on March 25, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    >I did hire an editor, but only because she knows my husband so she gave me a great rate.

    Unfortunately, I didn't do my homework before I hired her. She had only ever edited two novels – the rest of her work was with nonfiction. She did some great work on my grammar, but the more conferences I've attended and the more books I've read, I now realize that she didn't have much to say about craft.

    Still, her rate was REALLY good, so I don't feel like I was robbed. However, I'd do more research if I ever hired another editor.

  44. Debbie Maxwell Allen on March 25, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    >My reason for not hiring an editor at this point has less to do with money (which I don't have anyway), and more to do with the fact that I'm paying for only one opinion.

    I've learned from participating in several critique groups that no one, no matter how experienced, is going to catch everything.

    One crit group member is an English major. She zeroes in on the nitty gritty details of punctuation and usage. Another member looks at the big picture, while a third focuses on deep POV issues. I could never get all that by picking just one person.

    My first readers are my teen daughters and their friends, for whom I lead a teen critique group. Then I submit to contests that offer feedback and read recommended books on craft and revision (my current fave is MANUSCRIPT MAKOVER by Elizabeth Lyon).

    Bottom line: I want to learn the craft of writing myself. I'll need an editor someday, but right now it would feel like hiring Rembrandt to touch up my paint-by-number.

  45. T. Anne on March 25, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    >I hired an editor to give me a critique of my MS and the experience was wonderful. She detailed her thoughts and suggestions which enabled me to formulate my own plan of action of how to best cut the fat from my novel. I would gladly work with her again. A critique does not entail a full edit and is much less expensive. Still, I found this service of value.

  46. kentsageek on March 25, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    >While I think it would have been a huge waste of money earlier in my learning curve, I'm at the point where I crave an editor's input. I purchased a first few page critique by the Editorial Department and was astounded by the knowledge and insight returned. I showed the critique to my wife who's been a newspaper editor for nearly 30 years. Her response was, "Oh, this guy's good."
    I think we need to differentiate between the types of editors available. In my case I'm leaning toward a more developmental editor. Someone who can see the big picture rather than every typo or error in grammar (not that I don't need that too.) I've been saving my pennies, champing at the bit to get my first project in this particular editor's capable hands while tapping away on new projects with his suggestions in mind. My work is close, but needs that little extra shove to put it over the top. As tight as the market is, I've come to realize that without a track record to catch an agent's attention, offering up anything less than top notch craft is just spinning my wheels.

  47. Ain't This Silly? on March 25, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    >While we're on the subject, can someone please explain to me what the difference between an editor, a writing mentor and a book therapist is? Are there actual differences or is this just a marketing thing?

  48. Carolyn V. on March 25, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    >Awesome post and great advice! I have never hired an editor, but I have worked with one before. I don't think it helped my piece before it was published (glad I didn't pay for the help).

  49. Anonymous on March 25, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    >Thank you for this post as well as all of the feedback. This is something I have wondered about. Very helpful!

  50. Paula B. on March 25, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    >Hi, Rachelle,

    I do the kind of freelance editing you mention (although I call it "mentoring" because it really is teaching).

    I agree that writers should make their own changes. When I work on a manuscript, I explain what I like and why I think it works; detail what I think needs improvement; and offer suggestions for strengthening the work. I provide notes, but I also mark up the manuscript so my clients can refer to specific passages.

    One thing about critiquing just the first few chapters: it's difficult to address issues of structure that way. I do it, but I ask for outlines, synopses, and additional chapters to help me understand where the story is going. Even so, I may not be able to offer enough information to help guide the writer through the entire structure that way. So yes, a partial critique can help, but it has its limitations.

  51. David Jarrett on March 25, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    >I have often thought of hiring an independent editor, but only one who has had experience editing fiction that has actually been published.

    The problem with critique partners and groups is that members of the ones to which I belong are typically at the same stage in the publishing process as I am — unagented and unpublished. They simply cannot give me the same kind of advice that an experienced professional can, and, well-meaning as it is, it is often bad.

    I really do not want someone to change the way I express myself — that is my voice, and if it's not good enough for the public — too bad; I guess I won't be published. However, if a professional editor can show me polish my writing to make it more attractive to agents and publishers, that's another story.

    I write because I enjoy it — not because I have to. However, I would like the world to hear what I have to say, and if a free-lance editor can help me, why not?

  52. Glynis on March 25, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    >I have a silly notion, I want to see what my work can do on its own. This is the only way I will know what I am capable of as a writer.

    Interesting post, thanks.

  53. Timothy Fish on March 25, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    >Rose brings up a good point about the possibility of an editor steering an author wrong. I’ve noticed that some published authors offer their services as editors. We all know that it is a very subjective thing, but I’ve looked at books written by some of these author/editors and spot things that I would hope that an editor would help me to avoid in my own writing. I think I would have a hard time feeling good about hiring someone who would steer me in the direction of writing a book that I wouldn’t read.

  54. Elizabeth Poole on March 25, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    >I haven’t yet, but I plan to hire a freelance editor. I follow his blog, and he worked for a publishing company for years before he started to freelance. So I know it’s a trusted source.

    The reason why I decided to hire an editor is I feel like I need more professional help at this stage in my writing career. I have been writing and reading my entire life, and written a couple of books (most of which were trunked). I have critiquers to help me, and loads of feedback, but everyone I know is in the same place I am with their career. I read many books on the craft of writing, and written a new book. This book has potential, but I still feel like it could better, and I have more things to learn but no one to learn them from. I intend to use the editorial critique and learn from the mistakes I’ve made, and apply them to later books.

    I feel it’s only worth it if you learn from what the editor is talking about, and apply it to the rest of your book. When you get a publishing contract, you will encounter a similar method with their editor. The publisher’s editor won’t always edit the entire book, but edit the first few chapters and expect you to be able to make the changes.

    About your writing style: if an editor suggests you take a comma out, but you know why you wanted to have the comma there in the first place, then you can chose to leave it in. But you have to know your writing well enough to have made that decision already. This is why I am not worried about an editor taking my voice away.

    Great post!

  55. Sarah Forgrave on March 25, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    >I recently hired a freelance editor after getting into a rut with my crit partners. The experience was invaluable. She was able to pinpoint a few specific things I could focus on to improve my craft and pointed me in the right direction in terms of specific classes to take, etc.

    She also brought out a couple plot holes, which allowed me to redirect my manuscript without paying for a full manuscript critique. The investment was well worth it.

  56. AnnieO on March 25, 2010 at 9:02 AM

    >I used a free-lance editor last year and thought she was well worth the money. She went through my entire manuscript and gave me detailed notes and suggestions on each chapter, which helped me quite a bit. The story is much stronger and tighter because of it. She was competent and professional and very encouraging.

    It helps to know up front exactly what to expect from an editor and what he/she is willing and realistically able to do. Some imply they can set a writer up with an agent, which can leave a person open to disappointment later on.

  57. Melissa on March 25, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    >I published a nonfiction book several years ago. My editor (at thepublishing company) opened a writing and editing service a couple of years later, and I actually did some contract work for her for quite a while. I have considered having her review the first 50 pages of my novel. It would be no different in price or experience than hiring any other editor — I just have the benefit of already knowing and understanding her editing style.

  58. Amy Jo on March 25, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    >I'd rather spend the money attending workshops that help me develop my craft.

  59. Liberty Speidel on March 25, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    >Another blog touched on this just last week… I think it was through WritersDigest.com, but can't remember.

    Anyway, I've not hired a professional editor, but rely heavily on my critique group and critique partners. I'm not sure I'd hire a professional–several of my friends are quite adept at critiquing, whether it's a grammatical feedback or an overall plot/character arc issue. When I get contracted, I'd be hesitant to send a second project out the door to my agent and/or editor without one of my critters looking it over first and telling me whether it stinks or not! 🙂

    And, from the feedback I've been given by those critters, my writing has improved from project to project, so I must be learning something, even if I'm not cognizant of it at the time!

  60. Dana King on March 25, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    >I haven't hired an editor, and won't. I feel it's my book, my work, and I'll rise or fall on that, for many of the reasons you cited.

    That having been said, I'm not such an arrogant jerk that I think my deathless prose is perfect as is. I do have a first reader, and have solicited feedback from people I trust. I'm also more than willing to accept suggestions from agents and editors who may be interested in working with me. I just think that what they see of me is me, and not some unseen hand they might then expect to see in later works.

  61. MJR on March 25, 2010 at 8:27 AM

    >I hired a freelance editor for one novel I wrote (this was after the usual critiques, several rewrites, and positive, but not quite there, rejections from agents). He gave me his overall impressions of the novel and edited the first few chapters. It was helpful to see what he changed and I was able to apply these types of corrections to the rest of the novel. But it was sooooo expensive. I don't think I would ever be able to do it again. The $2700 figure above isn't off the mark for a full edit of a ms. But you can hire an editor to read and give you an overall evaluation for $500 or so (that's what I did)…Ironically, he liked it more than my beta readers, which gave me some confidence. I personally wouldn't hire anyone who hasn't worked as an editor in a publishing company.

  62. Andrea on March 25, 2010 at 7:36 AM

    >Thank you,
    andrea

  63. Rose on March 25, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    >I'm really on the fence about hiring a freelance editor. Not because I don't think they know their stuff or are out to take writer's BUT can a freelance editor know every publishing houses editorial style?

    Most writer's target a certain line within a publishing house or certain publisher, so you wouldn't want editoral suggestions that steer your manuscript away from the guidelines you followed. Can that happen?

    Maybe? Maybe it depends on what you hired the editor to do? Maybe you tell the editor this information up front?

    Those are the questions, I ask a freelance editor before hiring them.

  64. Timothy Fish on March 25, 2010 at 7:11 AM

    >Okay, Rachelle, you convinced me. I didn’t need no stinkin’ training wheels to learn to ride a bicycle, so I see no reason to hire a training editor for a manuscript, especially when it might scare the publisher away.

    Aimee LS and Cecelia Dowdy:
    WestBow Press charges 3.5 cents per word for line editing and 4.2 cents per word for more comprehensive editing. For an 80,000 word manuscript, that works out to be $2,800 and $3,360. I’ve heard that is overpriced and I believe it. I believe it was Chip MacGregor who told me that a more reasonable price would be about half that (though I can’t find that information now), which would put it much closer to the price paid by Aimee’s friend. If I could hire an editor who would do a good job for $25, I would hire several. Ten sounds like a good number. What the first one didn’t spot, maybe one of the next nine would.

  65. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe on March 25, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    >Yes I have, but only for the reasons you first mentioned. She's a writing tutor and has pointed out where I can use my strengths. Truly worth my time and money. She did not perform any of the writing because that’s my job. Her job is simply to teach.

    So, should we mention in our query that we used a book doctor? Probably not.

  66. Krista Phillips on March 25, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    >I haven't hired an editor, really. I do use crit partners which I think is VERY valuable and, the best part, FREE, but even their opinions can vary, and they are writers learning just like I am, so I know an editor could probably help me step it up.

    That said, I HAVE had an editing service crit my first chapter early on, and wow. I've NEVER seen so much red! I did exactly what you noted, took everything she taught me in that first chapter then applied it the rest of the book. I also took advantage of the crit at ACFW, which was a little nerve wracking because I chose Deb Raney… queen of women's fiction and someone I look at in awe. She pointed out a few really good things on my newest book, but she LIKED it and actually noted a bunch of places where it made her laugh. If anything, it was a boost to my confidence that my writing isn't just short of pig slop.

    So, I think editors/paid critiquers can also help you, not only to point out your errors, but give you a good gauge on when you are on the right track with your writing.

  67. Amy Sue Nathan on March 25, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    >I recently hired a copy editor at the recommendation of an agent. Seems I am pronoun-challenged and comma-averse. Who knew?

    I'd had my manuscript proofed and beta-read by "normal" readers and "writer" readers but no one caught all those bitty errors. I certainly did not!

  68. Lisa Jordan on March 25, 2010 at 6:30 AM

    >I've never hired a freelance editor, but I've entered contests for feedback and took advantage of paid critiques at ACFW.

    For the past couple of years, I've been mentored by Susan May Warren. She offered the first retreat for My Book Therapy in 2009 on story crafting. Best. Retreat. Ever. She gave us the tools for crafting a quality story. Her Deep and Wide retreat in February taught us how to deepen our characters' layers and widen our plots. I don't write without her Inside….Out book by my side.

  69. M Clement Hall on March 25, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    >The average unpublished writer is not going to know enough about the industry to be able to select value for money, there is no rating service for freelance editors.
    An alternative is attending writers' conventions most of which offer the services of an agent, editor or writer to look at manuscripts either without charge or for longer submissions at a modest fee.

  70. Nicole Unice on March 25, 2010 at 6:00 AM

    >I find this post a really helpful take on using an editor. I did meet with an editor friend, who asked me some pointed questions that led me to believe my book concept was not strong enough.
    That experience helped craft what my next project looked like–one I can truly believe in.

    The other thing that helped was that she told me I was a good writer–she was much more interested in how I outlined a book that flowed well and held the reader's interest. That hour of time was valuable – for the very reasons mentioned in this post.

  71. Jody Hedlund on March 25, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    >I caution writers against hiring a freelance editor too soon in their writing career. I think that it could end up being a frustrating experience and costing way too much money. Early on, writers need to learn by reading craft books and writing a lot.

    But once a writer has already grown significantly on their own, then I think a freelance edit can help give the objective feedback every writer needs. My editor did a line edit and helped me polish up my manuscripts. It was well worth every dollar.

  72. juliette on March 25, 2010 at 5:33 AM

    >I'd say I'm coming through the back door on this conversation, but I really feel like I'm crawling through an open window! As a freelance editor in the life sciences field, I, along with others in the various editing circles I'm connected to, try to be very clear with clients regarding expectations. There are several different types of reviewing an editor can do (no matter the genre), each requiring various degrees of response from the author before they send their ms off to the next stop.

    I love partnering with clients to help make their work shine – really! There are a lot of diamonds in the rough in my field alone, so I started co-teaching a class at my local university to help grad students learn how to begin polishing their own work. It's very rewarding – and makes my work easier in the long run, ha!

    Freelance editors can be a great resource if both parties are communicating their aspirations and expectations clearly. When this happens, it's a win-win situation for everybody!

  73. Cecelia Dowdy on March 25, 2010 at 5:20 AM

    >Aimee LS – $2,000.00 seems a bit steep to me. I think your friend got overcharged.

    I hired an editor several years ago. I believe I paid $25 for them to edit a few chapters? I just remember them asking if my book was a Christian book – this was back in the days before Christian fiction became really huge.

    I've known A FEW published novelists who told me that they do hire an editor to go over their manuscript before they submit it to their publisher for consideration.

    Since I've been contracted, I've never used outside editorial services, but the thought has crossed my mind a few times!

  74. Laurita on March 25, 2010 at 5:15 AM

    >No matter how good you are, you sometimes need another set of eyes.

    I just finished reading a self-published book. Despite a solid story, the author made some glaring mistakes and there were a few kinks in her style that interrupted the flow of the book. It was very difficult not to read the book and think like an editor, which I think was a sign that she should have used one.

  75. Jill on March 25, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    >I hired an editor on the recommendation of judges in a contest I entered. I also talked to a couple of multi-published authors who thought it was a good idea. It was a valuable learning experience for me. As you suggested in your post, the editor made suggestions, but she didn't change anything on her own. I learned a lot about editing for myself, and since then I've applied those lessons to what I write.

  76. James Castellano on March 25, 2010 at 5:11 AM

    >I hired an editor to help me with my writing. I was hesitant at first to spend the money, however it has proven to be one of the best investments I have made in regards to my writing career.

  77. Katie Ganshert on March 25, 2010 at 5:05 AM

    >I've never hired an editor, but was definitely tempted for a while there. I have hired two different critique servises – where they looked at the first 2-3 chapters of my stuff and pointed out what works and what didn't. It was probably the most valuable money I've ever spent as far as growing as a writer. Probably even more valuable than craft books…and I love me some craft books!

  78. Sharon A. Lavy on March 25, 2010 at 5:05 AM

    >This is an interesting subject to me.
    Thanks

  79. Ian on March 25, 2010 at 4:48 AM

    >I'm at the stage of re-drafting my first book and it is something I have considered. But I'm a member of a local writer's group, and already have a couple of great readers who critique my chapters in different ways.

    Granted none of the readers are professionals, but they each offer me a good insight into my work and the errors I tend to make.

  80. The Alliterative Allomorph on March 25, 2010 at 4:22 AM

    >I hired an editor who was absolutely fantastic. She never made changes to the ms herself. She wrote comments as to why something wasn't working, for me to figure out how to fix on my own. She was brilliant, and I have learned so so much. If you can find someone like that, I definitely recommend it, because you learn along the way, and now I know what mistakes not to make the second time around.

  81. Anonymous on March 25, 2010 at 2:39 AM

    >I have considered hiring a copy editor for releasing short fiction direct to the Kindle.

  82. writer jim on March 25, 2010 at 2:15 AM

    >I hired an editor. She mostly helped me with wordiness. I soon caught on and need less improvments each time I show her new work. I would think most writers should seek opinions from others who have experience…maybe for free in a writer's group.

  83. Aimee LS on March 25, 2010 at 1:36 AM

    >If I had endless funds I'd hire a professional editor, but they are pricey and it's hit and miss – I had a friend who paid $2000 for no actual, usable feedback.

    That said, it's up to a writer to develop the skills and confidence to know HOW to use suggestions and problems identified by others to their advantage.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said the writer needs to do the corrections and changes themselves. I didn't even realize there were editors out there who would do it for you – surely that's a co-authored book???

  84. Emma Michaels on March 25, 2010 at 1:10 AM

    >While I have not hired an editor I did have a professional editor for a publishing company go over my manuscript and help me in exchange for artwork. I would say that it was well worth my time but I agree with you in that the reason it was worth my time is because he was able to put the red markings where they belonged on the page and help me learn from each and every mistake I made so that my second novel was much better and had fewer mistakes. Not that I am on my third I see why making your own corrections can help you learn from your mistakes and is well worth any authors time but only if they actually do the changes and don't expect someone else to make their novel presentable for them. Wonderful post as always!

    Sincerely,
    Emma Michaels

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