Should you use a freelance editor?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Along with self-publishing, this is another hot button topic in the writing world. We all know our work has to be perfect when we query and that doing our own editing is going to get us a permanent spot in the slush pile.

So who do we turn to? There are no shortage of freelance editors out there, and many are well-known with an impressive list of clients. We can trust them to do a good job and have integrity with our work.

They’re also very expensive. I know we’ve got to invest in ourselves if we want any chance of selling our book. You can’t make money without spending it. But having a freelance editor thoroughly critique and/or edit our full manuscript can cost around $1,000, depending on length.

That’s a chunk of money for the vast majority of us. So what are our alternatives? Most of the editors out there offer a variety of services, including having the first 25-50 pages edited. They also offer line or copy-edits only; it varies with each editor. But is that enough? Getting the first 25-50 pages looked over by a pro is a great asset and one I recommend for everyone. But that’s not enough to give us any kind of edge in the slush pile. The entire book has to be flawless.

As I’ve meandered my way around Twitter, I see there’s no shortage of editors out there. Some are cheaper than others. Does this mean they’re not as good or trustworthy? Not at all. Some don’t see the need to charge as much, some are starting out, and some have reasons they keep to themselves. Low rates do not mean low quality.

My advice is to approach employing a freelance editor just as you would when purchasing a new car: shop around. Research their services, qualifications; talk to their clients if you can. Above all, ask them questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them why they cost less than others – this is a piece of yourself you are entrusting them with. Be as diligent as you would when picking out childcare.

Your relationship with this editor is just as important as her experience and pricing. An editor needs to be honest and approachable, and able to work you though WHY something needs changed. If you can’t communicate with the editor you choose, your writing will not improve.

I’ve talked with several of these editors, and every one has been willing to answer my questions and understanding of my concerns. After doing some research, I chose an editor with experience editing best selling suspense novels to look over my first 5000 words and it was worth the $55 I spent on it. Not only was I assured that I was on the right track and not wasting my time, but seeing my work through an editor’s eye was very helpful. It gave me a hint of what they look for.

As my WIP winds down to its last 10,000 words or so, I’m thinking more and more about having a full manuscript edit. I will spend a lot of time editing myself, and my critique partner, a reading/writing professor at Hennepin College, will also go over it. But that third set of professional eyes will be crucial. The money is a lot to swallow, but the investment in myself will pay off in the end, even if I choose to self-publish. Nothing turns readers off like stupid grammatical errors.

So I will continue to research for not only the best “deal” but the editor who best suits me and my writing style, and who will give me the help I need.

Don’t rush into choosing an editor. Do your research, and grow a thick skin if you haven’t already. Remember, you are paying this person to point out flaws in your writing so that it can improve and have a chance at selling. Don’t get upset with their suggestions or cop an attitude – THAT is a true waste of your money. Listen and learn, politely ask questions, but don’t be too proud to listen to their advice. Writing is learning, period.

Bottom line? Having a professional edit before querying is a must – it’s up to you to find the best one for your novel.

Editing Services To Consider

Jodie Renner Editing
TJ Proofs
Roz Morris
Nashville Editing Services
Kathryn Craft

What are your experiences with freelance editors?

7 comments:

Julie Glover said...

Thank you for this post. I have been wondering about this. Frankly, this is one of the reasons I'm reluctant at times to purchase self-published novels. The plot and characters might be wonderful, but the seamlessness of a well-edited work makes the reading flow and I'm not always sure I'm going to get that.

I agree entirely with your approach. Best wishes with your novel!

donnagalanti said...

Stacy, this is an informative post and one issue I think many writers mull over when they have that finished WIP. I have decided to have the first 50 edited by a developmental editor friend I trust who is top notch. I had her do a short bit first - the query/synopsis/1st 2 pages and was wowed enough to continue with the first 50. It is expensive though so a tough call for new authors! I am hoping to get the process down from her first 50 to continue it on my own thru the remaining 350 pages! I will let you know how it turns out. Good luck to you!

Stacy said...

You're welcome! I know exactly what you mean about purchasing self-published novels. Professional editing makes a huge difference. Thanks for the encouragement!

Donna, your idea sounds like a really good one. You will have to keep us updated on how the critique of the first fifty goes and whether you feel it was worth the money.

Julie Musil said...

A friend of mine is considering this, but the prices were frightening. I'll forward this link to her. Thanks!

Stacy said...

Julie
They are frightening, and I'm still not sure what I will do. I've got a great critique partner and am hoping to find a strong beta reader as well.

Thanks for stopping by!

Leslie Rose said...

It's refreshing to hear such a definite take on the subject. Thank you for the referrals.

Stacy said...

Leslie,
You're very welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.