Advantage: Professional Editors (Part 2)

Yesterday we had a great discussion about the advantages of using a professional editor.

Today I want to discuss the potential disadvantages of using a paid editor.

1. We may send our work to an editor before we're ready: If we're fairly new in the writing journey, we need to focus on reading craft books and blogs that can help us improve our writing skills. I have several shelves of writing books and a thick stack of note cards filled with all of the writing skills I need hone. I've spent years learning about the craft of writing. I wouldn't have been ready for an editor earlier.

2. We may have the tendency to grow lazy in our own editing: We may think that if we're using an editor, then we're off the hook with our own careful editing. I personally do not send anything to my editor until I've spent time re-reading and revising it first. I want my work to be its absolute best before I send it out to critical eyes. After all, the more time an editor has to spend correcting my little mistakes, the more money it will cost me. Besides I want her to focus on the bigger issues and help improve my writing on deeper level.

3. We may have a difficult time finding the right editor: As writers, we research agents and editors before we query. We must do our research with editors too. There are many editing services available. Finding one that is reputable and that meshes with our writing style may pose a challenge. Rachelle Gardner has a list of editors on her website here. Usually an editor will let you send in a chapter or two to start with. My editor critiqued the first chapter of both my books which allowed me to see her style and how well we would work together. Because I liked how she critiqued my work, I wanted to keep going.

4. We may have to invest a lot of money: The cost of hiring an editor is not cheap. Sometimes we may be able to find an editor that is running a special. My editor offered her current clients a discount, so I took advantage of her special and started sending her my manuscript even though I wasn't finished writing it. I've spent at least $300 so far, and will spend that much or more for her to edit my next book. I consider myself fortunate to have got in on such a great deal. Usually it's not so cheap. But it's an investment in my writing career that will hopefully one day pay off.

Rachelle Gardner pointed me to the comment of a previous client as a great example of the PAY OFF. Here's what Austin said:

"When I retired from the Navy and quit the great astronaut chase, I had this burden again. . . to tell the story of what I'd dreamt of but had narrowly missed--being an astronaut. I wrote and wrote and then realized I had a long tome that no one cared about.

So I borrowed $7000 on my house, spent it on three successive developmental edits by a freelance editor, and forced myself to walk the talk of being a good writer. Linda Nathan ripped my lips off so many times I lost count. . . but her critical comments led me to learn to correct and to write better.

Then one day, after thousands of dollars, three years of editing and lots of prayer, I met. . .Rachelle Gardner who gave me a shot at publishing, and the rest is history.

If you are burdened to write, follow Jim Bell's advice. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. Then follow mine. . . invest in a freelance editor and make yourself better. Edit, rewrite, learn, read. Invest in yourself. You'll never regret it."

The cost is high. But if we're sacrificing so many other things to write and bring our skills to the next level, then why not sacrifice our money too?

What is the biggest disadvantage for you in hiring an editor? If cost wasn't a factor, would you hire one? Why or why not?

Remember: The key is finding someone who can objectively critique our work. Whether freelance editor or critique group, the important thing is getting objective feedback.


  1. These are some interesting posts. I wonder: do you mention anywhere in the query process or after to an agent that you used a freelance editor?

  2. This was really good--I agree with you that first we need to do our own work and put in the effort by learning the craft. Why waste money at first? I like that she has a list of editors on her site--I didn't know that! Thanks!

  3. I would for sure get one if the cost wasn't a factor. That's what is holding me back. That... and deciding what book to get edited. I have three. I'd like to finish revising all three and then send them off to an editor. But that would be WAY too expensive. It's worth praying a lot about though!

  4. Cost is a large burden for me. I love being young and poor!!! I had a professional editor take a look at my story and made some really good suggestions that helped me in the end. BUT after all these posts I'm starting to wonder if my book is ready after all??? **Cringes in lack of self confidence for a moment**

  5. For some folks it's an either/or. Either go to a conference or get your ms professionally edited. The best of both worlds is if you go to a conference that offers professional edits as part of the deal.

    I've not sent my work to a professional editor, though I know some really good ones. I was blessed to be in a critique group with a professional editor for a time, and it sure made my writing grow. That 'ripped my lips off' comment from Austin...I felt his pain!

    Cool blog posts!

  6. Beth: I don't think it can hurt to mention it in a letter. It may help an agent/editor see that we're taking our writing very seriously. But we also need to have everything else working too (fresh story idea, etc.).

    Terri: I definitely think we have to know we're ready before forking out the money!

    Katie: All that said, I also think some people can query without the extra advantage of an editor. I queried Rachelle and perked her inital attetion without one. Perhaps the time to really consider one is if we're consistently getting rejections? Or, in my case, just wanting to take my writing up a notch.

    Marybeth: I don't think you should worry for now. Maybe if you're querying doesn't pan out the way you want, you could consider the possibility down the road? Not everyone needs an editor! But they certainly can help!

    Erica: I agree--conferences and editors combined are a huge investment. I keep telling my husband that this is my start up cost to my writing business! He understands because he recently started his own business. There's always an upfront cost and you hope that you'll one day recoup on it.

  7. I think there are SO many great ones out there, and one of these days soon I'll probably invest in it. Question, did you have your WHOLE book edited or just a portion?

    It's something I know I probably need to do, but first I need to finish incorporating the edits I already have:-)

    And... the Dave Ramsey lover in me JUST has to say... PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't go borrow money on your house for a professional editor! Cut out McDonalds, the mall, that pair of shoes you're dying to have and that Starbucks coffee every morning, but there are no guarantees in this business even with a prof editor. Don't risk your house.

    And... it will feel BETTER I promise if you are having to sacrifice for it. Getting a loan is a Band-Aid, not a sacrifice. Getting an extra job or not spending so much, you'll feel SO much better having put in the effort when you're looking at the reward you reap!

  8. I like your thought that all these efforts we make, professional editors, conferences, writing groups, they are all investments in a career. Isn't that the truth, reflecting on the value of what we are doing. I think that professional editors utilized at a certain point, consistent near-misses, or stepping things up, can be a great part of the portfolio, given the right thought and research.

  9. I pulled up the link on Rachelle's blog and I'm going to look into it. Still hoping to hear from the agent w/ my MS so I'll just do some editor exploration for now (and if I'm feeling slap happy again I may throw my compliment payment plan at them as an option. :D )

  10. Yes - - objective. That's what is hard to find sometimes. Even a critique group can become such good friends that it is hard to be honest and objective.

  11. Jody, you make great points and show us both sides of the coin on this. I'm spotlighting your blog today and linking these post.

    Great read! Thanks so much for writing this.

  12. Krista: EXCELLENT point!! I would NEVER suggest going into debt! Most of us can make sacrifices in our lifestyles to come up with extra cash. Eating mac and cheese and pb and jelly sandwiches? Usually we can afford the things we really want. If we want/need and editor badly enough then we can probably make a way for it to happen without going into debt.

    Joanne: All of those things, as you mentioned, are the building blocks of pushing us higher in our careers!

    Wendy: I'd say it's wise not to tamper too much with something an agent has. Although when I made changes due to the contest I entered, it gave me another avenue for following up and getting my name in front of her again! But is tricky and probably best to wait. I love the compliment pay plan!!

    Tess: So true! Friends and family often aren't able to provide the objective feedback we desperately need!

    quixotic: Thanks! I'm glad you could pull a few nuggets from it!

  13. Once you put cost aside, I'm not sure there would be an issue for me. I guess finding the right person. I would want someone who would help me grow as a writer, not simply "fix" what I wrote. Also, I would want someone who would recognize cultural disparities and perhaps ask the question, rather than tell me that something in my story doesn't work -- plot point, dialogue, description -- because it's unfamiliar to her. That's really a constant issue for AA writers, not unlike inspirational authors working with secular editors.

  14. I'm with you, Jody. I do believe objective feedback is necessary to grow in this field. Find the right fit, and the rewards are many!

  15. The biggest advantage of hiring an editor is to take my writing to the next level.

    I think we all start out with the writing gift God has placed into our hands. But like a baby, this gift must be nurtured and cared for so that it can grow and eventually develop into what God intends.

    If hiring an editor can be managed, I believe it is worth every penny. It's part of the growth process.

  16. Excellent post! It probably wouldn't hurt to analyze the main feedback from a professional editor and write down the weaknesses pointed out. This way, the author could look for his or her weaknesses in future projects.

  17. If there were no cost, lol, I would do it! But I'd want to find the right fit, like so many of you said.

  18. Patricia: I think that's what I like about my editor, that she's challenged me to grow. She doesn't fix anything for me. She just points out my weakness then leaves it up to me to do the hard work of making it better! Great point about AA writers.

    Eileen: Hope your computer is behaving itself this week! Haven't seen you around as much!!

    Julie: I love your analogy of the baby! Ultimately we want to nuture and care for that gift until it is full grown!

    Jill: I've learned a lot about my weaknesses from having an editor. And as she finished the last chapters of my book, I could see that she didn't need to mark as much! Hopefully as we grow, we'll need less and less editing, although I'm sure we'll always need the objective feedback in one form or another.

    Jessica: I'm sure you're doing great without one! You have a great crit group to give you feedback!

  19. Jody:
    To me, the cost is not a disadvantage, because it's worth every penny to improve my craft.

    The only disadvantage was finding out I wasn't as skilled as i had imagined. But that can be fixed, so really, it's not a disadvantage; it's a blessing.

    I like it that you gave Rachelle's link to finding a good editor.

    Thanks for this series! You are a blessing!


  20. So far I've had fellow writers (including my husband) critique my work. I value their input, but I still think they're not critical enough. I would love to have a professional editor show me where I need to go to push myself to the next level in my writing.

    The only thing holding me back is I haven't written anything substantial enough yet.

  21. I agree with you. I hired an editor way too soon, and paid a bundle. The advantage was that she helped me restructure my book. Sometimes editors who've published will help you find an agent if they think you have a great story.

  22. Jeanette: The editor does certainly give us a great reality check, doesn't it? I know I had the same thing! But you're right, it's totally a blessing! (Keeps us from being prideful!)

    KelliGirl: Sounds like you are wise to wait until you've progressed a bit further in your writing journey before hiring an editor. It's most helpful to have an editor read something from start to finish and be able to pick up on the bigger issues.

    Gutsy Writer: Ouch on your pocket book, but sounds like you still benefitted and grew from the experience!

  23. Gusty Writer,

    Great point! Though I am by no means an agent, I do have relationships with several editors. If I go through a full manuscript for a client and believe it might be a good fit for a certain house, I can see myself recommending the author to the editor.

    Though--as Randy Ingermanson says about endorsing--it's going to be something I OFFER on occasion, not something a client should request.


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