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Is The Cost Of A Freelance Editor Worth It?

Why bother paying someone to edit our work when we there are plenty of ways to get a critique for free? And how much better is the feedback of a freelance editor anyway? Is it really worth the cost?

As with all my posts, I can only answer these questions out of my own personal experience. I don't have the final word and am most certainly not an expert. So while I may share my experiences and thoughts, ultimately you'll have to investigate what's right for YOU.

When I finally got to the point in my writing career where I realized I needed feedback (as we talked about in the last post), I had two primary choices: find a critique group or hire a freelance editor.

Naturally, I decided to try the crit. group first. After a short stunt, I backed out of my group and began to mull over the idea of hiring an editor. I'd heard other authors talk about the benefits, and I'd started reading several blogs of editors and authors who offered freelance services.

I hesitated to plunge forward for many reasons:
  • What about the cost? I wasn't published, not even agented. How could I justify spending a TON of money on something that had absolutely no guarantee of payback?
  • How would I know who to pick? With all of the writers hanging out a sign and claiming to be editors, how would I find someone qualified and experienced?
  • What exactly would an editor do? And would the help really be good enough to justify the cost?
  • What about the working relationship? What if I didn't agree with the changes? What if our personalities didn't mesh? What if I didn't like the editor's style of editing?

Fortunately, I stumbled upon a contest critique special. And since I was gearing up to enter a contest, I decided to send in my first chapter for a critique. I figured it would help me polish up my contest entry and give me a flavor for how editing worked as well as this editor's style.

It turned out to be an excellent experience. Later I went on to have the same editor critique two full manuscripts. And what did I learn? What were the answers to all my questions? Today I'd like to tackle the money question since that's the biggest concern for most of us. (I'll get to the other questions in the next post.)

So, what about the cost of hiring a freelance editor? Is it really worth it?

First let me ask this, are you willing to pay to go to a writer's conference? Do you see conferences as worth the money? I'd venture to say most of us have paid or would pay to go to a writing conference. They're often very expensive (national ones can range around $500 just for the conference fee excluding transportation and hotel).

We don't view them as a waste of money because we realize they help us grow in so many ways. Going to a conference doesn't guarantee publication nor do we expect to recap the money.

And the same is true of paying an editor. It's absolutely no guarantee that our work will ever reach publication level. We may never get a payback for the money we spend on it.

But it is an investment in our writing career. It's one of the best ways to help us grow in our writing skill. It also gives us the ultimate critical and objective feedback we need. An editor tells us like it is, minces no words, and doesn't tip-toe around trying not to hurt our feelings unlike well-meaning critique partners.

An editor can scrutinize our work much more thoroughly than a critique partner. When we're reciprocating critiques for other writers, let's admit, we just don't have the time to give it our fullest effort. We barely have time to squeak in our writing let alone read and edit for others, and the same is true for the partners reading our manuscripts. Perhaps their feedback is helpful, but does it probe deep enough to move our writing to the next level?

But when we're paying an editor, it's their job. They take hours and hours to study and mark up our manuscript.

If I had to choose between attending a conference or paying an editor, I'd hands down pay the editor. Conferences are great for networking with agents and editors and are worthwhile at some point, but why not wait until our books are ready before starting the conference circuit? I'd save the money and instead put it toward an editor.

I personally don't believe a conference or editor are necessary too early in a writing career. The best thing for beginners is to write several books and learn the craft by reading great writing books. Hiring an editor before we reach a certain level of skill could only make the experience frustrating and too expensive.

Obviously, not everyone can or should hire a freelance editor. But I think all too often writers tend to toss aside the option without giving it more serious consideration.

What's your opinion? Has the money factor stopped you from hiring a freelance editor? Are you willing to invest in other writing-related expenses--like conferences? So why not an editor? Just curious!



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