Advantage: Professional Editors (Part 1)

Yesterday we listed many things that may give us an advantage as new writers seeking to make it out of the slush pile.

One advantage is hiring the help of a professional editor or writing coach. This may be a bit of a controversial subject. But I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss the benefits of using one.

I started using a professional editor, Tiffany Colter of Writing Career Coach, to help critique my contest entries. I decided to continue using her for two reasons:
  1. I knew I needed objective feedback, but I didn't have the time or energy at this point in my life to devote to the give and take of a critique group.

  2. Once I started getting her feedback, I realized she has pushed me to think deeper about my writing than I ever thought possible and is helping me bring it to a higher level.

Rachelle Gardner recently left a comment to one of my posts and it pertains to the issue of hiring professional editors. Here's what she said:

"Just to add my two cents... I'm a little surprised that any writer striving to be a professional would come down so hard against paying for editing or manuscript help. Many working writers with multiple book contracts work with editors on their books prior to delivering them to the publisher. This means those authors are paying out of their own pocket to get objective assistance and make sure they deliver their best possible work to their publisher.

Of course, once you're contracted with a publisher, your publisher will spend literally thousands of dollars on getting your book edited. Editing is a valuable service that often makes the difference between having a good book a great book.

Yes, it's true, we all should be working as hard as we can on learning how to edit our own work. But nothing can substitute for the objective eye of an outsider, someone who is skilled in bringing the best out of you. You can edit your book yourself until you're blue in the face; and then you'd be shocked at how many things an objective editor would find to improve.

Now, I understand that finances play a huge role in our ability or inability to hire an editor. We need to make smart financial choices. But I'd recommend we avoid harboring some kind of ideological bias against paying for an editor. Most of us need editing!

I'm pretty sure that Jody's use of a writing coach made the difference between a book that I want to love and one that I really DO love. (Well, actually TWO books that I love.)"

As Rachelle mentioned, there are some drawbacks to hiring an editor. Cost is one of the biggest. Another is the tendency to grow lazy and sloppy in our own editing. I'd like to tackle both of those issues further tomorrow.

But for today, I'd like to know your opinions. What we writers really need is OBJECTIVE feedback on our work. Do you think writers can get enough quality feedback from critique partners, groups, or beta readers? Or do we ever reach a point when that's not enough anymore and we need to seek professional help? If so, when is that point?


  1. I LOVE this post because it's something I've been praying/thinking about. Thankfully, God answered a prayer and brought somebody else in my life who has been a HUGE help. But I'm still not closed off to the idea of paying for a professional edit. Tiffany Colter sounds awesome. There are SO many great ones out there. Camy Tang is another one who seems to really know her stuff. Thanks for the insight Jody! Awesome as usual. :)

  2. I'd LOVE to hire a professional editor but... *gulp* the cost is just too high. I am blessed though because I DO have a great critique group. There are a range of different people in it, including a published author, a self-published author, an English professor, and a great writer who is the mother of a published author in my genre.

    With all their heads together I feel like I get so many different awesome opinions, AND I get the privelege of reading their stuff. It is time consuming sometimes, but as little time as I have, I have more of it than money, LOL

    I DID pay this year to have the author critique at the ACFW conference this year. I'm really excited about that, and nervous too!!

    All this said, if I had the cash, I'd sure pay for someone to edit. I can see the worth big time!

  3. I sent my first manuscript to harlequin's critique service and I've never regretted it. Awesome advice that completely changed how I thought about my story.
    I wouldn't look down on having a professional editor at all. Sometimes crit groups and beta readers get so close to eachother, and so used to eachother, that we start like eachother's writing so much we're not objective anymore.
    Wow, does that sentence make sense? LOL
    Anonymous or objective feedback is oftentimes the most honest. I would pay.

  4. Katie: So I'm curious now who God brought into your life to help! You'll have to do a post about it and your experience. I'm so glad that you're getting the kind of feedback you need!

    Krista: Wow! Sound like you have an awesome critique group! If you are able to reciprocate with their writing, then it would be an excellent way to get objective feedback! It will be interesting to compare your critique at the conference to what your crit group says. You'll have to let us know how that goes!

    Jessica: I think you bring up a good point. Crit groups eventually can loose objectivity. Or even grow close enough that everyone starts to fudge on honest feedback for fear of hurting each other's feelings. When you're paying someone, you want to get as much feedback as possible to make it worth the money! So the more brutal the better!

  5. I'm thinking of a payment plan: something like I compliment the editor every day for a year if they review my work. I am slap happy...sorry. I am all for getting editorial help! So curious about cost tomorrow. The way I look at it is, why wouldn't we tap into that resource if it will improve our novels? I'm hoping someone will read about the compliment payment plan and take me up...okay, moving on...hope you have a great day!
    ~ Wendy

  6. As much as writing is seen as a solitary profession, it really is team work that gets that book published, and an editor somewhere along that line is part of the team. No matter how much we edit, we are often too immersed in the story to have clear objectivity. I haven't used a professional editor, but I like how yours caused you to think deeper with your writing, which sounds like really effective teamwork, helping your work to grow.

  7. Judy, I don't think I could afford an editor. :-( I'll have to save my pennies. I would LOVE to have one though!!!

  8. Jody, those are great points you brought up about professional editing. I honestly didn't consider it much in the past but recently I've been able to see the great advantages it could hold. I only just joined a critique group and I am looking forward to feedback from another writer. I am also really excited (and kind of nervous) to hear back from my editor. Even though I've polished my book as well as I can, I expect there will be so much more to revise or edit that I've never thought of. It will be interesting to see how my writing changes--and hopefully grows--from this new experience.

  9. I guess it really boils down to what works best for you.

    Some critique partners might not be that skilled or objective enough. Some are excellent and can really help a writer grow.

    But--if a writer isn't making any progress with their writing, then it might be time to look into hiring a professional editor for help.

  10. Just heard the agent news..not sure how I missed that jewel of goodness -- congrats!!! I've never paid for a critique....unless you count conferences. Still, I wouldn't be against it if I had confidence in the service. Why not? Sometimes I feel like I can use all the help I can get :)

  11. Wendy: You are too funny!! I like the compliment pay plan!! Honestly, it's been worth every cent I've paid. But that's just me. I know it isn't necessary for everyone, but I need to know I'm pushing myself hard and making my writing as good as possible.

    Joanne: I like how you put that our writing is teamwork! That's so true! According to the contract I got from my agent, my MS will undergo at least three more edits at some point. I'm only at the beginning of edits!

    Litgirl101: Some people may not need an editor--especially if you have the kind of crit group that Krista (above) has!

    Cindy: Crit group and editor! You'll be getting plenty of great feedback. I'd love to hear about all of it at some point when you're up to blogging about it!

    Tess: Thank you! Did I hear somewhere that you found an agent? I can't remember for sure! But I totally agree with you on feeling like I can use all the help I can get! Honestly, if we want a great book and not just mediocre, I think we should be willing to do whatever it takes to get there!

  12. Jennifer: I agree. We all need to do what works best for us. Only we can truly know if our writing is growing. If our crit group isn't pushing us, then we might need to consider other options!

  13. Jody:
    This is controversial, but I like to think of it as I would any professional job. If I wanted to go into catering and I made a meal that was not too popular, I'd get as much advice from other successful caterers as I could, to improve my work.

    If that wasn't helping and my business wasn't growing well, I'd pay to go to culinary school, or become a painter-- LOL!

    Perhaps this isn't a good analogy, but just this morning I heard what I think was the Lord whisper in my heart,
    "Just because someone is engifted doesn't mean they are skilled."

    We have to develop skill, and sometimes that means paying.

    If I did not have a paying job that allowed me to hire a pro, I'd pray my little peabrain out for the best crit partners on earth!

    Thankfully, God has opened the door to both an editor and a great crit partner for me. I am so thankful!

  14. I think you are absolutely right in stressing that what we need is an objective reviewer. I think that objectivity can come from a professional editor, but I also think it can come from people in writing groups and from critique partners. In the end, it all depends on the quality of the reviewer. I'd say you could stumble upon a great professional or a mediocre one just as easily as you can stumble upon a great critique partner versus a mediocre one. You have to choose carefully. I'd be up for getting a professional reviewer if I had more money. At the same time, I do feel like the readers who have helped me already have been quite talented.

  15. Great topic. I never would have grown as a writer if I hadn't started trusting other writers with my work. Their insights led me to study the writing craft.

    I think critique partners can give writers terrific advice. However, I do think professional editors will give a balanced overview of your work in a way an unpublished writer may not be able to.

    I'm so glad you took a chance on one, because it sounds as if you're on cloud nine!

  16. I plan to use a professional editor at some point, but not until I feel I've gone as far as I can without one. I think writers who engage a professional too soon may be tossing away money.

    I don't think professional editors are required, but I do think they add value. The main issue, as others have said, is objectivity. If crit partners can be objective, after having formed the relationships that naturally flow, and they are skilled to "bring out the best" in one's writing, a professional edit may not be necessary.

    I'm not sure whether it would be a good idea to use the same pro repeatedly, because it might lead to the same relationship/subjectivity factor that affects crit groups. On the otherhand, if it works, why make a change? Maybe it's good to have two professionals in one's circle of writing resources.

  17. I think that a professional service is a great thing to take advantage of! However, I also think that really good crit partners can give you equally good advice - it can just be a little bit harder to find those right people who understand your writing, genre, etc. and can give the kind of feedback you need.

  18. I think everybody is different, but at some point or another I know I'm going to pay for a professional editor. I've heard good and bad about them, but I'm speaking with one right now that's willing to give me a deal, and I'm all for taking her up on it.

  19. Not sure what else to add... Looking forward to tomorrow's post. Thanks.

    Lynnette Labelle

  20. I like the idea of hiring an editor. I think any help gives us an edge. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Jeanette: A great analogy and great comment about gifting vs. skill! We may have a story telling gift, but that doesn't equate the ability to tell it well. We often need a great deal of direction to hone that skill (books, cp's, editors, conferences, practice, etc.)

    Davin: Wonderful insights! We can definitely land into an editor relationship that doesn't push us deeper. The key is finding the right people who can challenge and stretch our writing so that it becomes excellent.

    Jill: A professional editor can be the advantage some of us need to make our writing more appealing to editors/agents, especially if we're not having an bites (even with the help of crit. groups). It can only help us excel all the more!

    Patricia: An excellent point about not using one too early! We definitely have to be at a point in our writing career where our craft is "almost there." If we're just starting out, then the best course is to study books, join crit groups, and keep honing our skill. Because otherwise you will be paying an editor a lot of money for things that you could learn a lot cheaper elsewhere!

    Kate: It is hard to find the right people to crit your work. I happen to have a really wonderful crit partner who writes in my genre. My trouble is having the time to pay her back in a reciprocal relationship!

    Lady Glamis: As with all aspects of writing, we have to research out editors too. We need to find a reputable one and one that we can work well with. I hope you can find what you're looking for!

    Lynette: You're right! Everyone HAS offered great ideas today! And as usual I'm learning a lot!

    T. Anne: Glad you stopped by! And I hope you're feeling better!

  22. If I had the extra money today and I know someday again I will, I'd gladly pay an editor. I spoke with Kathy Ide at a conference for fifteen minutes and learned so much in that short time! I want her to read and edit one of mine someday:)

  23. Oh, great post, Jody!

    I'll have to look at my costs for the next year or so, but I think Tiffany may have a new client...I would love to get help with the current WIP, at least a part of it.

    Thanks for the great insight!

    P.S. I'll get those interview questions to you soon--there's no hurry with them.

  24. Whew, it's been a long day of class parties alll day long and it is so refreshing to relax and read great blogs like yours, Jody! I always feel your posts are challenging and I like that...I need that!

    I would say definitely hiring a professional is smart. I think crit partners and groups are good too, but like Jessica, I think at some point they might lose their objectivity. Of course, though there is something to be said for having a cheerleader, in order to grow as a writer, we need someone to push us. A professional editor knows the field, knows the ins and outs and can be totally objective. Just my two cents.
    And hey, like I have said before, my WIP is not in a gotta deadline now, girl! Focus, focus, focus!!

  25. I've never thought about using one before, but you've brought up some valid points. thanks, too, for sharing Rachelle's insight. (she's so candid and awesome)

    great blog here!

  26. I think the tough thing is finding a reputable editor. Lots of writers hang out a shingle for this (and some are very very good) but not all have achieved any credentials.

    Research is the best thing, and asking for a sample edit (a page or two) before moving forward, just to see if your style of writing meshes well with the editor, and that the feedback is along the lines you wanted.

    Great post!

  27. Terri: Cost is huge; God will open the door for you to get your work critiqued in one way or another. The editor may have to wait for now, right?

    Weronika: Thanks! I'll look forward to your questions!

    Sherrinda: I think that's true too. Crit partners or groups can help us to some extent, but then at some point, if we're still receiving rejections, then we may have to consider going to the next level and hiring an editor. (You sound so-o-o busy! You'll be ready for summer break soon!)

    Alex: Thanks for stopping by! I love Rachelle's insight too!

    Angela: Great points! Not everyone who hangs out a shingle may have the qualifications as an editor. That's where sending them a sample chapter to critique may give us an idea of how they work.

  28. I would have commented on this sooner, but I--seriously--was busy doing a full edit for a client!

    I may have already said this on here, so ignore if it sounds familiar ... my editor complimented me on turning in one of the cleanest copies he's ever seen.

    Yes, he knows I used a professional editor before he saw it, but that ultimately speaks to MY professionalism. ;-)

    And--shameless plug--I do a fifteen page trial edit for $25. I try to be thorough enough that a client could take only the advise given in that short piece and apply it to the rest of the manuscript if he/she wanted to. ;-)

  29. Why don't I take $5 off for the first three people who ask for a trial edit and mention Jody's blog?


  30. Hi Christina,
    Thanks for your offer! Sounds like you are doing a great job with the editing! I hope it works out for you!

  31. So what would be the best way of finding a competent, reputable editor?

    1. Hi Rachel, I highly recommend Susan Kaye Quinn's website and her easy to follow Indie Author Survival Guide list. She has a list of freelance editors. And since she's in the midst of indie publishing, I trust that she really knows her stuff! Here's the website link:


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