Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writing 101: Hiring a Professional Editor

Writers are naturally creative people. Their imaginations are finely-honed, their visualization skills superb...they're not necessarily imbued with great gifts for punctuation and grammar. Being an author doesn't automatically make you a gifted editor, too, and it takes a lot of time to read and re-read your work over and over again. Should you consider hiring a professional editor to get the job done instead? 

Professional Editors

The self-publishing industry has created its own market, and there's no shortage of professionals that authors can hire if they've got the money. Professional editing services abound if you need a little help cleaning up your pages. Some editing services are geared specifically toward indie authors, and along with traditional proofreading services they provide ebook formatting as well. 

Is it worth it? 
  • Cost. Professional editing services don't come cheap, and everybody's got their own way of doing things. You may be charged on a per-project basis, with rates determined by word count, to the tune of around $125 to $400 for each book. Some editors charge by the hour (around $40 to $80 USD), per word (anywhere from 1 to 5 cents a pop), or even per page. That epic saga you need edited could literally break the bank. 
  • Service. It's important to remember that, even when you hire a professional service, they have their own way of doing things. Their formatting may not look exactly as what you envisioned for your work, and their grammatical and punctuation style may not match your personal tone and voice. Before choosing a service, look at examples of their work and make sure it feels like a good fit. 
  • Time. How long is it going to take? Some services may take several weeks or even months to return your manuscript. Make sure you get a clear time frame that you can live with if you're going to choose a professional editing service. 
  • English. It's very important that you choose an editing service that matches your dialect. There are several forms of English out there; Australian, British and American are the most common. If you're a States-based writer and you hire a company based in England to edit your work, you're going to end up with something confusing to you and your target audience. If you depict specific dialects and speech patterns in your book, you'll need to choose an editing service that's familiar with these styles of speaking to avoid lots of back-and-forth conversations.
Hiring a professional editor can be a good way to save yourself some time and get your ebook beautifully polished before it's published. But it can also be a headache if you don't find an editor that's a good fit. Every author has their own distinct voice and tone, and this is something an editor can completely screw up if they don't understand it. Ideally, you'll find an editor that understands your writing and develop a good working relationship with them. In reality, it will probably take you a lot of wrong turns before you find that person. Shop around for the right editor by viewing their samples and giving them sample chapters to edit on a trial basis. Look for someone who's very open to communication and flexible with their methods. 

If you have the money to hire a professional editor, it's a good way to ready your book...but it's not the perfect way. Authors should always do at least some editing on their work themselves; half the writing process is in the editing. You've got to read your own book to get a sense of its tone and voice, and you can learn a lot about yourself and your writing in the process. Much of the learning process of writing is in the editing, and you don't want to deny yourself that experience. A professional editor should be used only for a final polish of your book, nothing more, and only after you've done quite a bit of editing yourself. This will make you a stronger writer, and eventually you may feel comfortable doing all the editing yourself so you can save money.

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  1. I think I'd always want an editor to go over the final draft. I'd always wonder if there was something I'd overlooked!

  2. Well, this is something I agree with 110%, but they are so expensive! Did you hire an editor? If so, how much did you spend?
    I understand its important, but its just soo expensive! :(

  3. It is very expensive! No, I didn't hire an editor, though I'm sure I should have and I wish I could have. Editing's not my biggest strength, so I have to re-read my books several times and edit them repeatedly.

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