As a professional editor I get asked many questions regarding the editing experience, especially by writers who have never used an editor before. There is often a serious misconception regarding editors and what their actual job is, why they charge the way they do, and what their actual contribution is to a writer’s project.
Although I could go on about this topic for a long time, because there are tons of questions that could be discussed, I have chosen three questions that I have recently been asked as a professional editor.
I will narrow the answers down to their most important points, but I encourage you to leave any comments and questions that you may have in the comment section bellow and I will be happy to continue the discussion!
1. When is a novel ready for a professional editor?
For this particular answer, I will assume that you have never worked with an editor before. This is because writers who regularly work with editors have their own schedule where editors often become involved before the novel is even finished.
However, if you have never worked with an editor before, then you are looking for a point in time when you believe that your story is complete. Completion includes the following points:
- You have completed at least a 3rd draft of your manuscript.
- You understand and have completed basic formatting and grammar throughout your manuscript.
- You are happy with the flow of your story.
- Your story’s theme is clear and comes to a logical conclusion.
- You have fulfilled (or even better – exceeded) the promises that you’ve made throughout your story.
I can already see one question forming in your mind here: “Why do I need to know basic formatting and grammar if I’m hiring an editor?“
There are a few different answers to this question, but here is a quick summary of answers:
- A professional editor will not want to put their name on just any manuscript. If you have not covered the very basic skills that you need to have as a writer, the editor may not take you seriously.
- If you are paying the editor per hour (which is often the case) the more errors you have in your manuscript the more hours it will take for the editor to complete it.
2. Is it worth the cost?
This is hands down the most frequent question that I get asked.
“My cousin was top of her class in English and writes bomb essays, so why should I hire an editor if she can do it for me?”
You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do. But you do have to understand that each job comes with a skill level that is acquired over many years.
A professional editor ensures that every aspect of your manuscript is as presteen as possible and ready for the eyes of a reader. ‘Ready’ not only as a story, but also as a written medium that will be easy on the eyes, quick to read through, and won’t bring the reader’s mind to a stop every time an error shows up on the page.
And here’s a little tip from my experience in marketing: there is no better marketing “technique” than word of mouth. Nothing.
Ads can bring eyes to your book, a great cover may also look attractive, the title might be interesting, but nothing will save an unedited manuscript. If the story is not engaging, if it is riddled with errors, if there is no point in it, the book will be put down and forgotten forever.
An editor is a team member. You and your editor are a team; working together to bring a great book to the world of passionate readers. Both of you want to see it succeed.
3. If a manuscript is really bad, are you considerate or do you provide blunt feedback?
The correct answer to this question is – both.
I am, of course, considerate of people’s work and all of the time, effort, and passion that they have for their story. However, it is my job to tell a writer if their manuscript is not ready for publication, especially if there are any glaring errors that need to be resolved.
It is my job to be honest and to use every ounce of skills and experience in my possession to help writers, regardless of the genre, their language skills, or the length of their manuscript.
Do you have any questions that you’ve always wanted to ask an editor? I’m happy to answer them!