I recently became involved in a discussion on the topic of paying an editor to review writing prior to publication. It surprised me to read the remarks from one of the posters who was dead set against the idea of writers enlisting the services of a professional editor. This person had the idea that anyone who charges to editor a manuscript is exploiting writers. This line of thinking actually shocked me. What was even more shocking was when this poster indicated that any writer who is not good enough to be published without the benefit of a professional editor is not good enough to be published in the first place.
The question now is this: are professional editors taking advantage of authors when they charge them to edit manuscripts before they go to publication? Is it only authors who are contemplating self-publishing who should go to the expense of hiring a professional editor? In the mind of the poster I mentioned, this is indeed the case: only authors contemplating self-publishing need to bother with a professional editor.
Where is the mindset of the aforementioned poster? The biggest problem appears to be he/she feels that when you have a piece edited by a professional that person will take away from the voice and style of the original author. While this could certainly happen, the job of an editor is to help an author turn a manuscript that may not be salable into something that will make money for the author, publisher and agent. This need not involve changing the voice of the original author nor should it do so.
First time authors should certainly take the time to hire a professional editor if only to make sure their manuscript is as perfect as it can be before they send it to an agent or publisher. There is nothing worse than sending a manuscript full of errors to an agent or publisher; it is also the easiest way to find your hard work in the slush pile without a second glance. That doesn’t mean once you are published you can depend on your own self-editing skills. Remember, you are close to the writing, and you are likely to miss things. As writers, we tend to read what we intended to type rather than what we actually typed thus missing some errors.
The final answer to the question whether a writer should pay an editor depends on whether you are a hobby writer or a serious author looking for publication in the traditional market. Even if you aren’t looking for traditional publication now because you are writing something in the niche market that will not appeal to the average publisher, you want to make sure you don’t submit anything that is less than perfect because publishers communicate with each other. If you submit something that is full of errors you will not be well-received in the publishing industry the next time you are ready for publication.