Do Authors Need Editors?

ImageI blogged about a similar topic a few years ago, and it appears some things never change. There are still many authors–and even those claiming to be editors–who insist hiring a professional editor is an unnecessary and frivolous expense. It amazes me these very people are making these statements in writer’s groups that consist of new writers who may have a great story to tell but don’t have the least idea how to put it together. Apparently there are still many people who think editors are no more than high-priced proofreaders!

One of the biggest complaints I see is the cost factor. Yes, editors can be expensive–I’m a copy editor in addition to be a writer, so I understand the concerns. However, if you want to make money from writing, you have to be willing to invest some money. For any business to succeed it is important to make an investment. What’s the old saying? “You have to invest money to make money.” That is true of not just retail business and other commercial enterprises but writing as well. If you want to make money, you have to be willing to invest some money into that venture. It may mean waiting a little longer to publish, but you will have a product that looks professional and has a better chance of selling.

What is the problem? Why do so many people have this line of thinking? It appears there are many who want to rush into things because they think they are going to immediately make money, and this just isn’t going to happen. I have writer friends who have been waiting for two or three years to see royalties from their work, and these are people who actually invested money in professional editors. In fact, many of them even hired professional designers and are still having trouble.

Another with this line of thinking in today’s market is the difficulty new authors have gaining the attention of traditional publishers. Apparently in today’s market agents and publishers want manuscripts that are almost clean; some are even asking for the name of the editor the author used. Do you want to be left standing in the rain in order to save a little bit of money? If you lack cash, there are ways you can afford an editor such as bartering services with someone who has editing experience. You don’t want to ask your next door neighbor who has never edited in his or her life, however; that defeats the entire purpose.

The other thing that is important here is not all editors charge thousands of dollars. There are actually some of us who have reasonable rates because we understand the situation other writers are facing in the current marketplace. Personally I usually charge about $2 a page for copy editing, and I tell anyone who is interested we can work it out so they can pay in installments as long as the full price is paid before I release the book. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can effectively self-edit your own work and save money on editing because the truth is there are only perhaps about one percent of authors who can do that. We are too close to our work, so what we will see is what we meant to write rather than what we actually wrote.

Look at your writing as a business, and you will not think of second-guessing your work. Understand that even the “greats” hire editors or are published by a traditional publisher who provides editing. It’s important to remember traditional publishers do not do the in-depth editing they once did, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to document that (I’ve heard from hundreds and maybe thousands of published authors with whom I have come into contact that some publishers do nothing more than proofreading). You need an editor for more than typos and grammar corrections. There are things such as continuity, fact checking, changes in POV without transition, making sure the plot is strong, checking for a believable storyline and strong characterization. The average author cannot accomplish these tasks with a self-edit alone.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CW64
    Sep 27, 2013 @ 05:52:11

    Amen, Brenda! I am with you all the way on this. As both a writer and editor, I can attest to the importance of an editor, especially a PROFESSIONAL one, involved in the process. Even well-established writers like Stephen King have editors. Not only are writers unable to catch everything but they are too close to their work to approach it objectively. The multitude of perspectives helps develop a piece in inconceivable and unimaginable ways that are apparent only after the work is done. Ego doesn’t get one to success–a conscientious mind does. ;-)

    Reply

    • Brenda Coxe
      Sep 27, 2013 @ 14:33:55

      While it’s good to have a professional editor (one who is paid for editing), that is not always possible for financial reasons. However, it is important to choose someone who is extremely experienced in the editing process and has the ability to be objective. If you’re going to barter for services you need to make sure the person you choose is qualified to perform editing or you can end up being disappointed and frustrated as Tannera did not that long ago.

      Reply

      • CW64
        Sep 28, 2013 @ 06:44:40

        My comment above never negated the financial aspect, which does exist. I know first-hand as you well know. When I used the term “professional,” I was referring to someone who obviously knows her/his business. That goes without saying and supersedes whether that person gets paid, for the reasons you provided above. Some do barter-exchange, which is also a good thing. Of course, writers need to conduct research on editors to make sure they are getting a reputable and trustworthy one, but, in the end, that will benefit them more than taking on the editing themselves.

        My heart goes out to this woman you mention for her bad experience. It goes without saying that there are rotten apples out there , and one cannot always tell beforehand. That, however, doesn’t negate the wisdom or soundness of the need or practice of obtaining the services of an editor. The experience she had 9and I am certain she would agree) is that she will be more careful and selective when hiring an editor. She should check the prospect’s background and scrutinize. Don’t be afraid to ask the prospect important questions and gauge said prospect’s responses Insist on providing a test beforehand so you what to expect. Always be ready. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but her negative encounter served as a learning experience for her, and that’s always a good thing.

      • tannerakane
        Sep 28, 2013 @ 12:44:24

        Mark, you said, “My heart goes out to this woman you mention for her bad experience. It goes without saying that there are rotten apples out there , and one cannot always tell beforehand. That, however, doesn’t negate the wisdom or soundness of the need or practice of obtaining the services of an editor. The experience she had 9and I am certain she would agree) is that she will be more careful and selective when hiring an editor. She should check the prospect’s background and scrutinize. Don’t be afraid to ask the prospect important questions and gauge said prospect’s responses Insist on providing a test beforehand so you what to expect. Always be ready. I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but her negative encounter served as a learning experience for her, and that’s always a good thing.”

        Yes, I did learn. I now conduct interview, check references, and perform background checks. Unfortunately, I live in California, land of scams. Everyone here claims to be something they’re not. People fake resumes and claim expertise on subjects they know nothing about. I detail experiences in my writing blog. The lesson learned? Never hire, or do business with anyone in California. AND by the way, everyone I hired previous has a profile on LinkedIn. Not much anyone can do about fake experience placed on public web sites.

      • Brenda Coxe
        Sep 28, 2013 @ 13:03:10

        Mark, by definition a “professional” is one who is paid for the work he or she does. Therefore, an editor who is not paid is not a professional no matter how much knowledge that person possesses.

  2. tannerakane
    Sep 27, 2013 @ 13:28:07

    Well said. No matter what authors think, writing is a business. One invests time and money in a product and upon release of said product, expects (or at least hopes) for a return on investment. The craftsman, the woodworker, the jewelry maker, the artist, all must spend money to earn money. A few writers I know say something like, “Well, I can make changes anytime I want”. Really? Why spend time making changes and uploading books? I find the process annoying at best. Hire an editor and create a good product from the start.

    Reply

    • Brenda Coxe
      Sep 27, 2013 @ 14:22:07

      You make a very good point, Tannera. Another thing these writers don’t think about is: “a first impression is a lasting impression” as the saying goes. If you allow a poorly edited product to enter the market, people will judged you based on the first release, not subsequent releases. They will see you as an author that doesn’t care of making sure you put out a quality product the first time and relies on readers to find errors. Certainly a few errors here and there are not a problem–I’ve seen them in many books I’ve read–but for God’s sake, make sure you do the best you can do by doing a self-edit and then hiring an editor. In reality an author should have both a developmental or structural editor as well as a copy editor (for the very last string of editors before submission or publication), but that can really run into some cash. At bare minimum one should hire a copy editor and preferably one that also does line edits.

      Reply

      • tannerakane
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 17:15:05

        Brenda, you mention the very reason why sales are slow on the second book in the series. As CW64 mentioned, a writer can’t notice every single error. Months after book one was released, I noticed a glaring error. Grammar and sentence structure appeared edited, but reading the sentence, the person should’ve caught this: “…woman Hopi woman….” Upon a search with Autocrit, I found a similar error. Rereleased the book as a second edition after scanning with autocrit and doing a search in MS word. I wasn’t about to pay for a second round of editing.

      • CW64
        Sep 28, 2013 @ 07:28:20

        Hi Tannera,

        First, you can call me Mark. It’s much more personable. :-)

        Secondly, I agree–you shouldn’t have to pay extra for additional edits. This is one reason why I suggest a writer have more than one editor read a manuscript, because editors will miss things, too. You pay a little more in editing, but you save in the long run in so many ways as you found out.

      • Brenda Coxe
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 21:11:20

        You shouldn’t have had to pay for another edit. I tell all my writing and editing clients that I guarantee my work. If they are not happy or in the case of editing I miss something, I will redo the job at no additional cost. Of course, this doesn’t apply if there are a large number of errors from the original writer, and that writer wants me to do a second edit after he/she accepts or rejects my suggestions although it will not be the same cost as the original edit. While I am technically only a copy editor, I do a lot of line editing as well.

      • tannerakane
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 21:30:15

        Brenda, I was unaware of the unwritten rule. I didn’t want to take a chance on further charges. You’re still on the short list for my next novel.

      • CW64
        Sep 28, 2013 @ 07:21:03

        I agree that you should never charge a client more than is necessary. U thought you charged per page. One publication for which I work as an editor pays per closing word, that is the total word count after edits/revisions have been conducted. This ensures that everything is covered in the compensation and it is not unfairly excessive.

        By the way, I never charge additional cost except under the same conditions you mention above, so we’re on the same page.

      • Brenda Coxe
        Sep 27, 2013 @ 21:34:20

        I don’t know if all editors work the same way, but I always have.

      • CW64
        Sep 28, 2013 @ 07:22:37

        I think it depends on a particular editor’s experiences and needs, but the basic standards are common and prevalent.

    • CW64
      Sep 28, 2013 @ 07:07:04

      Hi Tannera,

      I agree, but keep in mind that talent and skills are important, too. Writers that provide something unique and engaging will likely make money, so they are marketable. The business is based on that. If a writer shows s/he can make money, the profit margin goes up. They first need to prove themselves, and submitting a manuscript riddled with errors definitely destroys that. My point: I agree with everything you say; I am adding that the business is based on the talent/skills; everything depends on them.

      Reply

  3. tannerakane
    Sep 28, 2013 @ 12:45:30

    Forgot to mention. One good experience I had with an editor was J. Conrad Best, who edited my first sci-fi novel.

    Reply

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