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.