Monday, January 23, 2012

Hiring someone to edit your book

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to initiate discussion. You will learn more in the comments section then from my mindless rambling, so be sure to visit the comments, and leave me your own thoughts.

So, when I'm procrastinating from writing or selling books, I love to increase my knowledge. I surf, and I surf, and I surf some more.

One thing I keep coming across is authors/editors/or misc other people who I have no clue what qualifies them except they see big $$$ opportunities, advertising that they will edit your book for you! (yes, this sentence needs editing).

NOTE: Editing has different definations. It may not include someone taking a red pen to your MS. For some, it is a process of identifying weak spots in the story and giving suggestions on how to fix it..

OK, it's tempting. I can pay someone from $300 for a picture book to $2000 for a chapter book (not including pages 100+) to look at my manuscript and fix it for me! Woohooo!

Some of these people I highly respect. They are authors I love, editors who have worked on books I love, or teachers.

Others, I wonder what credits they have to tell me what direction my story should go. They are the random website that offers you the moon.

Some services include just a read with a letter telling me how to improve it. These start at $200 or more for a picture book. A novel can cost $1000 just for a read. I have to admit I do wonder if I am I better off going to a writer's conference where I can meet an editor or agent in person, get their opinions and a critique.

So, let's say I decide this is a good idea, and I want to hire someone to edit, or consult, my book. Now what? (Read the comments to see how this has service has helped others.)

Editing to add this part:

First, what do I want to look for in a service:

Look for someone you trust, who has references, and who writes or edits what you write.  If you have never heard of the person or their website, I would pass. You want someone who has a track record. So for example, if I was offering you this service, keep searching. Sure I have experience, but I have more to learn then to share.

Look for someone who offers a fair price based on their time and what they are giving you. So what is a fair price? That is a question only you can answer. Look at their experience and who they are.

Look for someone who will be accessible after the critique, who you can ask for clarification without having to spend more money.

Personally, if I was looking for this service, I'd go with someone who teaches a class and offers an edit as part of the class.

What are the pros:

*My story is edited, if I pay the big bucks! Someone professional (I hope) has gone through and done all the editing. (Though I've been told this is false. A good editor won't do it for you, see comments for feedback from those who have hired an editor. It is much more useful then my blog).

*I have a new direction to work towards. Then what? Do I ask them to look at it again or go with my gut?

*If I get a full edit, I don't have to anguish about my writing, or that twist that isn't working out the way I wanted.  I just have to follow their notes to a "T" and I'm good.

*If I had a good editor, I will be able to use the techniques in future books and have learned how to edit my own book.

Now the cons, or my personal concerns:

*What if I get an editor who doesn't mesh with my vision or get my story?

* If there weren't a lot of changes, I just threw the money out the window. If there are, is that really my concept? (I had a paid critique take my story in a whole different direction, which wasn't where I wanted to go.)  The story needs to be mine.

*What happens if you send it out and it's still rejected? Do you go back to that editor? Pay someone else?

*The growth a story and author take together gives the story more magic then letting someone else do it. (Editing to add based on comments that some editors will teach you this process, so make sure you do your research).

*What if it's bought as a series? Are you going to constantly pay someone to help you write/edit your books?

*If it is bought, there goes a lot of your profits. Really, there is not a lot of money in publishing. If it's not bought, there goes a lot of money.

*How many times will you need this person to edit your stories? Are you becoming dependent on them to get a good book out?

That said, one thing to consider is would you be better putting that money into a writing class, or to go to a writer's conference?

As I thought about this great looking shortcut, I thought about the old adage:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

My version:
Give a writer an edit, and you can get him out of the slush pile. Teach a writer to edit and you can open up a world of opportunity to him.

That said, I would totally pay to attend an editing online course with a writer or editor I respect.

What do you think? Have you ever used one of these services? How did it help you? Would you do it again? Was your book published? What would you do differently? Is your editor teaching you or doing it for you? How did you pick them?

The best thing my editor did for me, the one who paid me for my MS, was send it back saying: "Change this."  That was all. I could discuss it with her, but she wanted it to be mine. She knew it didn't work. She may have had a problem with the rhyme, or thought it was redundant, or didn't like my personification of certain objects, but she never told me how to change it. Just to do it. I really thank her for helping me learn the editing process. It made me a stronger writer.


  1. My experience with a freelance editor (and I have had two manuscript evaluations and a line edit) is that the highly qualified person I hired, from whom I'd also taken a class, gave me suggestions, but didn't "rewrite" it for me, as you're suggesting they do. She gave encouragement, sound feedback, and valuable advice. She helped me to see where my story was weak, and where I should be focusing my theme and my attention. She knows the current market and could make suggestions of where my book would fit into that market. I have learned enormously through her feedback and careful, thoughtful, attention to my manuscript. She didn't just give me a quick edit as you've said, she taught me how to look more critically at my own work. She has worked with me to make my manuscripts better.

    I'm sure there are some out there who are not worth much. The one I work with I wouldn't trade for anything.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. It's good to know that she taught you. I just see services all over the place. Do a google search!

  2. I am currently having someone give me a thorough critique of my pb ms. No, she is not editing. Yes, I am paying her. It's a very reasonable amount though, nothing outlandish like I've seen many other people offer.

    Why do I feel comfortable letting this person do a critique? She specializes in the exact TYPE of pb I write. She already has 2 books with completed deals and publishing dates in the near future. And I have edited and edited my own ms to death. (This has been in the works off and on for 2 years now.) I have had other writing friends take a look at it, give suggestions, and I edited some more. I now am to the point that there is nothing else I can see to edit without an outside source prompting me with suggestions. I want a pair of eyes who is familiar with the exact style I'm writing and not just pbs or (worse) writing in general. I want a pair of eyes completely unbiased to me.

    I'm still very green. I'm still learning. I'm still unpublished. After researching and doing a lot of personal work, I felt it was the right choice for me to have one professional-level critique of my work before I hit the ground running. (I'd done 5 queries prior to this and decided to hold off more queries until I receive my critique and decide if any changes need to be made.)

    1. Thanks for your comments. It sounds more like you are paying for a critique. I've done that twice. Once at a conference, and once from a class I took, where it was included in the fee.

      Please come back and share what you learn!

  3. I've never done a google search, because I just naturally went to the person from whom I'd learned the ropes of picture book writing, Emma Walton Hamilton. (In fact, I'm spotlighting her on my blog this week.)

    1. Great! I will have to go check it out. :-)

    2. Today's post is about a giveaway I'm having for a book Emma has written about encouraging kids to read. There'll be a profile of Emma on my post on Wednesday.

  4. I think if a writer is going to self publish then an editor is absolutely necessary. In the past I’ve paid to have my manuscript evaluated and I found the feedback very helpful. But he didn’t edit it.

    I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand I think it would be great to sit down with editor and have my work evaluated/fixed. A good editor is thinking about the reader.
    How does a writer get better if he/she doesn’t know what he/she is doing wrong? An editor could show a writer his/her mistakes.

    On the other hand writers edit their own work all the time and get published. So perhaps like you said money is better spent on taking a class, going to conference, etc.

  5. I do not believe that I will pay a freelance editor to look at my work for a fee. To me it is not necessary, given all of the opportunities given to us in the SCBWI community.
    I know someone who recently paid $500 to have her pb manuscript critiqued/edited. To tell you the truth, it was a manuscript in good shape already. However, the editor gave her a ton to work on. I looked at her comments and the only thing I could say is, "of course that editor told you you need to change this and this and this. how else was she going to get you to PAY AGAIN to be looked at!?"
    Just be wary and do your research.

  6. If anyone can get someone who edits MS to come here and comment, or who is willing to be interviewed, I think it could add a new educational angle. Like many of you, I am navigating the waters and the best knowledge I have learned is from others sharing and just doing it.

    1. Emma Dryden, who is a freelance editor, was interviewed by Katie Davis on Brain Burps about Books last week, and Emma Walton Hamilton, the freelance editor I have worked with, will be on Katie's podcast sometime in the near future.

    2. Beth, I believe that Debbie is saying she would like to interview herself or have someone comment directly on this page.

    3. Yes, I realize that. I was just pointing out a couple of opportunities to hear other interviews.

    4. And it is greatly appreciated. :-D

  7. Debbie - I'd like you to rethink that the majority of editors are just out to make a buck. Many editors are very active in kidlit circles and want to see quality literature produced. There are several of us, in fact, who volunteer our time for Rate Your Story - generously giving other authors a free "rating" critique with general comments on their work - even though we're usually paid for editorial services.

    A high-priced critique may not be right for you, but there are many editors and writers who offer professional critiques at very affordable rates and also post-consult. I've met many!

    And, if you've got a great critique group and friends in the business, there's a general swapping that goes on free of charge. I feel blessed to have so many wonderful, published friends in the biz who have given me such insight to my own manuscripts.

    1. Thanks for coming by Miranda. This blog post has given me a great view into the other side of things. I've made some changes in my original post as well. I appreciate you volunteering your time.

      I just wonder if there are some editors who do charge a ridiculous amount because they can. Most writers do not have a lot of money to spend. And many advances are not that huge (unless you are a well known author or have that amazing book and get on the good list).

      There are many writers out there who still have so much to learn.

      I have to admit I gravitate more towards those editors/authors/consultants who teach classes, then who offer edits. I want to be able to do it myself, and be independent so I can submit my very best word every time.

      I do have two great critique groups that I am blessed with.

      Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing your viewpoint. :-)