Editing 101: Should you hire a pro?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked about some of ways you can improve your writing through self-editing. Self-editing is great and every author should do it. But are there times you should hire a pro?

Short answer? Yes. Absolutely. While I offer editing services and I’d love it if you’d consider hiring me. I don’t say this only because I love wine and steak and paying my electric bill.

Longer answer: I firmly believe that every author should give serious consideration to hiring a professional editor before publishing.  Good editing can turn a mediocre store great and bad editing (or a lack of editing) can take what would have been a great story and tank it before it ever has a chance.

I hear you now. “So are there circumstances where you shouldn’t hire an editor?”

That’s a hard question to answer. In a perfect world, where we’re all raking in the royalties from our books and don’t have to worry about those pesky little things like food, power, and rent/mortgage expenses, everyone should spend the money to hire a pro. But we don’t live in a perfect world and for many writers, this simply isn’t feasible. Editing for a 100,000 word novel will typically run you between $800 and $1200 at a minimum.

DO hire a professional editor in the following circumstances:

  • You aren’t sure of the difference between your and you’re, it’s and its, or there and their.
  • You’re at all concerned about your plot, pacing, and dialog.
  • You don’t have beta readers or your beta readers aren’t writers.
  • You’re not willing to spend the time doing a deep editing dive and running a handful of editing tools to verify that all of your Is are dotted and your Ts are crossed.

CONSIDER not hiring an editor in the following circumstances:

  • You’re an English major with a serious passion for grammar.
  • Your beta readers are English majors with serious passions for grammar.
  • You’re willing to go through your manuscript line by line checking grammar rules, verifying commas, dashes, em-dashes, and colons.
  • You have and are willing to run, a handful of editing tools.

What should you do if you want to hire a professional editor but can’t afford it? I have a few suggestions.

  1. Consider reaching out to an editor and asking them to edit 1-3 chapters of your book. This might seem silly, and not all editors will do this for you, but it can provide you with valuable information about the types of mistakes you make and how to fix them. For example, I have a terrible love affair with the word just. When I got the edits back on my last book, I made a note of the number of times my editor removed the word just from the first couple of chapters. Once I realized I loved and overused that word, I went through another work-in-progress and did a self-edit removing most of the instances of the word just.
  2. Pick up a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. It’s a good little book that can help you with all sorts of editing issues: dialog, point of view shifts, and more.
  3. Investigate some of the self-editing tools out there. Even something as simple as running Word’s grammar check can help. That said, Word isn’t always right, so beware. That said, it’s free (assuming you already own Word that is). AutoCrit gets decent reviews, though I haven’t tried it myself. You can get a yearly subscription which lets you choose the size of your submission limit and they do have a free option as well if you’d like to run their tools against a small sample of your writing. AutoCrit will run you at the most, $117 per year. ProWritingAid is free, though they do have a pro-version as well. They’ll check for a variety of problems including overused words and clichés.

In future Editing 101 posts, I’ll provide some in depth reviews of some of the editing tools out there. Happy editing!



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