Do writers need to hire an editor to bring out the red pen? Or is better to get a self-published book out to market?
By Shelley Widhalm
Do writers really need editors? Do they really want all that red ink and those corrections?
A self-published author I encountered at a class on self-publishing during Fort Collins Startup Week said he would never hire an editor. He said in his presentation to an audience of about 25 aspiring authors that he had several readers of his first story and got feedback and was able to publish his book for under $25 (now it’s about $125 with the cost of an ISBN). He also said he was able to make a profit right away.
Editing and Voice
I believe he has a point, but also hiring an editor gives that professional outside perspective to both improve the writing but also the storytelling.
The author said he does his own editing and artwork and looks at writing differently, where he is breaking the rules. He says it the way he wants to say it.
“Writers need to find their own voice,” he said.
I held up my hand and explained how I had good and bad experiences with editors. As a journalist, I worked with editors who changed my lead and my voice, inserting in their own voice, and that I did not consider them to be good editors. I reflected on “the importance of not changing the voice of the author as you are editing a manuscript.”
I also mentioned that editing happens at several levels from structural, or the overall content looking at things like flow and transitions, to the line level, or reading each line for errors in grammar, spelling and mechanics, plus things like word echoes. Both are important.
Why Hire an Editor?
Here are a few other reasons why hiring an editor can be a good idea:
- Editors are trained to notice the small errors readers may detect but that are hard to find if you aren’t looking for them, such as a comma where there should be a period or the ’re words, such as they’re and you’re vs. their/there and your.
- Editors memorize style guides and know how to look up things and which sources to use.
- Editors understand grammar down to the fine details (I see it like the Periodic Table of Elements combined with a dictionary with the rules clearly visible and meaningful).
- Editors are keen readers. Their minds are constantly editing all day long (which also can be annoying, since it’s a game but also makes reading more chore-like).
- Editors understand voice and how word choice effects the sound and meaning of language, plus they know how to turn analytic writing into something that’s more conversational or vice versa.
Lastly, to bring on an editor is a choice. What’s more important is that writers write and look at their creations as something worthy of publishing. It can be a solo project, or there can be a team that includes a graphic designer for the cover and internal layout, an illustrator for the images and, of course, the editor to perfect the overall content.
It’s an investment to hire an editor or any other professional, and as the author/speaker mentioned, it’s more important to get the work out in front of an audience. The audience is the reader, and sometimes they want the story. Now!