When Should You Hire an Editor?

First you write the book, then you hire an editor, right?

Wrong. There are many kinds of editors, and the one you’re thinking of is a line editor – someone who goes over the manuscript near the end of the writing process to look at word choice, consistency, sentence and paragraph structure – the mechanics of your writing. It’s far too late, at that point, to easily fix problems with narrative structure and overall flow.

But the one you need is the one you probably haven’t heard much about: the developmental editor. This is the editor who works with you much earlier on, sometimes just as you’re beginning your writing process. Developmental editing looks at your narrative arc, your story’s structure, your author voice, tone, and style, and, if you’re writing fiction, character development and plot points. A good developmental editor can save you time and heartache – and make the difference between a mess of a manuscript and one with promise that’s ready for focused and structured rewriting.

You need both kinds of editing, and skipping the first in order to save time or money for the second won’t get you what you want, which is the best book you can possibly put out there. I do writing coaching, submission feedback during the writing process, developmental editing with detailed rewrite suggestions, line editing, copyediting, and proofreading. These are all different and separate passes at your manuscript – and you need and deserve every single one of them.

You might hang back because you want to muddle through your writing on your own without feeling embarrassed. But it’s like cleaning your house before the housecleaners come. It’s not only unnecessary, it’s counter-productive. An editor can do a much better job for you if you let them in early on in the process.

Waiting until you have a finished draft to hire an editor? That’s what results, often, in a manuscript so disorganized that it needs to be broken down, taken apart, and rewritten completely differently. It’s frustrating, a time suck, and, often, more expensive than if you’d simply brought in an editor in the first place.

You could spend a small fortune hiring all of this out a la carte. Or you could work with someone like me who offers these services as part of a writing and publishing program. But whatever you do, stop thinking of this as something you have to or even should do all by yourself. Check out the acknowledgments part of any book on your shelf, and you’ll see just how many people are on any successful author’s editing and publishing team. That’s because every single one of those people and their service was needed. You – and your book – deserve the same.

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