Why You Need to Hire a Professional Editor

So, you wrote a book—that’s a huge accomplishment.

Frankly, actually finishing a full-length piece of writing is more than the average person does in an entire lifetime, so you deserve a round of applause and a pat on the back. Maybe even a parade.

But if you think you’re ready to send your completed book out to agents and publishers, you’ve lost your mind.

Your book is not ready to submit until it has been (at least) thoroughly edited by a professional.

Here’s the thing: No matter how great a writer you are, and no matter how much you like to read, unless you’ve spent years in the trenches of a publishing house reading manuscripts—good and bad—and being trained in the art and science of editing, you are NOT qualified to edit your own work.

Hell, even a professional editor should not be editing his/her own work. No matter how much experience we might have in the book business, nobody is qualified to be an objective critic of his/her own work.

For some reason, this seems to surprise people. It’s as if we expect writing to be easy simply because almost all of us do it, on some level, every single day. But writing and editing are NOT easy. And to get a piece of writing “right,” you need professional help.

Look at it this way:

If your toilet breaks down, do you fix it yourself or do you call a plumber?

If your appendix ruptures, do you slice open your own belly to perform the appendectomy or do you head for the hospital?

Your book—that thing you’ve worked on for months or years, poured your heart and soul and talent into finishing—is your baby, your life’s work. Shouldn’t you treat it at least as well as a leaky toilet or diseased organ?

Often, when I suggest that a writer ought to hire a professional editor, I’m met with the following whining complaint: “But shouldn’t the PUBLISHER take care of that?”

The short answer is: No.

Sure, there was once a time, back in the day, before the rise of self-publishing, when publishers made enough money to handle all the developmental work on a manuscript for their authors for free. But it’s a sad fact that the book world has changed and if you hope to get published (and aren’t already famous), you DO need to be willing to pay for editing before you start shopping your book around.

The market today is so crowded (and the profits so small) that few publishers (especially the small presses that are most likely to take a chance on an unknown writer) can afford to waste their time and resources on a book that isn’t already great when it arrives.

If you’re serious about finding a publisher, you need to hire someone who has the skill to make your good book great.

Don’t be lazy about it, either. This is not a time to call your aunt Sally who loves to read and have her give your manuscript a “quick once-over.”

Do your research, find a qualified editor, and be willing to pay professional prices, just like you would if you were hiring a plumber or doctor. Like those high-priced pros, editors have special training and skills that you need, and you need to be willing to pay for that.

You’d do the same for your toilet, after all.

Share on