Monday, May 13
Hiring an Editor - Yay or Nay?
Getting published is a hard thing, and it's very competitive. You can have a good book and still not land an agent or an editor, which is incredibly frustrating. The pressure is tectonic plate-quality sometimes, and many a writer has thought about finding outside, professional help.
But should you?
ETA: This is purely for writers going the traditional route. If you're self publishing, hiring an editor and even a copy editor are important to putting out a quality product.
PRO: If the goal is to learn to be a better writer, then hiring an editor could be a good idea for those who have the money to spend. (If you don't, then don't stress over it. You can improve and get published without ever spending money on an editor)
I think the end goal really plays a huge part in deciding this. If your goal is to have someone evaluate your work and give feedback on why you're not taking the next step, then an editor could be very helpful. They might see things you or your critique group can't (no matter how good they are, they aren't editors in the publishing biz so they evaluate things differently), and be able to shed new light on what's holding you back. If you want to learn what things to look for so you can better edit yourself, a freelance editor can also be helpful. A more personalized writing class so to speak.
CON: If the goal is to get 95% of the way there, and then hire someone to "make you good enough" and get that last 5%, you're most likely setting yourself up for failure.
If the end goal is to make the book publishable, I think hiring an editor might not be the best choice. Every editor will bring their own tastes to the book, and they could very well suggest things that change your voice. You might make changes based on what they say, but not understand why they said it--or worse, not agree but do it anyway because you want to sell your novel so badly. A really horrible possibility--you could indeed get a manuscript accepted by an agent, but be unable to turn in another book good enough to sell (since you never learned those vital last steps). You could be setting yourself up to always need outside help.
Now, I can hear some of you thinking "Well, an agent and an editor make changes after they take on the book, so why is this any different?"
Which is a good question. My answer: Because you were good enough to get there on your own, and now they're going to help make the book better. If you can't get to pro level under your own skill, playing in the big leagues is going to be incredibly difficult and heartbreaking. You will likely end up being asked to do things you're not capable of doing yet. And that's a great way to kill a career before it starts. You probably don't want to be a one-book wonder.
For me, finding a great critique group seems like a much better way to learn, but not everyone has access to that. Or maybe they don't have time to reciprocate, but still want the feedback. I can see reasons where hiring an editor could be a good choice, same as I can see bad reasons for it.
This is a choice every writer has to make for themselves. Some may never even think about it, some may look at it as another step in their writing education. Some may even look at it as a shortcut to publication. I'm a firm believer in doing what's right for you, but also understand why you're doing it. Just like your characters, understand the motivations and make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.
Whether those reasons tell you yay or nay.
Would you hire (or have you hired) an editor? Why or why not?