Do I Need An Editor?

Do I Need An Editor

By Carly Bornstein 

You are self-publishing, so why do you need an editor?

You know your book better than anyone else right? An editor will just twist it into something different, something wrong, they won’t understand it.

But that is not true at all! An editor can see things you can’t. An editor wants to help you make your book into what you envision. The type of editor to help you do that is a developmental editor (Yes, I know, there are so many different types of editors!).

When you have finished your manuscript, when you believe you have written all you can write, that is when you seek out a good developmental editor.

When you go the traditional publishing route your main editor is essentially a developmental editor. They are the editor that gets to know your book as if they had written it.

A developmental editor is looking for larger issues, not whether you used the correct “you’re” or “your.” They keep an eye out for plot holes, inconsistencies, flow, character development, plot development, hooks, pacing, structure, voice, dialogue, and the list goes on!

Ever worry that your dialogue is stilted? A developmental editor will help you find ways to smooth out the speech patterns and give each character their own voice. Worried that your plot twist is predictable?

They will help you hint at it without giving away the whole kit and caboodle. A developmental editor makes sure that the reader roots for the character you want them to (instead of your least favorite character!) and makes sure that your characters grow and develop throughout the story.

Most people will look past typos (although, believe me, they are distracting!), but they won’t look past a bad storyline. If the ending is unsatisfactory or abrupt, the reader will remember the book unfavorably, and will probably give it a bad review.

An editor knows how the reader is going to feel, because they are essentially your reader. The main difference between an editor and a reader is that an editor will know how to fix it and how to help you.

It is basically like hiring the most informed, helpful, and knowledgeable reader that wants your book to succeed.

Nowadays, self-publishing is a great option for authors. But it is flooded with terrible writing and terrible books. People think that they can write anything, as long as it is finished, and become a bestselling self-published author.

So much more than just “writing” goes into a good book. It needs editing, revisions, and contemplative thought. No matter how good a writer you are you just can’t catch everything, and you can’t be objective; you need an editor.

Writing is a very personal act and authors can view their books as extensions of themselves. When your novel or work is that intimate, it can be hard to be objective.

That is where a developmental editor comes in. Editing can help an author polish their piece and turn it into the best possible version. Readers can then better connect and access the work.

It can be scary to submit your novel to the world; an editor can help ease some of those worries.

Carly Bornsteincarly is a freelance editor specializing in developmental and line editing. She’s a lover of all fiction and is a book’s best friend (or vice versa). Follow Carly on Twitter @fromcarly

Derek Haines

Derek Haines is an Australian author, living in Switzerland.

18 thoughts on “Do I Need An Editor?

  • Great article! I think the trepidation may come with the varying price tag. I know that at 100k words, I was looking at between $1k and $4k for editing services. And the $4k range was for “structural” and “flow” type editing as opposed to the basic copy editing. It’s easy to understand how self-published authors find that high cost to be a deterrent to getting their books edited. It also makes me wonder how much publishers pay their in-house editors.

    Reply
    • It can be a lot of money to hire a good developmental editor, and it is a risk for the author. It is a lot of money up front, and the author is banking on making that money back when they publish. That is basically what publishing houses do, they take on the risk and eat all the up-front costs, but they also receive most of the profits. That is also why they publish so many different books; they can take a risk on a literary work and know that a bunch of romance books are going to make money. In my experience publishers pay editors anywhere between $30k to $60k, it varies on seniority and how much money they bring in. Keep in mind, freelance editors have the costs of a whole business (insurance etc) that they have to pay for.

      Honestly, It is a gamble, but a good book is going to make more money, and a book that has been edited is way more likely to be a good book.

      Reply
  • I could not have managed to write and publish my books without my editor. Over the years as we’ve worked together, she’s become my writing partner.

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  • I love this article thank you so much for posting it. I would have be lost if I didn’t hire my editor ( Tanya Besmehn ) to format develope and correct my first book. My editor wa so helpful taking my story keeping my vision and in the process still making it mine. Having an editor has been such a great experience for me and so helpful to bring my book “True Ending” the wings it needed!

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  • I’ve got to add that many writers aren’t getting good advice from “free readers” and “writer’s groups”. I see a lot of bad work coming out of there, not because the writer is “bad”, but because they’re getting feedback from people that don’t know anything. Use those groups for a chance to be social with authors, but go to editors to get the real work done. A good editor, such as myself, can make you hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars, over a lifetime of royalties and movie rights with the right developmental or substantive editing. Being an “indie” author is great, but it’s also great to have your work read by a much larger audience. Cheap editors are not going to get you there.

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    • I think the self publishing business is changing, Amanda. And for the good too. From the early days of it being totally DIY, to now as it is starting to be treated like a real business by many authors. So for those who really want to make a business from their writing. there are investment costs and expenses to expect, as with any business. I think the penny dropped with quality book covers a year or so back, so now hopefully, it will be the turn of editors. But to be fair, like a lot of cover designers discovered, only those who found a business model and pricing to suit self publishing succeeded. This will be a challenge for editors, as it is a very expensive upfront investment. I agree that cheap is not the way forward, but do you think there is the potential for new business model for editors that could better access the self publishing market?

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      • As a freelance editor specialising in indie authors and self-publishing authors, I can tell you now that I have never received even $1k for editing a book! I’m also not self taught – I have a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Journalism and hold a certificate in professional proof reading and editing. As previously stated, I have learned to adapt my fees to an affordable level for such authors and it has worked immensely for me. Out of this, I have been asked to freelance edit for both a US and Canadian publishing house, where I can earn some decent money. The work just keeps rolling in, and although you may call my fees cheap, the authors are, by no means, getting a less than stellar service.

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        • I think you may become even more popular, Michele! So for less than $1k, what editing services do you offer self publishing authors? As price has always been seen as a barrier for many, how have you adapted your editing service to be able to offer an affordable option for authors?

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    • Amanda, I couldn’t agree more. Free readers might know that they don’t like something, but they don’t know how to fix it or what it is that they actually don’t like. Also, they give advice because they feel they should, not because it is accurate.

      That being said, most authors don’t have the money to pay for an editor upfront. It is an investment. I think editors need to find new ways to help authors, even if it is finding different levels of editing/pricing.

      Reply
  • I finally broke down and hired a freelance editor and I couldn’t be HAPPIER! She pointed out plot holes, character flaws, and a host of other issues I never knew were hidden in my ‘perfect’ MS. And even better, when I’m stuck, she asks just the right questions to get me over the hump and pumping out those words again. Well worth the investment.

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    • You’ve made me envious, Terrye. Now I suppose I’d better start a huge Crowdfunding campaign to hire an editor to go back over my long backlist! :) Seriously though, as one who started in self publishing right from the very beginning, it is clear that the self publishing bar has been lifted. And for the better too if I may say so.

      Reply
  • Derek, great article. I’m a copyeditor turned developmental with a recent script writer. As I structurally corrected the script, I made plot suggestions, etc. The screenwriter asked for more & we’ve taken the story to a whole different level. It depends on the author and how well the editor connects & doesn’t control. I use the words suggested add, omit, or change a lot. Christine

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    • I think you hit on a very good point in your comment, Christine. Control. I think this is a fear many authors have about hiring an editor, along with the cost of course. As I mentioned in a previous comment, self publishing may need different editor pricing models to really get quality editing into in the self pub market, along with developing trust with authors. Perhaps developing various entry points and pricing scales to allow editors to slowly build business relationships with authors is needed. I’m not an expert, but I’m sure many self published authors can’t afford to invest say, $2,000 upfront. Especially if they do not know the editor.

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    • Christine, I am the same way! I am constantly reminding the author that I am there for them, that all final decision are up to them, and I am just making suggestions. They can take it or leave it (but the are paying for them, so they should take them!). Being an editor is a delicate balance of keeping the author happy and making sure they make the necessary changes.

      On the other side, it is important for an author to find the right editor for them. Someone who understands their vision and pushes them when they need to be pushed.

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  • I’ve learned something from both the article and the comments, thanks! Now to find that ever elusive, reasonably priced editor who provides just the right touch. And do all this without having to filter through 5 different editors for our first novel. :-)

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    • Good luck with your editor hunt! I’m sure you’ll find the right one.

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  • Great article, I would advise anyone who has written a book to have a heavy line edit done at a bare minimum. I understand a lot of people are short of money, but at least a good line edit can fix a plethora of problems if you’re prepared to put in the work.

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  • Anytime you can get eyes on your work is great and I think a good editor is worth their weight in gold. However, coming up with the funds to pay for said editor is key especially for the Self-Publishing author.

    This is a great article and the comments have been helpful as well. A lot to think about.

    Reply

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