Often writers approach me with uncertainty. I think I’m ready . . . This seems like the time. They’re not sure exactly what their manuscript needs. Should they just send it out to agents? Is it time to start checking out self-publishing venues? Or do they need professional book editing?
My post today tackles the last question. Most everyone who writes soon realizes the importance of editing. After all, for most writers, not a day goes by that they don’t do some sort of fiddling with their manuscripts—even if it’s only tweak to a title, a swift uprooting and resettling of chapter breaks, or, if nothing else, a change in fonts. It’s not a big leap to move from self-editing to the idea of getting outside help. At this point, some might try getting feedback from their well-read friends, which often leads to advice that may feel good, but not be the “real love” that’s needed.
But does that mean they need professional book editing?
Do you need professional book editing?
Here are signs you might be ready :
There's no way your manuscript is ready to be seen by anyone until you have revised it yourself, at least once.
Sometimes you get to a point with your manuscript when you’ve done so much rewriting and so much story evolution, that the details are foggy. You might have characters walking into the party with red curls bouncing and then flirting at the drinks table by flipping raven-colored locks. Or you might have worked hard on the amazing reveal that your protagonist’s uncle didn’t die in the car crash but is alive and well has in fact been orchestrating the corporate takeover from his Mogadishu stronghold. It took awhile for you to figure how it was all going to play out and you’re left with a manuscript that still has traces of past ideas—the uncle is in Morocco, the uncle is an aunt, the uncle has an amnesia. You need an outside eye to get matters straight.
A nice situation to be in, but also a delicate one. The agent sees potential, enough to give you some suggestions, but they don’t have the time to go into detail. And you might need that detail to make sure you make improvements correctly. At this stage, you could probably benefit from a substantive edit, which would give you more targeted advice than the sort of general comments one finds in an editorial letter or polite note from an agent.
Agents have a lot on their plate and sometimes they are unable to give you the close reading you need. Working with their schedules can be hard. They’re superbusy, and you feel guilty every time you check in with them. Hiring a professional book editor can give you more control over the timeframe and quality of the criticism you receive.
No matter how great a reader or editor the friends who offer to critique on your manuscript are, the only way to ensure that you’ll get a response when you want it is by hiring someone. One might say, “You pay the cost to be the boss.” If you hire a professional book editor, you’ll be able to keep a tighter grip on your schedule than if you rely on free labor.
If you’re sending your manuscript to a professional book editor, you will receive substantial commentary back that will necessitate major changes and a lot of work. If you feel invigorated and excited about working to take your manuscript to the next level, you can really make the most of a professional book editing.
In today’s publishing world, more and more people are using freelance professional book editors, people unencumbered by the responsibilities of selling your book like agents and publishing house editors–whether to book chains, sales teams, or (in the case of agents) editors at publishing houses. This new breed of editor is taking on the work that the harried house editors and agents cannot do. See this incisive article by Marjorie Braman, which explains well how professional book editors currently fit into the publishing ecosystem and how their role may evolve. If you think you may need the services of a professional book editor, check out my book editing services page.