5 Pros and 5 Cons of Hiring an Editor

pros and cons of hiring an editor

When you’re a writer at some point you’re going to have to decide on whether to use the services of an editor or not.

There are writers out there who pride themselves on ‘not needing an editor’, and there are those who will always set aside an editing budget in their publishing schedule. But there are many writers who are unsure what editing entails and whether it’s really needed or not.

So how about looking at the pros and cons of hiring an editor?

looking at a book

Five advantages of hiring an editor:

1. An unbiased critique

When you hire an editor they’ll tell you, in a professional and unbiased manner, what works and what doesn’t. Family and friends won’t want to hurt your feelings, and beta readers may feel the same. They may skirt around certain issues for fear of offending, or they may not want to tell you that your book just doesn’t read well. Reviewers of books that you give away for free may feel that they want to give a positive review in return for the book.

There are many reasons why you may not get a thorough critique from your friends and beta readers or reviewers. A professional editor, whether carrying out a full developmental edit or a copy edit, will let you know, gently but firmly, if something really doesn’t work. They’re not only looking at the book from a professional viewpoint, as readers they’ll also want your book is as good as it can be.

Pad of Paper and Pen

2. A professional, easy to read document

When you have your book or document professionally edited, all those problems that you’ve failed to spot will be addressed by your editor. When we write and edit ourselves there are things we miss no matter how many times we go through the document. And that’s true for editors who write too!

A structural edit will uncover plot holes, pace that is too slow (or too fast) and other ‘big picture’ problems. A copy or line edit will eliminate bad grammar, spelling errors, badly constructed sentences and suchlike.

When your document has been edited your authorial voice will still be intact, but the words will flow and the reader will enjoy the experience more than with a raw, unedited manuscript. We all have word ticks, bad habits and, on occasion, sloppy writing. An editor will sort these out for you.

glasses highlighting a book

3. A chance for better reviews

You’ve put your heart and soul into your work. You’ve spent months writing your masterpiece. Why risk snarky reviews? Readers pick up on those spelling mistakes you’ve missed, the plot holes and the inconsistencies and some delight in telling the world.

A professionally edited book will lower your chances of a bad review. You will never make every reader love your work, but you can stop those reviews where ‘Mr P of Plymouth’ spots that the character’s eyes changed colour midway through the book, or the book switched from UK to US spelling in the final chapters.

thumbs up, great service

4. A better chance of being traditionally published

With so much competition out there it can be hard to be noticed by agents and traditional publishers. Even if an author bypasses a structural edit, a copy edit will make your manuscript more polished and less likely to end on the slush pile without a second glance. An edited manuscript won’t guarantee success, but it will show that you value your work and respect the agent or publisher enough to submit something of quality.

bookshelves full of books

5. It sets you apart from the rest

The majority of self-publishers still think that getting their friends, family and readers to edit their book is a good idea. Entrusting your book to your old friend who is an English teacher may seem like a no-brainer, but nothing can beat a professional job by a professional editor. Having your book edited is an investment in your writing future. It shows you are serious about your writing and you value your readers.

 editorial budget

 

Five disadvantages of hiring an editor:

1. It’s tough getting critiqued

You need a thick skin and a certain detachment. Every writer dreads getting back an edited or critiqued document – it’s your baby, you want to think it’s perfect.

The fact of the matter is, very, very, few books are perfect. There will be corrections, even if it’s just spelling, grammar or the odd clunky paragraph. When you get a manuscript back from an editor you need to have a quick look, put it down for a little while then, when you are ready, go through it page by page in a calm, matter-of-fact way. Leave emotions behind if you can and know that at the end you will have a much neater piece of writing.

editing proofreading publishing

(c) Nic McPhee Flikr

2. You may feel that your work is no longer your own

Writers love to write and, unless you are collaborating on a manuscript, the work is yours and yours alone. But you might think that once an editor starts to suggest changes that you are no longer in control.

This is where a good author/editor relationship comes in. Remember – any changes to a document are suggestions. You remain in control and although it might be unwise not to follow through with changes made by your editor, if you want to leave something then that’s totally up to you. It’s still your work, even when you work with an editor.

And don’t worry about confidentiality. A professionally trained editor would never do anything with your work other than what has been agreed upon. Your writing is safe.

loneliness of the writer

3. It’s difficult to know what kind of edit you need

Unless you work in the publishing industry or have hired an editor before, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Luckily there’s plenty of help available out there – I’ve written on the types of editor you need, as have a number of my colleagues and professional societies. You just need to take the time to do your research and perhaps ask other authors about the types of edits they have found useful. If in doubt, social media is a wonderful thing … find editors online and chat with us.

What type of edit do you need

4. It can be difficult to find an editor

Once you’ve decided on the type of edit you need, you need to find an editor. Now, it’s not actually that difficult to find an editor. There are loads of sites out there aimed at author services, but quality, and price, varies.

The best way to find an editor to suit your needs is to look for one who is professionally trained and who works in your subject area. There are editors who will happily work on anything but, if your budget allows, you may find it better to look for one who specialises in your subject, or has in-depth knowledge. Look in professional directories such as the one here for the SfEP.

Do your research. Look at an editor’s background and qualifications. See if they are a member of a professional society that vets their editors. Talk to a few editors you’ve shortlisted to see if you are compatible. It takes time to find the right editor, but when you do you can have a great, long-term relationship.

good communication

5. Editors don’t come cheap

It’s true.

There are many out there who work for content mills and will work cheaply. Some may be excellent at their job and have valid reasons for their low fees (they desperately need the work, or they’re new to the business or they need to build a portfolio), but there are many unqualified ‘editors’ out there who haven’t been trained to edit properly. Unfortunately, at the moment, anyone can call themselves an editor and set up in business.

As with many things, you get what you pay for. A professional edit may be expensive to you, but it may not be to another author. And there may be more than one round of editing needed. But if you are looking for a professional edit, look for a professional editor with training. You may choose a newly qualified editor over a more expensive, established one, but expect to pay a professional price for a professional job. You will need to budget for this.

broken piggy bank

When it all boils down to it, what’s good for one writer may not be so good for another. There are pros and cons to having your work edited, but most of the disadvantages are ones of time and perception. It does take time and effort to find the right editor, work through your manuscript and budget properly, but if you are serious about your writing a good editor can make a huge difference to your work.

 

Women Freelancers – Stop Apologising For Earning a Living

sign saying sorry, apologetic freelancer

 

If you look at this blog written by my lovely colleague John Espirian, you’ll see the PCN (ProCopywriters Network ) survey from this year shows that women copywriters earn, on average, a staggering 29% less than their male counterparts.

This isn’t a number picked out of thin air, it’s from a survey of real, live copywriters.

There are other freelance earning surveys out there, for example on copyhackers.com but there aren’t that many that look at gender bias.

Frustrated Woman at Computer With Stack of Paper

Let’s get one thing straight. No matter what your gender, freelancing isn’t easy. Look at those surveys and you’ll find that many, many freelancers are not being paid sums equal to their in-house colleagues. Hell, I’ve even had ‘the talk’ to a few vastly underpaying companies that wanted to hire my services, and it fell on deaf ears. It’s very easy for a company to ignore their savings on National Insurance, holiday and sick pay, in-house overheads and the like and just see the hourly figure. If they think the going rate they are asked for is ‘too high’, or if they try to set an abysmal per-project fee, the poor (with the emphasis on poor) freelancer has to think long and hard about either sticking to their rates or accepting insulting remuneration just to put food on the table.

But why do women seem to be more susceptible to being tied into low rates?

It seems to be something programmed into us.

robot-148989_1280

Unless you are a business owner who sells ‘things’ there seems to be a trend that women have a tendency to undercharge. Now it’s not all women, but I know a fair few who struggle with this. Me included.

Women generally have to be more flexible, which is why I suspect there seems to be more female freelancers. If you bring up a family, you have to work around them unless you are lucky enough to have round the clock childcare and an equal-rights partner. Freelancing can be great for the flexibility it brings, but the lack of stability and the constant grappling for a fair wage can be exhausting.

It’s almost as though many of us are either grateful that anyone would hire us, or are apologetic for having to actually work for a living. Being in a service industry, with no physical item at the end of the production process, we feel we have to justify our existence in the workplace.

gender pay equality, scales of judgement

An article in Forbes claimed, in April, that in a few freelance areas women are out-earning men. But this information came from a start-up Lystable, which was touted as a workflow management platform aimed at businesses needing to manage banks of freelancers. They very soon after rebranded and became Kalo. Putting my cynical hat on, this may have been an attempt to get more coverage for the business. The one thing I will always remember from statistics classes at Uni is that if you’re a good statistician you can make the statistics say exactly what you want them to. Or they may be right – who knows.

Actually who does know?

Look around the internet and you’ll find tons of articles ranging from women earning a whopping 55% less than men to ones where women are outperforming men in the pay department.

question mark

Search for ‘gender bias in freelance earnings’ and a whole heap of articles will appear. Search for ‘freelance earnings 2017’ and you’ll get not only surveys but articles telling you how to earn more this year.

Who do you believe and does it matter?

Let’s make this clear – the internet is a great place for information, but many, if not most, people have an agenda. Yes, even me. What’s my agenda? It’s to let people know I exist … I live in a beautifully remote place, and if I didn’t have a web presence very few people would know that I’m an editor and writer for hire.

When you see sensational articles online, take a good close look at who is writing and for what audience. And to what purpose. Freelancer sites try to lure freelancers to their business (perhaps with the lure of better pay), writers for hire may just write what their client wants them to write, and big businesses have their business in mind. Everyone has their own truth.

questions, choices

Here’s the situation: we ALL have bills to pay and we ALL have to eat.

When it all boils down to it, it seems that women are still dealing with the Victorian attitude that the man is the bread-earner and the woman keeps house. Or I should say the middle-class Victorian attitude? For many Victorians, if the women didn’t work the family would end up in the poorhouse. The Great War may have taken women out of the home and into professions more traditionally male, but it didn’t change attitudes much.

Time is money for the freelancer and that includes women. We don’t work for the good of our health, we work to pay the bills, put food on the table and if we are very lucky take a holiday each year. I say very lucky, if you are a freelancer you have to schedule your work with military precision to take a holiday, and this year I won’t be able to take one due to work and other life commitments clashing.

we all have bills to pay

 

So how, as women, do we stop apologising for trying to earn a living?

You can go and work ‘for the man’ and do the 9–5, or you can make yourself a few promises.

Repeat after me:

I WILL remember that my time is as valuable as anyone else’s.

I WILL NOT apologise when I give people my rates.

I WILL NOT give service discounts because I feel I have to.

I WILL timetable time off, for myself and my family.

I WILL keep in touch with my industry standard rates and apply them.

I WILL NOT give in to low-paying work unless I really, really have to or unless there is another form of payback (e.g. a new specialism or some on-the-job training).

I WILL include professional development in my work timetable.

I WILL NOT allow myself to think that I am any less valuable or professional than my male colleagues.

I WILL forgive myself if I fail, but I won’t dwell on it and will start over again tomorrow.

I WILL, I WILL, I WILL try my very best to earn the type of living I know I deserve.

Men sure as hell don’t have it easy, but when was the last time you saw a man apologise for earning a living?

Do you need to like your editor or proofreader?

handshake

 

You’ve finished your book, completed your marketing material or are looking for some help with your PhD thesis. Now you’ve got to find an editor / proofreader / wordy wordsmith.

How to find an editor or proofreader

It’s a tough decision. First you have to find them. You can find an editor (let’s just call them editors so I don’t have to repeat myself all the time) in a variety of ways. You can find them through:

 word of mouth

 places like writers’ groups

social media

or you can actually go straight to society directories (such as the SfEP directory).

I’m sure there are other ways to find an editor. If you use a different way be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Finding an editor can be equally tough if you are not sure exactly what you want. Let’s face it, unless you’re an expert at something, you rarely know exactly what you want and will rely on expert guidance. Do you really know if you need an edit or a proofread? (Hint: unless you have your material completely finished and ready to go, it won’t be a proofread you’re after).

 

thinking businessman

click here to find out whether you need an editor or proofreader

 

How do you choose which editor to work with?

So, let’s imagine you’ve trawled through the available resources and have decided that there are one or two (or more) editors who fit your profile – they are qualified, knowledgeable in your area and fit your budget. (Hint: cheapest is rarely best).

How on earth do you choose which one to work with?

Do you choose the most qualified?

The cheapest?

The one nearest to where you live?

See? It’s a tough decision. One editor may offer incentives (price plans, bundles and packages, discounts), another may just offer one or two services, whereas another may be so highly qualified you think you’ll never be able to afford them or fit into their schedule. If you are a business, budget may be less of a problem but timescale may be – do you choose the one who can deal with you straight away or wait until the one you really think you could work with has an opening in their schedule?

Here’s a thought – how about also finding one you enjoy working with?

woman with computer

Do your homework and talk to editors

When it comes down to it, once you have your shortlist you could procrastinate until it’s too late to book any of your preferred choices. Remember, good editors usually get booked up pretty quickly and may only be able to fit you in at short notice if they have a project timeline slide.

You will have chosen your shortlist to criteria of some sort, but now is the time to see if you can actually work with them.

How many people actually do their homework when choosing who to work with? You could find that someone who fits your profile academically is a nightmare to work with. Come on, we’ve all had that brilliant colleague who has the personality of a robot, or the colleague who seems mediocre on paper but is a delight to work with.

is your colleague a robot

While qualifications are important, you also need to be able to feel comfortable with your editor.

This is why it is so important to start a dialogue with the editors you choose.

Talk to them.

Ok, email them. Whatever, but do talk to them.

Right at the outset, when you send that first enquiry, you need to talk about what you think you need, ask for their advice and see where you fit into their schedule.

How do you feel when you talk to them?  Gut instinct can work here, but do you feel comfortable with the conversation.

How will they work on your writing? Do your ideas and theirs mix well?

Do they seem to know what they’re talking about? They should, but do they communicate it well too?

Are they too technical? Would they mind explaining things or do you think they are used to working with more technical clients.

 

This may be a teensy bit controversial … but …

If you don’t feel comfortable with the level of communication you probably won’t feel comfortable with the editing process.

comfortable at home

So do you have to like your editor or proofreader?

You don’t have to LIKE your editor, but you do need to be COMFORTABLE working with them.

Some people prefer a more formal editor/client relationship.

Some people like a more informal set-up.

Now, don’t get me wrong, most professionals can work either way, becoming more formal when the occasion demands, or more conversational when it’s preferred. Hell, even I can scrub up and do the formal thing when needed.

Faberge: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars exhibit

(c) etee, Flikr

But the working relationship, no matter what that might be, needs to be something you can live with. Sometimes hiring an editor is a one-off, but for many writers or businesses it becomes an ongoing relationship that can last a long time. Talking to your editor shouldn’t be a thing of dread, you should look forward to working with them and allowing them to help you hone your writing.

Will you both enjoy working together?

Here are three ways you can figure out if you’ll get on:

  1. Look at their websites.

Some editors have swanky websites, some don’t, but you should be able to get a bit of personality and information from their sites. It’s not the be-all and end-all of a working relationship, but it’s common sense to check them out.

You may gauge something of their working agendas, their specialities and affiliations. If someone highlights their academic work, they may not readily take on your work of high fiction.

You may also get a shock and find out your editor has green hair, and you have to ask yourself if you could work with such a non-conformist.

Sara Donaldson | copywriter | copyeditor | proofreader

Honestly, most of the time I forget it’s green

  1. Talk to your editorial choices.

Before making a firm decision ask them questions about how they’ll work with you, what level of editing they think you need, where you can fit into their schedule and timescale. You should, through conversation, be able to figure out whether you’ll be able to work together.

  1. Have a look at their work

Does their work seem to tie in with yours, or if not are they interested in your type of writing? Going by someone’s past work isn’t always an indicator of their future work. There may be good reasons that there’s little information on their website about the type of work they have done in the past. For example I have a portfolio, but it by no means shows all my past work – working with individuals and companies rather than traditional publishers can mean work won’t appear in a portfolio because of confidentiality issues.

confidential and confidentiality

If you can’t find any examples of their work online, bring it into the conversation. Ask if they’ve worked on your type of material, and if they haven’t ask if they are qualified to work on it. You may find that your editor hasn’t made it public knowledge, but they are dying to work on your type of project. And don’t be afraid to ask about qualifications, your editor won’t be offended.

So, do you need to like them?

In short, go with whatever feels the most comfortable.

You don’t need to LIKE your editor, but you need to take into account:

Are they qualified to do the job?

Do they work in a way that you’re comfortable with?

Can you talk to them properly?

Can you afford them?

Are your timeframes compatible?

If you can actually like your editor too it will make the whole process so much more enjoyable and you’ll look forward to working together.

 

*****

If you think you could work with this green-haired editorial consultant, why not take a peek at my SfEP directory entry? Contact me and we can talk through your project.