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.

 

Musings on the SfEP 2017 conference

SfEP Conference 2017

I wasn’t going to write about the latest SfEP conference.

For the past few years I’ve attended the conference, come back all enthusiastic and waxed lyrical about how fabulous it all is.

But you know what? I am going to tell you all about it, because, well, an SfEP conference shows just how a conference should be.

big tick, correct

Conferences in the past were, for me, spectacularly dull, staid affairs with a lot of blah, blah, blah and very few friendly faces. Everything was very professional but very matter-of-fact and, well, boring.

SfEP conferences, on the other hand, are welcoming, largely informal affairs with lots to learn. Friendly professionals mingle with each other during breaks while searching for coffee or the occasional short-term bid for freedom.

It’s something I look forward to now and would really recommend for every editor and proofreader.

So … this year … I’ll give you the pro and cons. Just to prove that is isn’t always a bed of roses.

bed of roses

I made my way to the get together at Wyboston Lakes, just off the A1 and not far from Cambridge.

Pros: Brilliantly easy to get to. I totally enjoyed my tootle down the road, singing along to my favourite songs and listening out for my new satnav app (don’t worry, it was totally legal, hands-free and away from touchies). Mind you I didn’t actually need the satnav … Wyboston really was just a straight line down the A1 for about 200 miles!

Cons: It rained, and the service stations on the A1 are pretty shit.

traffic in the rain

When I got there the venue was easy to find. Time to unload the car and go to register my presence.

Pros: Who should be there, outside the door, looking glam and unflustered? None other than the lovely Louise Harnby! There’s nothing better than meeting a friend and having a welcome hug when it’s raining and you’re slightly out of your comfort zone.

Cons: The wifi went wonky while we were there. No Tweeting! No checking Facebook. But you know what? I used my data allowance when I had to. No biggie.

welcome sign

Now I could go over the conference in tiny detail, but for the sake of your sanity I should probably just take a few snapshots. We started as usual with the AGM. It must have been the shortest AGM in SfEP history – even the new rates for next year raised few eyebrows. We all ran away pretty quickly for some R&R before drinks and dinner (although some of us, 15 to be precise, descended on Janet’s room for pre-dinner jollity). After dinner our table came third in the pub style quiz. Not the pub quiz, as we weren’t in a pub (come on, we’re a bunch of editorial types, it has to be right). A good time was had by all.

Sunday, and I started the conference off with a quick breakfast (I just don’t do mornings … the extra half-hour in bed was worth it). Oliver Kamm opened the conference with a wonderful talk. I can’t actually remember it in great detail, but it must have been good as I bought his book.

Oliver Kamm, Accidence will happen

Workshop 1 – Phil Mulryne’s session on script editing.

He concentrated on TV script editing and this was the talk I’d been looking forward to most. I’d actually spoken with Phil a few months beforehand. He works for Drama Republic and really knows his stuff and how to communicate that to a room full of editors.

Pros: It was a really interesting, engaging talk with lots of real-life examples of great editing. Having in the last few years been taught to write, as well as edit, scripts I soaked up all the information and thought it was a brilliant start to the weekend. I also now realise that I have to watch both the first and the current series of Dr Foster.

Cons: One of my dreams has now been crushed under foot. I realised that I live too far away from anywhere to ever have the hope of working as a freelance script editor (I’m also probably about twenty years too old). I had to face the facts that I will never be able to commute to a production company and work on a TV script. Don’t weep for me, I’ll live. It’s fine. Really.

gothic-1629448_1920

Session 1 – John Espirian’s talk on websites

I love John’s talks. He is such a generous human. He manages to impart knowledge without coming across as a ‘know-it-all’. But secretly I think he might actually know it all. I know my website isn’t working to its full potential, so I thought I’d sit in on this session and learn.

Pros: I learnt a hell of a lot. I took notes. I now have to implement those notes, get case studies, think about an email list (that’s probably never going to happen) and focus on my brand identity.

Cons: I now have to implement those notes, get case studies, think about an email list (that’s probably never going to happen) and focus on my brand identity.

light bulb moment

After John’s session I actually managed to fit in two productive things during the one-hour coffee break (and didn’t have any coffee). We had a meeting of the new SfEP Ambassadors (of which I’m one) and I nipped into a session on upgrading membership. I’m most of the way towards gaining Advanced Professional membership of the SfEP, I just need to get the hours together. If you want to help me get my hours up contact me about your project (see John, a call-to-action on my blog!).

Session 2 was all about getting the most from directory listings, something that’s quite useful for freelancers as we need to be visible to actually attract clients. I’m so grateful to Andrea Kay for giving up her space for me and swapping sessions. Now I’m not in a lot of directories, perhaps I should be (my SfEP directory listing is here, thanks for asking), but the workshop was very useful.

Conference programme

Sunday night saw the Gala Dinner, on THE best table with Beth who coordinated the conference. We had lots of laughs and were in the best position to hear the Linnets sing (editors can sing too!), listen to David Crystal give another wonderful after-dinner speech (I never get bored of listening to this brilliant man) and see Louise Harnby win the Judith Butcher Award for her ‘highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership’. Well deserved it was too, she’s marvellous.

well done

Monday started with Workshop 2 – Emma Darwin’s ‘Working with fiction and creative non-fiction and their writers’. Now this was a refresher for me, but brought up some interesting new slants. I loved Emma’s psychic distance exercise, and will probably use it in my own writing. It’s good to listen to different speakers talk about the same subject – just as every reader will have a unique reading experience, every workshop brings something new to the mix.

Session 3 – Lightning Talks. Lightning talks are fun. I love listening to people talk for five minutes on a diverse range of subjects. Highlights for me this year were Howard’s talk (who knew Elvis was so eloquent?) and Abi’s look at office spaces. I’ve always wanted a white, minimalist, office space with flowers for colour emphasis and shelves of tidiness (never, ever going to happen). Oh, and I did a talk myself on cartoons, which seemed to go down ok.

How a cartoon course saved my sanity

Loulou Brown’s biography workshop (session 4) was the other talk I’d really been looking forward to, and was the last of the conference. I’ve worked on a few biographies this year, and it’s one of my favourite types of book. I love biographies and autobiographies. Loulou has worked on so many I was fascinated. I’d love to be like her when I grow up.

Pros: The whole talk was wonderful. Plus I came away confident that my work on biography is clear, concise and knowledgeable. She also emphasised the point that unlike other editing work, biography can be all consuming and takes a lot longer. I do find myself underestimating the time it takes to work on this type of material, so I now know that this is normal and I’ll try not to do it in the future.

Cons: The session was too short. I could have listened to Loulou talk about Richard Burton all afternoon. Seriously, she worked on a Burton biog. Jealous.

heart-29328_1280

So the conference was almost over. Just time for the closing lecture by Mark Forsyth. Another witty, enjoyable talk that held the whole room captivated. And then it was all over. Time to drag my sorry ass out of the venue and start the long drive back.

My overall thoughts on the weekend and what I learned?

  • Beth and her team did a wonderful job. The venue was easy to get to and comfortable. Unless you were blessed with an executive room, (which I wasn’t), the layout was pretty compact and easy to navigate.
  • I loved meeting all my friends, (and getting to know some new ones), and having a few days to speak with real humans, learn new stuff and generally get away from the day-to-day life I sometimes love and sometimes hate. It was great to finally meet some SfEPers who I’d talked at length with, but never met ‘in the flesh’ (urgh, what a horrible phrase, why did I use it?).
  • I only had one uncomfortable moment, at breakfast on Monday, when I found myself on my own being joined by a few people who knew each other. I’m probably scary first thing (remember, I don’t do mornings), I didn’t know them and they ignored me, so I just ate up and left. Come on, that’s pretty good going. I remember one genealogical conference where hardly anyone made eye contact or spoke to anyone else for most of the weekend. Now THAT was a fun time!
  • I learned that it isn’t compulsory to drink your bodyweight in coffee (I didn’t say I didn’t do it, just that it isn’t compulsory).
  • I also learned a lot from the sessions I attended. I wish I could have gone to them all (it’s a pain having to choose only 6 out of 30 possible sessions), but there’s always next year for choosing something different.

This was a great weekend getaway, with brilliant company and interesting workshops.

  • I learned that there’s no point in worrying over what you wear. I nearly stayed in my room instead of going to the gala dinner. I’d brought the wrong boots, I looked fat in my dress and I really wasn’t feeling up to it. Eventually I took a deep breath, walked the walk and met Eleanor for drinkies. No one gave two hoots as to what I was wearing. We all had fun!
  • I learned I can actually give a talk and not pass out.
  • I learned I can actually have a mini-asthma attack thanks to a chest cold (sorry for the coughing everyone) and still give a talk five minutes later and not pass out.

Finally …

I learnt that it’s very, very dangerous to go and meet puppies on the journey down to the conference. There will be two new additions to our family in a few weeks time. Why adopt one when two are just as much fun?

corgi pups cartoon

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.