If you’re on the fence about getting editorial help with your manuscript, I’m here to tell you why you should hire an editor for your book! And why working with one is worth every penny when it comes to making sure your book is in the best possible shape.
When you shouldn’t hire an editor
First off, I want to clarify that there are situations where you probably shouldn’t – or at the very least, don’t need to – hire an editor for certain things. If you’re aiming to get traditionally published, there’s really no point in hiring someone to copyedit or proofread your manuscript. You’d just be throwing money away. Why? Because if you were to land a literary agent and a book deal, you’d have those services provided for you as part of your book deal anyway. Copyediting and proofreading would come later, when your book was being prepped for publishing.
Now, if you want to traditionally publish, there are still services that might be worth investing in (more on that later), but it’s by no means required to pay for any service if you’re seeking traditional publishing. You certainly shouldn’t be paying agents to read your material, either (you can read more about traditional publishing scams on this great page).
With that out of the way, let’s talk about why you should hire an editor for your book and how it can help you!
Why you should hire an editor for your book
To improve your manuscript
This is the obvious main reason you’ll probably want to hire an editor! They can help you improve your manuscript, whether that be by correcting mistakes, highlighting awkward/clunky passages, helping you get your dialogue right, or by working alongside you to develop your story, structure, characters, and world. Editors (depending on their specialism and skillset) can help with everything from story-level refinement to the smaller details.
You’re self-publishing and want a professional product
Self-publishing is fiercely competitive, and some people still have a sense of stigma against independently published books. To counter this, you want to put out the most professional product you can, and that includes a polished manuscript. If your self-published book is the same, quality-wise, as something that’s traditionally published, you’ll attract more readers and keep them coming back for more.
To avoid negative reviews from your target audience
It goes without saying that an editor will be able to correct all of the things you struggle to get right, grammar and spelling included! Nobody wants negative reviews complaining about a book being littered with errors in punctuation or spelling, and an editor can help you avoid that.
Editors can also flag anything with the potential to anger customers, and knock-on negative reviews, particularly when it comes to your book’s target audience (for example, swearing in children’s books), or when you’re writing outside of your own experience (such as negative stereotypes).
To give yourself a stronger chance in the submissions pile
If you want to give yourself a stronger chance of standing out in an agent or publisher’s inbox (aka the dreaded slush pile), and you’re okay with investing some money into your writing, a manuscript assessment or critique can be beneficial to get your story into great shape before submitting your work traditionally. If you want feedback from a professional working in the industry, or you’ve been let down or disappointed by feedback from beta readers and aren’t sure where to go next, hiring an editor for this type of thing can be very useful. You could also hire an editor to help you with your submission material such as your query letter or synopsis.
As an editor, I’ve sometimes worked with authors who want to polish their book at a sentence level before submitting, because they’re concerned about clunky passages and so on. A line edit can be helpful here (minus the copyediting tasks) for some authors.
Again – none of this is required. Plenty of authors navigate the slush pile without hiring an editor. There are lots of things to weigh up and it really depends on the individual.
To gain a new perspective
We can get so close to our own work, so hiring an editor is a great way to bring in a fresh perspective. Editors can often flag things you hadn’t considered, or give feedback on things you’d have a hard time spotting yourself. I’ve often worked with authors who have pointed out that they’ve been able to come up with new solutions, or fresh ideas, because the editing process sparked a different thought process and helped them get unstuck.
To learn and hone your craft
Working with an editor is a great way to learn and hone your writing craft. Practice and writing more stories is hugely beneficial as well, and there’s a lot you can learn on your own. But working with an editor can give you knowledge, advice, tools, insights, and suggestions you might not have come across before. Most editors have spent years gaining professional training and experience, and keeping up to date with the publishing world, and they’re well-equipped to help you become a better writer in many ways.
Aside from that, writing can be a solitary pursuit. Even more so if you’re self-publishing and doing things alone. Working alongside an editor, you’ll have someone in your corner who wants the best for you and your manuscript, who will encourage you to grow and improve.
To build a lasting professional relationship
If you intend to self-publish your work for many years to come, you can build a long-lasting relationship with your editor across all your projects, similar to the way you would when working with a publishing house. Your editor will become familiar with your style, even more so as time goes on. Developing a strong relationship with the right editor will give you confidence as a writer, knowing your work is in the hands of someone you trust. And that means you don’t have to hop around to different editors for every project!