Hiring an editor, good idea or not?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by darkpowers, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. darkpowers

    darkpowers New Member

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    I'm currently doing the rounds of agents with my co-written manuscript, and have just had another rejection which offered no more feedback than a short sharp "no thanks."

    I'm not in any way complaining about this. I completely understand and accept that agents don't have the time to give detailed critiques to non clients.

    Before I submit it to another agent, I'm considering hiring an editor to go through the manuscript and give my co-author and myself some constructive advice and feedback as to why it might not be working at the moment. We’ve been over it many times, re-drafting, editing, sharpening up, etc, but there comes a time when it needs a fresh and impartial pair of eyes.

    What's the form on us doing this? Is it acceptable or would another agent not be happy to look at a manuscript which has been edited by an industry professional?
  2. HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    Have you tried finding a critique group?

    There's no need to tell an agent you've had it edited, btw - they're only interested in its current state, not how it got there.
  3. darkpowers

    darkpowers New Member

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    Thanks. I'll give that a try.

    I've found a thread on the subject on another writing forum and the overwhelming view was "don't do it."
  4. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    There's certainly nothing wrong with using the services of an editor, and I can think of no reason why any agent or publisher would be worried about it (but it isn't the kind of thing to volunteer, simply because it isn't important). But I'd agree with HareBrain, look for feedback elsewhere first of all -- it's cheaper for one thing! Have you put anything up on the critique forum here? See what reaction you get to a small piece and that might point up whether there are any specific areas you need to address in the first instance.

    J
  5. darkpowers

    darkpowers New Member

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    edit: accidental double post.
  6. SJAB

    SJAB Active Member

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    Did the agent give you any suggestions with regards to editing the manuscript?

    Have you and your co-author attempted to edit the manuscript in line with the suggestions?

    I, personally would do that, and try to join a good critique group or get a beta reader, or two, williing to read and make suggestions, before paying an editor, because a good one will not come cheap.

    If an agent took time to comment there must have been something in the story or the writing that held their attention. They rarely do that.
  7. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I, too, would suggest trying a good critique group first. I always think it is better to learn how to fix these things yourself, which is something you can learn from a group but much more rarely from a freelance editor.

    Besides, a freelance editor may be great on story structure and characterization without knowing what editors at publishing houses are actually looking for at any given point in time (this is what agents are for, as you probably already know), and so be unable to help you on that most important point.

    You may or may not be able to learn this from a group -- depending on who is in the group and how much they know about the industry -- but you might at least be able to discover whether your writing is at fault, the story is just downright unappealing, or there isn't anything objectively wrong with the writing but it just isn't ringing a bell for any of the right people. If the first, then you have some work to do, if the second, an editor might not be able to help you, and if the third, you don't need an editor anyway.

    Only after you've tried a few groups and not gotten the sort of feedback you feel you need would I recommend hiring an editor.
  8. Ian Whates

    Ian Whates Author and Editor

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    Darkpowers, I'm going to join the chorus that's recommending a critique group. Joining such helped my writing enormously.

    If you can't find one locally which you can physically get to, the BSFA organise groups -- the Orbiters -- which are entirely internet based, linking writers and would-be writers across the UK. Currently some seven groups with about half a dozen members in each, covering everything from short fiction to novel writing. In addition to myself, past 'graduates' include the likes of Colin Greenland and Neal Asher.

    Let me know if you'd like more details.
  9. Brian Turner

    Brian Turner Brian G. Turner Staff Member

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    John Jarrold is an agent on the forums, and he also offers editing services - I always figured it would be a good investment to hire him to work on the manuscript before submission.
  10. HareBrain

    HareBrain Lagomorphing Staff Member

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    Not sure if I've interpreted you correctly, Brian, but if you mean "before submission to him as an agent" then I wouldn't agree. It seems to make sense, but he once told me that the number of agency clients he takes on through this route (being edited by him first) is tiny. Something like one person in ten years.

    That's not to say his editing services aren't excellent; they are. But, again, if you're lucky enough to find the right critique group, you could get much the same quality of feedback. Definitely worth trying this route first.


    Darkpowers, what was the reason given for "don't do it" on the other forum?
  11. Teresa Edgerton

    Teresa Edgerton Goblin Princess Staff Member

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    I have been trying to think of even one published writer I know personally who was picked up by a large publishing house after going through the editing process with a free-lance editor ... and I am coming up blank. Of course, it may be that I do know someone and they just haven't admitted it. And since the published writers I personally know are numbered in the dozens rather than the hundreds, this is purely anecdotal evidence.
  12. darkpowers

    darkpowers New Member

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    The question seemed to provoke a strong and negative reaction from some over there. But since then, the discussion over there has got a bit more balanced.

    My co-author and myself have already done and continue to do a lot of editing on the book, which is a learning curve all of its own.

    However, there's come a point when you feel you've been looking and working on something for so long, you stop seeing it and perhaps get too close to it to see it objectively.

    We are thinking about hiring an editor purely so the manuscript will have some fresh eyes looking at, and because agents are understandably too busy to give constructive feedback.

    Since I posted my question, my co-author and myself have talked about self-publishing, but want to do it in a professional way.

    Thanks again to all here for the advice.
  13. J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    No regrets about using Mr Jarrold's services. IMHO it really helped my writing and injected a lot of sense into how I go about things. Worth every penny.
  14. Tirellan

    Tirellan New Member

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    The other forum referred to is predominantly US-based and 'script doctors' have a poor reputation over there.
    I would add my voice to those urging you to find a crit group before spending money on an editor. Exhaust all the free options before spending the money.
  15. Tirellan

    Tirellan New Member

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    I used Mr Jarrold's services for a manuscript that had already been through an excellent crit group and his feedback was a quantum level better.
    Note: Mr J will not represent a manuscript that he has done a paid edit on.
  16. Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    Really? Why not?

    Before discovering the chrons, (and I was sitting in a writer's group that was terrified of critiquing), I did pay for a 'professional' editor to look at my book. The encouragement I got helped me enormously, and he did not pull any punches. But although it ran to seven pages, it was quite general in too many sections, giving examples of 'how-to' write that were drawn from books that I could have bought myself. It did advance my writing without doubt, but I honestly think I have had more direction from the Chrons. And latterly, without a shadow of a doubt, from a group that solely does critique, suggest, encourage, nay demand at times. That continues, and I add to others who have suggested joining one - the trick is finding a good one. Start your own, if you can't find one in your area?
  17. Tirellan

    Tirellan New Member

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    Because it would be a conflict of interest.
    It could be made to look like 'if you pay me to edit this, then I'll represent it afterwards" which means the writer is paying the agent.
    You can understand how he would not want any such appearance
  18. Boneman

    Boneman Active Member

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    Aah... yeah. Good point.
  19. Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    I think that becoming a good writer is all about learning your craft. So if you use a "Pay for," editor and it helps. That can only be good.

    I personally have had JJ edit my work 3 times and each time I'd improved from the last edit. I didnt think, 'Oh this will be so good, he'll sign me up straight away.'

    It's just a learning curve for me and it's been worth every penny.

    I am currently re-drafting and will approach JJ next year for another round of criticism.:)
  20. Window Bar

    Window Bar "We Read for Light"

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    Let's talk money. Finding a proven editor for under about $50 per hour will be quite difficult. My wife hired a seasoned, proven editor for her first three chapters, and it ran over $600.

    You might get lucky with one of the scads of "editorial services" types that list on Craigslist and other ad forums ... but they're likely to be no better you.
    It's a dilemma. Do you have any close friends who are professionals?

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