To use professional editing - or not?


Well-Known Member
Jul 24, 2008
When I was at that writing conference this summer, I asked the Literary Agent if she thinks a WIP should be edited prior to submission to agents. She said no, but to make sure the manuscript is as clean as possible. This is an interesting topic. I guess the question is, how do you get an agent if the book isn't edited properly. I would think if they see a glaring issue early on, that the random MS from the slush pile gets turfed, especially with the amount of submissions they get. I for one think I will spend the money, even if it's for the sake of my own sanity.
You need to learn self editing skills
I think though some of us will never be good editors and someone else proof reading is mandatory for most people.

I shall save for Editor. Or at least find an enthusiast better than editing than I. I'm a very old dog and I think some tricks I'm not going to get good at.

Maybe, "jo" you are going to get good at editing and enjoy it and make money editing!
I agree on self-editing. Might be stubbornness or being territorial, but I like doing as much of the work as I can myself.

It's also why I'd never hire a proofreader. I know I'd end up checking it myself.
The problem for many of us is simple cash flow. I would love to give Liberator to an editor, but there is simply no way I could pay for it (or even half, since it is a joint work).
While we have learned a tremendous amount on this first novel, I know there will be mistakes no matter how many times we go over it. So, it will be submitted in as good a quality finish as we can manage.
Don't tell her that -- where would that put me? :D

Never fear. I'm not nearly a good enough grammatician to ever consider editing. I'm a clean writer but not good enough. :)

The problem for many of us is simple cash flow. I would love to give Liberator to an editor, but there is simply no way I could pay for it (or even half, since it is a joint work).
While we have learned a tremendous amount on this first novel, I know there will be mistakes no matter how many times we go over it. So, it will be submitted in as good a quality finish as we can manage.

I'm sorry. I am the broke-est person I know. Really. End of the months are never pretty here. It is the one corner I would not cut before putting something out - because it always comes back in reviews and hits sales.

Also, it's really not that expensive. TDZ did a copy edit of Inish and it was very reasonable - less than I expected to pay for a cover let alone an edit. Teresa edited AH for me early, early on and, if I had sped, I would have covered the cost of that edit by now.

Sometimes we see huge rates for editors that look scary and insurmountable - but if you ask around you'll often find cheaper alternatives from word of mouth.

I use betas. Very, very good betas. Some could be editors if they wanted to be. Top class they are. They are not editors. They do not do what a copy editor does. I cannot shout it loudly enough - if you plan to sp, betas are not enough. Even if you can't afford a story editor, at least get a copy editor. It will come back to bite you if not.
I know there will be mistakes no matter how many times we go over it.
At least there is two of you (or you need more help than available here). So you can proof read each other's bits as well as the whole.
I'm SURE I'm more broke than Jo. But I'm not subbing "Under the Stone of Destiny" without a 3rd party Edit of some kind. I got one reasonable quote from someone here, so saving for it. The "Talent Universe" stuff I hope to SP, but also to have someone edit & proof the first and 2nd, and then if they are any use the 2nd will pay for the editing and the 3rd book and make profit. I'm going to give away Vol 1 in eBook and near cost on paper version.

Getting good Beta readers I'm realising isn't so easy.
I see this has been made it's own thread..sorry if i had derailed the other one with my comment, not my intention

I know a certain Zebra, who is an amazing copy-editor, and is for hire, should you be looking for a line by line copy edit, rather than a developmental edit
Removing the issue of "How deep are the pockets of no-coin-holding" I would guess ( not having an agent nor had my work edited externally) the reason why an agent wants to see your work is to assess the writing ability being presented.
From an agent's POV each novel a writer produces will need reading, reviewing, feedback. And grammar? And deep plot edits? Said agent will then question how much time can be given to this new book, and its author. Agenting is a business. Agent works for money, money that your work earns then.
so if presented with a piece of work that has been edited externally, your offering something more, your also committing to that level for every piece there after.

Or I could be wrong and my critical understanding is rose tinted;)
It's true that some editors will charge thousands of dollars, and I think that scares some people off the prospect of hiring one. As Jo says, ask around and you may be pleasantly surprised.

I have always taken the stand that you don't need an editor before you submit, because everyone should learn to edit their own work (although I do think that anyone who is self-publishing should use a copy editor). I still believe that, even though I am now doing freelance editing myself. But the kind of developmental editing I do is often as much teaching as editing, and I my hope is that in time most of the people I edit will have no use for my services at all. I can teach them what it would otherwise take them many years to learn, but they could learn it on their own.
The thing is...

If you ever get picked up (different if you self pub but not by much) you NEED to know how to edit yourself

an editor won't worry if you have minor grammatical twitches (we all have those*) or whathaveyou. ButWhen they say make it as clean as you can, that is what they mean. as clean as YOU can.

Editing services can be very useful, and informative if you get a good one

But they are not necessary, unless you feel you need one. And if you do, learn from what they tell you and learn how to do it yourself. Or you'll get your editor's letter and won't know what to do with yourself...

*I cannot get the hang of span/spun and when I should capitalise and when not and....
That's hardly a major problem if the first one succeeds in Trad publishing.
But what is the measure of success. How long is a piece of string? The deal isn't always "happy ever after" and the royalties aren't likely to be in the thousands. Swings and round-tables.
To succeed in trad publishing requires an agent. It requires many edits. Each of which will expect you to have the skills to incorporate what they need. You will not be handed a tidy mss ready for print. You will be handed one that asks you to add a scene, or condense one, or bring out a character. You will be asked to do an edit that leaves you in a mess and scratching your head until you pull it back together. And you will be expected to hand that edit back in near publishable condition. Without an editor (unless you have one on tap.)

There is no shortcut. If you want to be professional (and I don't separate Sp and trad in terms of professionalism - Inish has had as much editing as Abendau, more perhaps given the agent's input and has the same copyeditor to keep comsistency (and cos she's fab)) then you need to learn how to edit. It's painful, it's hateful. There is no out. But my editors taught me the skills I use, each differently.

Teresa - character, richness, arcs, scenes that matter, thoughtfulness.

Boneman - put away my sledgehammer, scene selection, pov selection

Molly - writing to a market, cutting the tripe, discipline in turning it in clean.

The Dusty Zebra - attention to detail, word selection, punctuation.
then you need to learn how to edit
What if you can't? Some of us are not as young as we used to be. :(
Thus it needs to be paying for the editing, then you have more time to write new material.

(I think for SP you need to publish more often than a typical trad pub. schedule, keep the readership hooked, don't let them forget you.)
Being not a spring chicken is not a reason to not learn how to edit

Like writing, you can, or cannot

If you cannot edit....

Writing is ALL about the rewriting/editing. That is where it all comes together.

If you can;t do that...

If you are writing for yourself? No probs. Or for your family. If you are writing for other people to read? YOU NEED TO EDIT

No question
What KMQ said. But, also, some editing can be done with a checklist.

Check for filter words (listen, saw, heard, felt)
Check each scene has a meaning
Check each character has an arc...

But, sorry, there are no shortcuts IF you want to be a professional writer. If you want to write for own fulfillment, then editing is less important and it's entirely up to you.

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