Do I Really Need An Editor?

Okay, I’ll answer your question with another question: Do you really want to be taken seriously in the publishing, blogging, and/or social media community? The answer to both questions is—of course you do! Now, I have some good news and some bad news depending on your view of the creative process.

First, the bad news: Everyone and their mother is calling themselves “a writer,” and in case you missed the last ten years of the electronic publishing explosion, they’re right—in a way. Everyone does have access to post, self-publish, and/or print their own individual content. But Lord all mighty, the chasm between a novice writer and an exceptional author is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

In my many years in book publishing, agenting, and now as a full-time freelance editor, writer, and project coach, it’s been my pleasure to discover new and relevant communicators who have clearly found their purpose in this life—to write! I’ve also realize that many first-time writers while enthusiastic, usually leave out a huge piece of the literary puzzle. Besides the necessity of the multiple draft practice—in my opinion, the power is in the 15th draft—then comes the quintessential editing that is more important than many newbies realize. After spending eight years reading the slush pile in the editorial department of a mid-size publishing house—with an average of 1,200 submissions annually—my skills at recognizing a non-edited work boil down to a paragraph, and in some cases, to a single sentence. Yes, I can read one line of text and know if it has been edited or not. And, my dear friend, if there is a typo within the first sentence, you can kiss your book deal and your authority as a writer, goodbye. Your beloved manuscript has just been deleted. That speaks directly to the time constraints of the publisher or agent reading it, and of the missed opportunity due to something that you could have so easily addressed.

I’m thinking you’re ready for the good news by now, and here it is: As the creator of your work, you can hire a seasoned editor to make the final pass in order to polish your project for submission, self-publish, or post. And as an editor obsessed with detail, it’s my job to first find the strengths and weaknesses within the author’s skill set. That includes grammar, spelling, plot development, authenticity and believability, character arc, pace, continuity, story set-up/conflict/resolution, and takeaway value. I also like to identify the author’s target audience to ensure that the delivery will best serve them. In the same way, an inappropriate page count, format, and lack of organization can work against the author if they’re not familiar with industry or market standards. Agenda-driven works with disproportionate passion is another excellent way to alienate or offend an audience. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention my two personal pet peeves—pages laced with clichés and repetitive words/phrases. Ugh!

The bottom line is that once your baby has been delivered into the world, there is no getting it back. With all its freckles, faults, and frailties, it’s out there for all time. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you, a critique group, or the friendly reviews of those closest to you can prepare your material for eternity. Do the smart thing—hire a professional with a heart for your project that will do everything necessary to reflect the time, energy, and commitment you spent in bringing it to life.