March 6, 2017

Is It Really Worth the Money for a Professional Editor?

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Is it really worth it to hire a professional editor? Variations of this question regularly circulate throughout the writing community. I understand the impulse to question the cost, and the temptation to say, “I’ll just edit it myself,” or, “I’ll just show it to my writing group and get their feedback,” or perhaps, “I’ll find an editor who charges half the price.” Here’s the thing, though:

You get what you pay for
Someone charging $100 for a complete developmental edit isn’t doing you a favor by charging a fraction of the price that other editors would—they’re actually swindling you. The same thing goes for someone you haven’t worked with before who promises to turn around your manuscript in a day or two. That might sound great, but if they’re rushing through it, they’re not giving it the attention it deserves; and if they’re willing to work for almost nothing, they’re either inexperienced (and desperate to get some experience) or unqualified (and desperate to get business any way they can). As with so many things in life, if an editor’s rate sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t cut corners on something this important.

But be smart and do your research
There are industry standards for editing, and if you think you’re being charged an exorbitant amount, you might be right. The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) has rate guidelines publicly available on their site, for example. These are intended to be rough guidelines, but if someone is charging you $100/hour for copyediting, a quick glance at the EFA’s site will tell you that that price is way too high.

I know it can be frustrating to be told not to underpay and not to overpay. And at the end of the day, money doesn’t grow on trees and you need to pay rent. We’ve all been there. But this book is important to you, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be considering this investment at all.

Here’s the big thing I can’t stress enough:

Self-editing is never a substitute for a professional editor
Even professional editors hire editors. It doesn’t matter how great you are at editing, there are things you just won’t catch in your own work. Think of an editor like a manuscript doctor. Even though you’re perfectly capable of diagnosing routine things like colds throughout the year, you still go to the doctor for an annual checkup, or if something unusual crops up. You might be generally healthy, but you still want to see an expert to ensure that you haven’t missed anything—like what if that no-big-deal recurring headache is something much more serious? Even if you were a doctor too, you might not recognize your headaches as a sign of something more. You need that outsider’s perspective to catch things you’ve overlooked.

Still not convinced? Maybe you’re wondering what a professional editor might catch that your beta readers wouldn’t.

Any reputable editor will do a sample edit for free
In many cases, this free sample will only be an edit of a handful of pages, but often that glimpse will be all you need. Don’t hesitate to ask for a sample edit from any editor you’re considering. Nobody’s going to judge you for asking, and if they refuse, you might not want to work with them anyway.

Is something else stopping you from hiring a professional editor for your manuscript? Let us know in the comments, and we'll address your concerns.

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