As a writer, it can be hard to hand over the reins of critiquing your manuscript to a stranger—whether they have the professional title as a book editor or not. However, it is very important to have a neutral, fresh pair of eyes on your written work if you plan on publishing it. You see, a book has several contributors to its success, and one of those contributors is an editor.
If you’re self-publishing and are serious about marketing your book and building a readership, you should definitely hire a book editor. Nowadays it is so easy to publish just about anything, and the bulk of that market is becoming oversaturated with unpolished and unprofessional work. The work that is edited has become very competitive. So in order to stand out in the crowd and provide great value to readers, you need an editor to help present a professional product. This is especially true if you have written a nonfiction book on a subject in which you are an expert. If your concept is marketable, an editor can make the difference between being published and well, not being published.
If you have already submitted your manuscript to literary agents or publishers, maybe you are getting some positive feedback, but the professionals aren’t biting. In that case, the main issue might just be that your manuscript needs an editor to polish it up. That’s where an editor can come into play, whether it is just a light proofing or a comprehensive
Yes, hiring a qualified book editor can be expensive, but it’s an investment in your work and in your skills as an author. The key is finding the best editor that works for you, and to ensure that they are skilled, legitimate, thorough, and a great communicator. It’s also important that your editor preserve the author’s voice, because it is your manuscript after all. On top of that, having an editor will help you learn how to self edit, which is an essential part of the writer’s craft if you are really serious about your writing career.
Next you must decide what type of editing you need. Professional, experienced editors will usually help you figure this out by reviewing a chapter or two of your manuscript. There are several types of editing important to the production process, but the best way to decipher them is to divide them into two categories.
Disclosure: It’s important to note that I am an book and magazine editor with more than 10 years experience, and am the founder and head of editorial of Midnight Publishing, LLC, which provides writing and editing services to authors and businesses)
Copyediting focuses on the mechanics of the manuscript, including such things as grammar, punctuation, spelling, consistency, tense changes, spelling, style, and much more. The copyeditor makes sure that the manuscript is polished and professional.
On the other hand, developmental editing (also known as comprehensive or substantive) delves deeply into the writing and editing process. It focuses on the meat of the book, rather than just the mechanics—however, in my developmental editing process I do also address copyediting as part of the package. Developmental editing addresses the author’s audience, ideas, concept, story structure, flow, connectivity, cited sources, and much more. This type of job requires the editor and author to have several back-and-forth discussions to clarify different parts and ideas of the manuscript.
Regardless of your situation, it’s important to hire a book editor for your manuscript, particularly if you are self-publishing. Even if a literary agent or publisher accepts your manuscript, it is still important to have our manuscript polished thoroughly. Not only will your book be the best it can be; it will also allow you to get the most out of your experience. It is a substantial learning opportunity for you to enhance your own writing and editing skills.