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To Hire an Editor or Not…That is the Question

Indie Authors face a challenge when it comes to getting their work out there: do they hire an editor? Many independent authors see the price tag of hiring an editor and back off: is it worth it? After all, as a writer, shouldn’t you already be familiar with sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation? 

Each indie author approaches how to edit their book differently. Some will go and hire an editor. Others will work on their own. Some might do something in between (hiring for proofreading only, or using a friend/relative). Everyone will have a different opinion on this, and that is why I reached out to multiple people in the community to find out their thoughts. 

First…My Opinion 

Personally, I believe if you have the means to hire an editor, do so! There are many editors with fair prices out there, while also providing writers with the tools they need to succeed. On all counts, I have a relatively firm grasp of the English language, but there are obscure rules that completely pass over my head. In fact, I even tried to take a single credit grammar class in college, and some of the rules were so strange I barely pulled off a “C” in the class. (Granted, I will admit, it was just a single credit so I could get my loan money for the semester, so I didn’t take it too seriously.)

But that being said, I searched for an editor because I knew my ability to completely polish my prose was limited. I really wanted to see it shine. In addition, I have the means to hire an editor and found an amazing editor within my price range. Charlie Knight helped me clean my prose and make the story pop, and without their help, I don’t think I would have ended up with the story I have today. As an editor, Charlie not only cleaned my prose, but helped me find plot holes and strange spots that even my beta readers missed. 

That, I think, is one of the many important things to take into account: editors don’t just find your spelling errors…they also help you develop the story into something, well, awesome. When you hire an editor with the proper training, they will really help make your writing shine! 

How do you find an editor?

Research! There are so many editors out there, and only YOU will know who is best for your story.

But, heed the following warning from Editor Charlie Knight…for there is fraudulent activity out there, and sometimes the amount you pay for an editor won’t be worth.

Per Charlie:

Indie publishing is, unfortunately, very open to the scam of people who have written books or beta’d for friends calling themselves editors. I regularly get new clients who were already screwed by one of these people. Best advice for avoiding them: Get samples. You’ll know if the editor can do their job and if you click.

This isn’t to say that your writer friends can’t help you edit…but be wary. Years of training and education goes into becoming an editor. Just because someone has a good understanding of grammar or story structure doesn’t mean they really understand how to be an effective editor. 

What if I can’t hire an editor? 

If you do not have the means to hire an editor, do not let this stop you from publishing. There are tools and courses out there that can help your writing pop! Here are just a few of them that I know of off the top of my head. If you know any more, please comment below!

  • ProWritingAid – I will say, I use this one before sending my book to beta readers! It helps clean up repetitiveness, grammatical errors, and passive voice. There is a free web-based version that lets you operate with 500-words at a time, or a subscription based attachment you can download to MS Word or Google Docs. 
  • Grammarly – We see this one everywhere! It’s a web attachment that you can use as a basic spell check, or you can use its priced services to help with editing.
  • Hemingway Editor – I don’t know too much about this one, but I know it helps identify a grade level for your writing and find overly complex sentence. 

There are also tons of resources to learn more about editing…just remember to heed each with caution!

While I still don’t think different software programs or self-training can replace someone who is trained, if you cannot hire an editor, these are the next best thing! But, I do believe that if you can find at least ONE person to read your work before you publish, even if it’s your friend or relative, then do so. They’ll catch things you don’t see. When you edit, after all, you are far too deep into the weeds to notice every little error. 

In fact, don’t just take it from me!  My editor, Charlie Knight, has very similar thoughts!

If you’re going to self-edit, my biggest pieces of advice would be to take recommendations from software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid with a grain of salt (they can’t read for voice), read your drafts out loud, and use beta readers.

Other authors have had their only thoughts regarding self-editing. Most of the time it has to do with costs. A few authors on instagram have voiced how the price-tag for an editor is too high for them at the moment. 

Author Kaitlyn Legaspi told me that, as a college student, it is hard to afford an editor. So she works with her boyfriend to read through her books and make it shine! 

But, there are other reasons too why authors don’t always hire an editor.  

Author SG Bacon doesn’t hire an editor directly, because she has a group of close companions who are effective editors. Her process is:

I do the first round of editing myself, just to make sure I’ve fixed any mistakes that stood out to me. Then, the next round is done with my mom and brother. I know having people close to you edit is something some people advise against, but it all depends, I think. I know that both my mom and brother won’t hold back on their opinions, so I will still get a good result. My final round of editing is with a family friend who is absolutely fantastic at catching little mistakes and picking up on things that might not make sense to the readers.

Author Céline Gelpe has a more methodical approach, once again working with people close to her while tackling her books. 

I did six rounds of editing (developmental, line, copy, proofreading), then I had a uncle who is a poet to do a final proofreading. I did the developmental and line editing after long discussions with beta readers. Talking with my beta-readers was great. I really enjoyed their feedback and I think that overall, my story benefited from their inputs. I had to justify things my characters would do and discovered them in the process. One also took the “job” of a sensitivity reader and made me realize my own bias and my own limits.

But Céline Gelpe has a word to the wise regarding using friends:

My beta-readers were my friends and did this as a favor to me, […] but I had to check regularly to see how they were doing on their reading. I had to actively seek them out for them to give the feedback. It’s not a nice feeling when, once a month, I have to write to them to know how far they are. It takes a toll on my well-being, and makes me feel a bit like a stalker. All of them took more time than they had initially thought. It’s okay, not everybody is a reader but instead of publishing my story 6 months after the final draft was done, it took a whole year.”

As I am sure you can see, there are so many different approaches to editing. While some ways may be better than others, if you want to get your story out there, find a way! Just find the method that best works for you.

2 thoughts on “To Hire an Editor or Not…That is the Question”

  1. Great blog post!

    As both a published author and a professional proofreader, I agree with many of the points presented.

    Regarding the price tag, however, one really shouldn’t publish without a budget plan in place knowing the cost of editors, as I was unfortunate to learn on my own. Work it into your launch plan! Set aside a certain amount per week/month to reach that goal!

    Regarding using friends and family as editors, this is a great and economical way of going about it…to a point. I personally use a mixture of friends, family, alpha readers, and beta readers for my developmental editing, but hire a line editor to make my robotic sentences flow. When it comes to proofreading, even as a professional proofreader, I cannot (and should not) proofread my own work. I am too close to it, and my brain is biased, anticipating what I meant instead of what is there. Even after having Word read it to me, I still miss things. And AutoCrit and ProWritingAid miss things (or it suggests to fix a rule and if you don’t understand said rule and accept the change, you create a new mistake). And friends and family might not know the proper grammar rules. Thankfully my mum proofreads, so I send it to her in the end. You need to play to your strengths and weaknesses—and also the strengths and weaknesses of the friends, family, and readers willing to help you—to figure out whether or not you need a certain type of editor. And from there you can work it into your budget plan.

    Like

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