Tips from a Writing Pro

Should you hire an editor for your book?

Jonathan Baldie

Jonathan Baldie

Jan 23, 2020 — 3 mins read
Photo by <a href="" target="_blank">Andrew Neel</a> on <a href="" target="_blank">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The choice of whether to hire an editor for your book project can be a daunting one. For many of us, this might be the first time we ever hire another person to do work for us, period. So I hope that this post demystifies the process a bit.

When you write a book, there is a common sequence of stages, regardless of whether you're self-publishing or going through a traditional publisher. In this post, I'm going to assume you're aiming to self-publish your work like me.

The first stage includes the idea, the rough outline, and then the structure. This is when you're formulating the book's concept, and turning it into a skeleton that gets more coherent as time goes by and you keep filling in the details.

The next stage is the drafting. This is the actual "writing" of the book itself, where you sit down and get the words into the draft. Sometimes by brute force! This can be the toughest and longest part of the process, but also the most fulfilling.

Lastly is the stage that we're interested in with this post: editing. This stage is where the pros are separated from the amateurs. That might sound a bit scary, and I don't want to sugarcoat it - it's very tough and involves painful reflection.

Regardless of whether you decide to hire an editor, I recommend every writer edit their own draft at least once before passing it to someone else for review. This will allow you to spot simple errors first, and save time for yourself and an editor.

When you have read through the draft multiple times and made sure it has the right structure and no silly mistakes, you now have a choice. Publish it right now, or get someone else's eyes on it? This choice can be a factor of time and money.

What do I mean by that? I mean that if you are on a strict, self-imposed deadline, then you might not want to spend an extra month having it looked over. But consider this: Is a lifetime of knowing it has bugs worth the short time gained?

Let me elaborate on this point a bit: It's all very well wanting to get your book out there now. But your book will be out there for a long time. Wouldn't you want to make sure it's close to perfect, even if it takes a little longer to get good feedback?

Second is the big factor of money. Not everyone can afford to hire an editor, let alone decide on a type of editor for the project. For my first two big books, I spent over £1,000 each ($1,200) for my copyeditor to review them and give feedback.

I'm happy to have spent that money, because Becca caught errors that I would have been mortified to see in print, and made helpful suggestions to improve flow. You should see any improvements to the reader's experience as priceless.

On that point, I'll explain what the different types of editor are, and how they can help you. I recommend at least hiring a copyeditor, because they will spot obvious bugs while also helping with the general narrative, pointing out any factual errors.

You can also hire a proofreader, a type of editor who will focus more on making every sentence flawless - without spelling or grammatical errors. They will spend less time on narrative, and the service is usually cheaper than a copyedit.

If you're writing a novel, then a structural edit might also be useful. This is usually done by a publishing and writing professional who can point out problems with your story's structure, characters, and plot. This can be an expensive service.

To answer the overall question of whether you should hire an editor for your book, I would say the following: If you have the money, time, and will to make your book perfect, then do it. If not, I still suggest you find a third party to check your work.

editing proofreading structural editing writing copyediting

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