It’s clear why writers should use an editor if they’re planning to self-publish a book. If they don’t have their manuscripts edited, their work will be published as is—typos and all. Writers who plan to self-publish can either hire an independent editor, purchase the editing services of the publisher, or put their trust in friends, colleagues, or members of their writing group to review their work.
But writers who plan on publishing in the traditional way often wonder why they should consider the services of an independent editor. After all, don’t publishing houses provide
The answer is yes, but things have changed over the last few years. Ten years ago, if a publisher saw a promising manuscript, they would invest in the potential of the project. The author would then benefit from hours and hours of valuable editing support and feedback from the publisher’s own editorial division until the book was polished to a high gloss.
Today, if a publisher receives a manuscript that has a certain marketability, despite flaws in plot or character, for example, it’s possible the book will go straight to print, with minimal editorial
intervention. If they receive a manuscript that shows promise but will require some work to make it marketable, chances are they’ll simply reject it. Many publishers don’t have the resources to support a huge editorial staff nor the time to invest in a project that might eventually pay off. For many of these publishers, it’s become a matter of staying afloat rather than building up an author’s success.
Note that this is a broad generalization. Most traditional publishing houses go through a multi-step editing process—from content editing to copyediting to a couple of proofreading passes—and put their authors through rigorous rewrites. These authors are rarely disappointed with the end result.
But the folks who have been disappointed in the minimal efforts of other publishers often turn to independent editors for their next projects. They look for objective professionals who can spot problems with dialogue, character, plot, point of view, scene, and sophistication. Whether they want a line-by-line edit or a more comprehensive critique, they’re looking for a fresh eye and an unbiased opinion. They’re looking for someone to fix the mechanical errors and spot the big-picture problems, things they may overlook as they’re too close to the work themselves.
The more successful authors have learned self-editing techniques and are able to review their final drafts with a fairly objective eye and a detailed checklist. This is a skill all serious writers should master, but not everyone has the time or the resources to develop it before their book goes to print. And that’s where independent editors come in. Unfortunately, it’s up to you, the writer, to determine whether an editor has the technical know-how, the experience, the sensitivity, and the compatibility to improve a manuscript. Don’t despair though. The right editor is out there for you. And your book will be all the better for their expertise.