I say “yes,” and here’s why.
Writers often tell themselves that hiring a freelance editor is a needless expense. Most editors charge between $20 and $30 per hour, and editing can take several hours. Many writers think they ought to be able to edit their own work and feel that they are undeserving of publication if they need the help of an outside editor. Writers also know that publishing houses edit–for free–the work they acquire for publication. These writers prefer the free editing an in-house editor provides over the pre-acquisition expense of a freelance editor. Still other writers argue that their friends and family read their work and give them editing help at no charge.
These arguments are valid in some cases, but most writers really can benefit from the help of a freelancer.
Self-editing is certainly a valuable skill and one that all writers should develop. However, self-editing is not always enough. Writers often describe the feeling of being “too close” to a manuscript—reading it over and over so many times that they lose their objectivity. Once a writer reaches this point, he or she can easily skim over errors that an outside reader would spot. Plot choices and content might also make sense only to the writer; an outside editor can find logical inconsistencies that the writer can no longer see. There is a limit to the efficacy of self-editing, and a good freelance editor can step in when a writer reaches this limit.
The argument that publishers provide free in-house editing fails to take into account the cutthroat nature of book publishing. An unsolicited manuscript rarely reaches the free-editing stage. For the most part, editorial assistants are the ones who read unsolicited manuscripts, and they look for every reason to reject a manuscript. Only a select few manuscripts ever reach the eyes of the acquisitions editor. Thus, a writer counting on the free editing of an acquisitions editor might never move past the gatekeeping editorial assistants. Because rejections are so likely at the gatekeeping stage, I argue that writers should present their cleanest, best-edited manuscripts when making unsolicited submissions. A freelance editor is an invaluable aid at this stage of the submission process.
Friends and family are wonderful, supportive readers, but they are not necessarily the most critical. Unless friends and family members are very familiar with the publishing industry, they can rarely make the kinds of editing suggestions that a well-informed editor will make. And of course, friends and family put their relationships with the writer before their literary comments, as they should. An objective outside editor is in the best position to make the kinds of comments most helpful to an author, because the editor and author have a strictly professional relationship.
Although a freelance editor can, at first, seem a daunting expense, a freelance editor can also be your best ally in the battle for publication.
Write to me, and let me know what you think.