Friday, September 7, 2012

Engaging a Professional Editor

Recently, I received a rejection from a literary agent, my first of what I'm sure will become a long list. As soon as I read what she had to say, a switch inside me turned off, as though my snubbed anticipation had doused the fire consuming me for the last three years as I wrote the book. I wondered what I should do next. Should I improve the manuscript or just send it out again?

I had already paid an editor for suggestions, and I asked a few readers to give me their valuable opinions about the book. Did I want to pay more to make the manuscript marketable or was the agent’s opinion just that: one opinion?

I searched the Internet for answers and found an editor who guarantees he’ll suggest a major rewrite. He claims he knows what agents and editors want since he’s been in the business for 25 years. He has an impressive list of clients, and he sounds interested in my plot. A rewrite doesn’t scare me; I want to make this the best story I can. But what if he returns my manuscript with the sad news it’s terrible?

My fellow writers remind me nothing is beyond hope, still, will trusting his opinion help me come closer to my goal? I hope so, considering it will take two of my paychecks to compensate him for his expertise. I hope I can correct the problems of plot, characterization, pacing, and tone he suggests. Most of all, I hope he isn’t one of the vultures waiting with mouth agape to devour my gullibility.
What can a writer do to ensure they have hired the right editor?
  • Beware of incompetent editors. They brag about how good they are, yet have no reviews to back them up. 
  • Avoid editors with only an academic background and limited  industry experience.
  • Determine the editors philosophy, client list, resume, project list, etc. In other words, find out everything you can about the particular editor you want to hire before signing a contract.
  • Request a sample edit from the editors you like.
  • Shun those editors that tell you how wonderful your work is. A good editor will give you ways to improve your writing.
I'm all for hiring a professional editor. I want to make my work the best it can be before I send it out again. If I understand his corrections and follow his advise, my manuscript should have a better chance as I attempt the publishing game further on down the road.


Suzanne Furness said...

This is something I've been thinking about a lot too recently. I have used an editor once before and found it a very useful (although not cheap!) exercise. It really kick started me to make changes to my ms and improve it. Now I thinking should I get them to look at the revised ms before I go any further? Can I afford to, can I afford NOT TO? Let us know how you get on, Peggy.

Peggy Shumway said...

Thanks for commenting. I'll let you know if he is helpful.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't pay for an editor just yet, Peggy. Wait to see if you get more requests from agents and then gauge their feedback. If they are all saying the same thing, then you have something to work on. A paid editor's feedback is going to be as subjective as an agent's.

You need to cast that query net wide and far. And I am talking hundreds of queries. I blogged about my rejection/success rate before I got an agent here:

124 rejections before the offers!! Don't make a rash call on one rejection.

Peggy Shumway said...

Thanks for the pep talk, Donna. I loved your post also. It has given me another perspective to ponder.

Bonnee Crawford said...

A professional editor is always a good thing to consider I'd imagine. So I say absolutely go for it, but definitely be cautious of who you hire and their reputation. Can't imagine getting into the bandwagon with the wrong person is going to get you anywhere pleasant. Best of luck to you!