How a professional editor can take your book from good to great

A good editor makes the difference between your book ending up in book stores or ending up in the trash.
Mar 3, 2020 • 6 minute read
Qasim Zulfiqar @BluLitmus
Technical Co-pilot
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A professional editor gives your book the best chance of getting published

Writing a book is an endeavor of blood, sweat and tears. It takes months of hard work and perseverance to come up with a first draft. If you've gotten to that point, you should be very proud. But you're not done.

See, your first draft is rarely ready for public consumption. In your creative fervor, it's likely you've let a few spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors slip through. But an even bigger issue can be identifying problems with the structure, tone and flow of your book. That's why every great writer needs a great editor.

Before we dig deeper into the advantages of hiring an editor, let's evaluate the difference between proofreaders and editors.

The difference between proofreaders and editors

Even though they seem to do similar things, there's a major difference between proofreaders and editors. Generally, proofreaders correct minor errors in writing including typos, syntax errors and other issues with spelling, grammar and punctuation. Editors are professionally experienced individuals who understand the quality required for publishing. Editors work on the content of the text and evaluate the linguistic choices, the structure and the tone and flow, and evaluate whether the layout and formatting of the text are suitable to be handed to an agent or publisher.

Despite the difference between the two, there are trained experts qualified in both domains. These individuals are the perfect people to opt for when working on your task because you can get your work done comprehensively without having to hire multiple people.

The importance of hiring an editor

Hiring the right editor can be truly transformative for the quality of your book. An experienced professional can evaluate your book and make all the right changes that you need to make it perfect for publishing.

Here are some of the ways hiring an editor can help you.

Grammatical correction

Look. Pobody's nerfect. There are definitely going to be a ton of grammatical errors in your initial draft. Editors are very experienced in catching these errors because they deal with them on a daily basis. Hiring an editor can be the difference between your book sounding polished and professional and sounding amateurish.

Coherence checking

Most book drafts are often compiled after piecing together individually written chapters. This writing process can often lead to feelings of disconnection and issues with coherence. For example, if a guy died on page 125, you don't want him popping back up on page 206. Unless your book is about zombies, in which case, go nuts.

The point is that professional editors ensure that your chapter transitions are seamless with all the right twists and turns. This makes your book easy to read from start to finish with a smooth flow between chapters and no glaring plot holes.

Fresh perspective

Your book is intensely personal to you. But this also clouds your judgment about how it actually reads.Hiring an external editor allows you to get a completely fresh perspective by allowing you to get a fresh pair of eyes on your content and have the impartial opinion of someone who doesn't have such a personal connection to the story. They can add insightful feedback that can be instrumental in ensuring the success of your book.

Professional touch

Publishers and agents receive A LOT of unsolicited manuscripts. It doesn't take them long to separate the good from the bad. And a manuscript that's not properly formatted and has glaring typos is going straight in the trash. Moreover, if a manuscript doesn't grab the attention of an agent or publisher in the first few pages, it'll suffer the same fate.

Putting in the extra effort to remove typos and maintain a consistent quality of text sends a message to agents and publishers. It shows you put forth the effort to present a polished manuscript. A well-polished draft at the end of the can make a huge difference in conveying a high degree of professionalism.

Now that we have a clear idea of how important it is to have a professional editor, let's move on to the important aspects to take into consideration while hiring a professional editor.

Hiring a freelance professional editor

Unless you're one of the lucky few whose first draft gets picked up by an agent or publisher who assigns an editor, you're going to need to hire a freelancer to edit your book. But that's not a disadvantage. Freelance professional editors have experience working with a wide array of authors on a variety of subject matters. And because they're not beholden to a specific agent or publisher, they don't have a set agenda in how they approach your manuscript.

A freelance editor is a great choice, but it how do you find the right one? There are so many different variables to take into consideration while hiring the right editor. Here are some of the important factors to consider.

Experience

The only thing that beats experience is more experience. And this doesn't just mean someone who's spent a long time editing manuscripts. You should also consider the types of manuscripts they've edited, any firsthand experience in the publishing industry and the sorts of authors they've worked with.

Portfolio

Taking a look at any editor’s portfolio is a great way to gauge whether they'll be the right fit for your book. You'll get a clear idea about the quality of work that the editor has done in the past. It's important to take into consideration that different types of writing require different skills in editing. If an editor has only worked on dry, academic histories, handing them your taut political thriller or fantasy novel might not be the best fit.

Reviews

There's no better way to evaluate the quality of any professional than its reviews. Reviews provide a comprehensive picture of the standard of service that they’ve delivered in the past. Reading through past comments will give you a great idea of what you can expect while working with the editor. Pay attention to the average rating as well as the most recent reviews, and the number of projects the editor has completed.

Budget

Affordability is definitely very important when it comes to hiring the right editor. Most authors have a limited budget while starting out. However, make sure that you don’t just choose an editor just because they're affordable. What you're looking for is a good combination of quality, experience and affordability.

How to work with a professional editor

Once you've finished your book, give it a quick edit yourself. Try to catch as many typos and grammatical errors as you can, and also look for any clunky phrasing, unnecessary details or structural problems. Get your book as clean as possible before you hand it off.

This process helps in two ways. First, it makes your editor's task that much easier and reduces the amount of time they'll need to complete your project. That keeps your costs down. Second, it gets you acclimated to making changes to your original text. Your editor is likely to come back with some pretty major revisions, and you need to be prepared for that.

That brings us to our next point. Don't hold your words too dear. An editor is there to help your book have the best chance of being published. They're there to elevate the quality of your work. Let them do their job. Try not to argue every change, even if they're somewhat major changes. And don't take any critiques personally. If your goal is to have your book enjoyed by a wide audience, trust that your editor's revisions are bringing that goal one step closer to reality.

Final words

Just writing a book is an incredible achievement. It's something most would-be novelists will never pull off. But once it's written, you don't want your book to be relegated to your desk drawer for the rest of your life. You want it to be shared, appreciated and hopefully generate some compensation for you. A professional editor exponentially increases the chances of that happening.

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