You’ve revised and polished your manuscript, which your critique group has been helping you tweak, and perhaps you’ve even received feedback from a beta reader. You could now run it through the publishing gauntlet, or in view of the stiff competition in the industry, you could take one more step in refining your story. You might consider hiring a freelance editor to give your manuscript a review by one set of professional eyes.
One difference between an editor at a publishing house and a free lance editor is position. When your manuscript is chosen for publication, the in-house editor has thoughtfully selected it from among the many in his/her pile, therefore that editor already loves the concept and is invested in what you have written. In the case of a freelance editor, the editor doesn’t have to like the manuscript in order to work on it and it may not be one of many that person is working on simultaneously. This means full attention, for better or worse, on your manuscript.
An editor at a publishing house is paid by the publisher – he or she is on salary – so his or her loyalty is to the company as much as it is to you. The free lancer is being paid by you and the responsibility in that situation is for him or her to make you feel that you are getting your money’s worth. That can lead to an intense level of scrutiny resulting in major changes. Perhaps that is what the manuscript needs, which is a good thing, however you should guard against the freelancer becoming so close to the manuscript that the suggested changes may seem like he or she wants to make the story his or her own.
Brian Klems of Writers Digest has posted an article containing a list of advice nuggets for you if you intend to hire a freelance editor. His admonition to be brave about the editorial suggestions you will get is especially valuable since taking in-depth criticism is sometimes difficult, yet you will want to get the most out of the money you are spending. The whole point is to upgrade and polish your story, right? And working with a free-lance editor is great practice for when your story is picked up by a publishing company. You might think that since the manuscript has already been screened by one editor, that there won’t be many more changes requested. Perhaps this is true, or not.
What is the best way to find a free lance editor, you ask? Professional groups or referrals among your writing peers can suggest editors. I have hired two editors who made sense for my work. One, Jen Malone, is a writer friend with a fantastic track record of her own books and who does editing on the side. She contributes insanely informative articles to WritersRumpus also.
My other hire was an editor who had worked on one of my Macmillan books a while back. When she left the company, she shifted to free lance and gave in depth comments on a contemporary novel of mine. She shall remain nameless because she got so wrapped up in the story that her intense suggestions, if I followed all of them, would have made the story hers, not my vision. I learned many things from her and adopted some of her suggestions, including changing the title since she knew of a film by the same name.
You also should look for someone who specializes in the kind of book your have written, if possible, so that the feedback you receive will be well targeted. For instance, Jen Malone writes zany contemporary MG and YA, so sending her a work of non-fiction would get you structural suggestions, but this might not be the best match-up regarding style and other considerations. You need to stay true to your voice and vision and you want your editor to be on the same track.
Author Stacy Ennis, the author of an article titled 5 Ways to Find the Right Freelance Editor, suggests heading to the Editorial Freelancers Association website to do your homework. She also perceptively suggests that you work on a chapter with the editor as a test run first.
How much will this service cost? That depends on who you choose, what level of editing you’d like, and what length manuscript you will submit. The rates vary. Look for a section on the site you select that breaks down the costs, how long the service will take, and other details that you will want to be clear on up front. Take time to be sure you understand the parameters and think about how best to use the input you receive so that you will get the best value for your money.
So, choose wisely and then sit back and await the suggestions and advice your personal editor will offer. Surely your professionally edited book will be cleaner and more welcome when you submit to an agent or in-house editor.
If you have hired an editor, please share the results. Your recommendation could be a handy resource for one of us!