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This is a little like asking whether writing is worth it or what is the meaning of life or sausages or cakes with those little icing flowers on them but I think it’s worth exploring anyway as a nice thought experiment on this lovely sunny afternoon…
First of all it is important to establish why you are asking an editor to lend a hand with your writing. What is their end game? What are you feeding them? Have you remembered to clear out their cage and change the straw today?
Secondly, recall that you don’t have to do this alone. A book is a production, not necessarily a hobby, and so we must treat it as such. There are lots of things people make in the world and not one of them is made without the assistance of somebody even if that somebody is a canvas stretcher or an art gallery owner or a farmer or a miniature ship painter. There’s nothing wrong with using all the tools you can to make a book so using an editor when you’ve decided to self publish is A+ okay
Thirdly really you should only be asking this question after you have done all the things that come together to make a manuscript in the first place like editing on your own time and revising, and making acquaintances you made in the tea shop read it three times while you sat and watch insisting they not miss a thing, and perhaps most importantly deciding what kind of publishing route you’re pursuing.
If you want to traditionally publish with an agent and cupcakes and bunnies then normally the publisher kind of just sends a fabulous editor your way (although the amount of editing they do will vary wildly) so there shouldn’t be a need to find a freelancer unless you super duper want to (although, honestly by the time you’re here a lot of writers, often along with agents, have edited their own MS’s into something amazing). If you’re self publishing, or publishing independently with a smaller press, yea you might need an editor. I think it’s important to read that sentence again so just go ahead, jump back and give it another go.
You might. You might need an editor. You might need candyfloss and cotton socks, and shoes with rollerskates in them too. Always remember it is a choice. I think that’s super duper important in writing professionally because although the writing world is full of unicorns and rainbows and gummy bears, it is also full of a lot of puddles of pee. And these puddles of pee are people who want your money but don’t want to help make your book fab. In order to avoid said puddles of pee refer to Writers Beware! on a regular basis & ask lots of questions before you embark upon your editorial adventure.
But! Let us assume for the moment you hire a legit editor: how do you know they’re working out? In general, a good editor will be probably exactly what you expect. The ideal editor will:
- reply to communication (either via email, IM, snapchat, long distance tin-can strings, or carrier pigeon)
- be critical, but only in the interests of making your story the best it can be (they normally offer solutions to issues and won’t command but more suggest things in the bigger picture)
- explain themselves (I would expect any normal human being, unicorn, or flying wombat to do this so hopefully they will too!)
- be what they are selling (ie able to write at a competent level when commenting via seashell, word document, or icing)
- have a good knowledge of the publishing industry (this can help sweeten your book into something everyone wants a slice of)