Editors vs Critique groups: Why not both?

Written by Tim Pietz

Why would an author need an editor if they have a critique group? And why would an author need a critique group if they have an editor? It’s a question many authors may ask—and it’s a question editors should know how to answer.


As editors, we charge for our services (that’s the point of a job, after all). Critique groups, on the other hand, are usually free.

Advantage: Critique Group 

Knowledge and Experience

A critique group may be full of multi-published authors, but being a great writer doesn’t necessarily make someone a great editor. Sometimes, a talented writer isn’t very good at helping someone else develop their own voice. They may be boxed in to their own style and subgenre and struggle to navigate another author’s niche.

That doesn’t mean authors can’t be great editors. They can. But as editors, we specialize in these skills, and we use them far more frequently.

Advantage: Editor 


Sometimes, after a long day at work and with the kids being squirrely, a critique group member doesn’t have much time and focus for evaluating a chapter. On the other hand, editing is an editor’s job. We don’t build our careers on half-baked work.

Advantage: Editor 

Beta Reading

While editors are trained to consider how different readers may receive a book, we still have personal tastes and biases. A critique group draws from a variety of personal experiences to provide a variety of reactions to your author’s writing. A critique group isn’t exactly the same thing as a pool of beta readers, but it’s much closer to filling that niche than an editor.

Advantage: Critique Group 

Creative Vision

A variety of opinions can be beneficial, but they can also confuse the message of a book. Being pulled back and forth by a variety of creative visions can hurt the “unity of effect” of an author’s book. This is a pitfall that can be avoided, but it is an intrinsic danger of critique groups. An editor, in contrast, is more focused. We ask the tough questions to help authors prioritize, we make suggestions, and in collaboration with the author, we set the book on a specific path.

Advantage: Editor 

Pacing and Memory

Critique groups usually critique everyone’s work evenly, which means it can take months (or even years) to work through a member’s whole novel. Reading a book with long breaks between chapters causes readers to forget details and lose a sense of pacing. Editors, in contrast, read a manuscript over the course of days or weeks.

Advantage: Editor 

Learning Alongside Others

A critique group is a community walking the same path to publication, experiencing all its joys and challenges alongside the author. As editors, we can be a valuable asset, an ally, even a friend. But we can’t be a community.

Advantage: Critique Group 


A critique group is no replacement for an editor, and an editor is no replacement for a critique group. Our work may overlap in places, but we fulfill different roles.

Editors and critique groups aren’t meant to compete with each other. We’re complementary. Oftentimes a critique group can help an author through the biggest part of their self-editing process, allowing us editors to focus on more advanced concepts rather than walking through the basics.

Consider recommending organizations such as Word Weavers or ACFW, organizations that can connect Christian writers to local or online critique groups. Remember: as editors, we succeed when our authors succeed. A critique group may be just what your author needs to take their publishing career to the next level.

Tim PietzOnce upon a time, Tim Pietz thought editors were gray and joyless people who quenched their thirst with authors’ tears. Now, Tim is the managing editor of InkSword Editing and to his knowledge, he mostly drinks tap water. Tim graduated summa cum laude from Taylor University with a B.S. in Professional Writing and a B.A. in Strategic Communication, and since then, he’s had the privilege of editing for various authors and publishers, including Tyndale House. A teacher and encourager at heart, Tim enjoys collaborating with authors at every stage in their publishing journey.