Written by Karin Beery

  • My sister edited it. She reads a lot, plus she’s a high school English teacher.
  • I had a retired literary agent look at it.
  • My friend reviewed it. She’s a published author.

As a former acquisitions editor, I’ve seen it all. The above are three things writers have told me when I asked if their manuscripts had been edited. They rarely said no; instead, they’d tell me what they did instead of hiring a professional.

There are many reasons for not hiring a pro:

  • Can’t afford it.
  • Unsure where to find one.
  • Don’t realize the importance of professional editing.

I think most writers fall into that last category, because I truly believe most writers would look harder and save more if they understood the importance of professional editors. So, let’s talk about why hiring a professional matters.

Imagine this: you hire a math wiz to review your tax paperwork. He can make sure your addition and subtraction are correct, but if he doesn’t know about tax breaks, new regulations, or how to file the paperwork, he’s not providing all the services you need.

The same is true for professional editors. The #1 most important reason is this: professional editors not only understand the mechanics of editing, they also understand the industry and how your manuscript might fit into it.

Let’s review some of the earlier “editors” and why their edits often fall short.

  • Readers can identify a good story, but that doesn’t mean they know why it’s good (like knowing a Porsche is a better car than a Ford but not really knowing why). They usually offer suggestions based on personal preference instead of industry standards.
  • High school English teachers are great at grading personal essays according to the MLA Handbook. They aren’t great at identifying when and where writers can break rules for the sake of characterization, author voice, flow, etc. And they don’t often know the Chicago Manual of Style (publishing’s grammar handbook), so they might add grammatical errors instead of eliminating them.
  • Literary agents look for the marketability and salability of manuscripts, but that doesn’t mean they know how to polish a rough manuscript. They’re the miners looking for hidden gems; they aren’t the gemologists who make them shine.
  • Published authors have editors who clean up their manuscripts. They rely on editors as much as unpublished authors. They might spot a few weaknesses, but they rarely see them all. After publishing several (at least a dozen) books, an author has a solid understanding of editing and what editors look for. Until then, it’s a risk.

Hiring professional editors makes a difference. Start saving. Do your research. And let your manuscript stand out in the best possible way.

Karin Beery owns Write Now Editing, where she helps authors turn good manuscripts into great books. She is also a general editor for Iron Stream Media and Brookstone Publishing Group, a PEN Institute instructor, and a regular presenter at state and national writing conferences.  When she’s not editing or teaching, she writes hopeful fiction with a healthy dose of romance.