A self-confessed newbie author with his first book under his belt asked online the other day if he should spend hundreds of dollars hiring an editor or simply take his lumps when the book is published and chock it up to experience. I couldn't resist responding.
* * *
There are two unknown factors here that no one else answering your question has picked up on. Which type of publishing venture are you pursuing—conventional or self? If you're talking about a conventional publisher, you need a perfectly crafted manuscript simply to get the book in the front door for a read. Or, more likely, you need a perfectly presented package to present to a literary agent who, if you're one of a very fortunate few, will sign you on as a new client and submit the book to conventional publishers for you.
If you're talking about publishing the book yourself, on the other hand, you can crank out any garbage you want, and Kindle, Ingram, or any other POD printer you choose to go with will publish it. However, don't expect to make any sales unless you're a fantastic marketer and self-promoter, and do expect to receive some harsh, negative reviews. Readers, like most other people in life, don't like wasting their time reviewing sub-standard material, including books.
The bottom line is that, unless you're a professional editor with years of experience behind you, you absolutely need a professional editor. At least you do if you hope to attract large numbers of readers who give your book glowing reviews. Professional editing is the only way to come pretty close to creating a perfect book. Top-tier editors will also be conventionally published authors who can recognize problems in syntax, story line, character development, dialogue, and so forth and offer advice on how to correct them. In other words, hire the best. Otherwise, you may end up wasting your time and money in order to save a couple bucks.
As a ninety-book author and an experienced professional book, magazine, and newspaper editor, I charge for my services not by the hour but by the project. I believe that's fairer to the author. I provide him or her with a flat rate and a promise to make the book as good as it can possibly be by working closely with the author every step of the way. I take from four to six months to complete my work, depending upon the book's length, complexity, and the amount of damage I need to repair. My charges range upward from the low five figures, and I earn every penny of my fee.
You may be able to get a satisfactory job from a lesser editor, but don't expect it to be perfect (few editors are qualified to correct all of a book's shortcomings). For a few hundred dollars, though, you can't realistically expect that from anyone, now, can you?
If you have any additional questions about editors for your book and would like to avoid making costly mistakes in hiring, feel free to get in touch with me through the Contacts page right on this site. My advice from a half century of writing, publishing, and editing is at your disposal. Gratis, of course.
* * *
D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.