Someone asked a question that's often asked and rarelu answered correctly.It was "Should an author hire an outside editor before sending a novel off to a publisher or agent?" This was my response.
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Okay, here's the deal. Maybe yes and maybe no, but probably.
Sound like a cop out? Here's what I mean. If you're a professionally trained editor as well as an author, and you're extremely good at doing both (as in the best there is), you don't need to hire an outside editor who, in his or her attempt to earn back the thousands of dollars he's charging, would likely make things worse and not better. I've seen that happen personally, not with outside editors but with in-house editors provided by a publisher as standard pre-publication procedure. In my more than 250 books and tens of thousands of short pieces conventionally published over the last five decades, I never used an outside editor.
Heresy, you say? Hardly. I'm not only a professionally trained book, magazine, and newspaper editor but also a perfectionist. I taught both writing and editing at the college level numerous times. I help other professional editors out of a jam when they're stumped on how to fix something. I'd be crazy to hire someone to review my own book simply because I can.
On the other hand, I have rarely come across a novel—and never from a first-time author—that didn't need outside help before sending it off to a publisher or agent or even publishing it yourself. And I've edited and read thousands of other authors' manuscripts in my lifetime.
In short, if you can honestly say you're the best damned editor working today, save your money and skip the outside editor. You don't need one. If you're not the best editor around, please, by all means, hire a professional to improve your product.
Oh, and by the way, I rarely find even experienced authors' works that couldn't have used better editing, even after other editors have done their job. That to me is discouraging. On the other hand, I've never found a self-published book that didn't undergo professional editing worth the time to read. Think about that for a while. And, while you're at it ...
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new e-Book series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. His Website is at www.djherda.org. You can also check out his columns, "The Author-Ethicist" and "Fury and the Beast" at Substack. They're free; they're entertaining; they're informative, and they run weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!)