As a writer, one of the scariest moments is that first time you push send on your email or print off a draft and let someone else read your words. In a way, there is no turning back from there. Your work (that you have likely spent months or even years on) is out there to be judged and evaluated. This can feel as exposing as standing naked in front of someone and handing them a Sharpie, inviting them to circle anything that they don’t like.
If you’re working as a professional writer or want to become a published author, you likely know that there are many steps between showing your work for the first time to the final draft that makes its way into the world. But, if you’re a new author, how do you know if you’re ready to let in someone else’s opinion and notes? Here are a few tips that could help you decide if its time to bring in a professional editor and what level of service you should be looking for.
- You Know That There Are Problems But Are Not Sure How to Fix Them
Rewriting a manuscript is a huge exercise in problem solving. You not only need to find entertaining solutions to all of your characters’ problems leading to a satisfying ending, but also need to worry about things like consistency of details, timelines, balancing the flow, pacing and storylines and creating stylish even prose throughout. Once you have finished your first draft and start tweaking and changing things, it can be difficult to separate those elements that are holding your story together and those that are holding it back. You might also have one specific thing that you know is wrong but are drawing a blank with how to fix it.
Another problem that writer’s often face that editors can help with is in finding the reasons that agents and published might not be jumping on board to sign you and your work. One of the most frustrating things as an author is collecting a pile of rejection letters and not knowing what it was that turned those reading your submission off. It is an editor’s job to help you discover each of the issues within your manuscript and guide you to a solution that you are thrilled with and will improve your work, hopefully to the point that agents and acquiring editors will take notice.
2. You Are Proud of Your Work But Want to Make Sure It Is “Sellable”
Publishing is a business that sits right on the line of art and business. It asks authors to pour their heart and soul onto the page. But, it is usually only the books that are able to turn a profit that are seen as true successes. So, what is it that distinguishes merely a great piece of writing from a work that could reach monetary success? Well, there are a lot of different factors and things that go in and out of fashion.
Choosing and editor that knows a thing or two (or a whole lot) about the publishing industry could help you get your manuscript past the reading of the query letter and all the way through to an offer letter from an eager acquisitions editor or agent.
If you’re looking to make your book more marketable within the current industry, you need to know that this could mean making significant changes to your manuscript. It is about creating something that is not only entertaining but is also follows the standards and trends that those working in publishing expect and follows the expectations of your target readers.
Taking your story out of the bubble where it was written and reading it from the perspective of a consumer as well as a reader can be the key to setting your book apart from the hundreds of others sitting in an agent or edit’s inbox. The right editor will help you find that balance between your creative vision and your work as a sellable product so that you are happy and excited about the end result instead of feeling like you have given up something significant.
3. You Want to Stand Out With Publishers
Acquisition editors and literary agents get dozens of new manuscripts on their desk or in their inbox each week. They couldn’t possibly read them all from cover to cover. So, it has become the norm for them to start out by reading your query letter and either a synopsis of the story or the first three chapters.
This is your one and only chance to get them as excited about your work as you are. So, you don’t want to give them a single reason to put your manuscript down or to start drafting a heartbreaking rejection letter.
Editors can help be that first critical eye, looking at the larger story as a whole and to help you with things like style and narrative voice – the things that will set your book apart from all of the others they have waiting in their inbox.
Stylistic editing is critical to making sure that you are offering the best possible product to potential publishers. Stylistic edits should be the last that you undertake before sending your book off to acquisition editors.
When should you not seek the help of an editor? When you’re hesitant to make any changes to your manuscript, either because you believe it to be perfect or because you do not fully trust the editor. Also, keep in mind that there is a cost to hiring an editor and you usually get what you pay for. If you are on an extremely limited budget, you might not be yet able to afford an editor who will give you the level of advice you need. Sometimes it is better to wait until you can afford to hire a skilled professional.
Keep in mind that hiring an editor should be a positive and exciting experience. Approach it with an open mind and choose the right editor and you are sure to get something great out of it.