Freelance editors work with new writers (or even experienced ones) to polish their novel or non-fiction manuscript before it gets submitted to literary agents or publishers. They could charge on a fixed fee or an hourly fee basis. Like in all fields, the editing business has a few good editors who know their stuff (and can really make a difference) and a whole lot of mediocre and opportunistic ones who’d be happy to take your money.
Here are a few perspectives for you to think about before you take the decision of hiring a freelance editor for your book.
- Ask yourself why you are looking for an editor
Is it to find and fix typos & grammatical errors (if so what does it say about the quality of your writing)?
Is it to get new perspectives on your plot or find flaws in your narration?
Are you sure your original plot and your natural voice won’t be transformed beyond recognition?
What makes the editor qualified to do any of the above?
Is it just to establish a relation with someone who you think will help get your book published?
Find out specifically what the editor will do for you and then decide how much you are willing to pay for that service.
- Think about the Return on Investment
If you don’t care about the commercial aspects and it’s more about just seeing your name in print, this point isn’t relevant. But book advances in India can be ridiculously low. And even modestly priced editorial services (offered by good editors) can be quite expensive for struggling writers. So if you are looking at recouping your investment see how much this expense is going to help.
- See if there’s a conflict of interest
An independent editor edits. A literary agent sells to the publisher. A publisher publishes. Each professional team has an operating and earning model that either gives them money upfront or after sales have been made.
The confusion can start when one team starts doing too many things.
You can buy a shampoo or a conditioner separately. They are designed with different needs in mind. A hybrid product (Shampoo+Conditioner) that puts both in the same bottle is designed for an impatient consumer, but I’m not sure how effective mixing the two might be.
- Word of mouth / referral
Don’t judge your decision based on what the editors or their websites say. That information will always be biased. Instead, speak to other writers you trust or atleast those you think will give a genuine feedback. Ask them what happened during the editing process. Also, ask them what happened after the manuscript was edited and polished.
Find out if the editor is accepting anyone and everyone who knocks on the door, or if there’s a strict evaluation process to selectively work on a few good quality manuscripts where they really see the potential to get published.
An independent editor however good she is cannot do miracles for ALL genres and ALL authors. Also, there are is no guarantee that your book will be much better than the original manuscript you submitted.
But these are just my thoughts based on the limited exposure I have within a single genre (non-fiction, how-to book). The only editor I worked with was from the publishing house and he did a wonderful job. I think the BIG reason why that association was successful was because our larger interests (to see a high-quality product getting out in the market AND being successful) were aligned.
If you have other views, do share them in the comments below. Please try to provide objective and logical perspectives, so your comments don’t get deleted as spam. Sharing the right email ID and website will add to the credibility of your views.