Thursday, July 10, 2014

Freelance editing? by Terry Burns

Here’s a question a lot of people ask:

“Following a careful look at your information, I hope to submit my work to you in the near future. I have just a bit of tidying up to do first. But I am unclear about formal editing. To hire a freelance editor is quite costly and I am a bit reluctant to take on that expense until I have some indication that my work is saleable. So my question is: Do you want formal editing before a work is presented to you, or can that come after?”

I’d have to say first and foremost that it depends on what shape the manuscript is in. Editors are looking for manuscripts that are in publishable shape so that a company’s editorial staff won’t have to do a lot of work on them. Agents are looking for ready-to-go manuscripts.

We receive hundreds of manuscripts a month, and most are good. That means a good manuscript is simply not good enough. To make the cut, a manuscript has to be exceptional. If an author submits a manuscript that needs a lot of formal editing, chances are it will be upstaged by those authors who have done the editing, or hired a professional copy editor, to make their manuscripts reach that exceptional level.

But let’s say you skip having your manuscript edited and submit it to see if it is good enough. It turns out that it isn’t. What have you lost? You may have burned a bridge to publication. Had that manuscript been properly edited, it might have crossed that bridge, but now that avenue is probably closed to you. Yes, it can be expensive to have your manuscript edited, but what is the cost of spending hours and hours writing the book, only to not get it published? Agents and editors keep logs of what has been submitted and do not like to see projects resubmitted after it has been turned down (at least without getting advance permission to resubmit).

So the short answer is, what does your manuscript need to make it truly ready, to allow it to rise to that exceptional level and stand out from all the good books being submitted? That’s a question you have to answer for yourself. Can you get a guarantee that your manuscript is saleable before you invest in it? I can’t even guarantee that the manuscripts I choose to represent are saleable. I believe they are or I wouldn’t take them on, but there just aren’t any guarantees.


Rick Barry said...

Sharing this on Facebook. I've paid experienced freelance editors to be brutal as they not only rake errors out of my paragraphs, but also point out weaknesses in the story as a whole. Paying a pro like Doc Hensley for editing can be painful, but it's extremely valuable and educational. Not until a trained, objective eye provides feedback will you learn where you need to improve. Such input rarely comes for free, and even more rarely from loved ones who fear hurting your feelings.

Audrey said...

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us once again. You've answered a question that all of us wonder about at least once during the writing process.

Terri Tiffany said...

I've learned this lesson the hard way. Now I always pay for a good edit before I submit.