Perhaps you've heard: Nowadays your manuscript has to be near perfect to land you an agent or the interest of a publishing house. If you plan to bypass all that and self-publish, then your manuscript has to be even better. For this reason, hiring a freelance editor beforehand greatly improves your chances of success.
Whether you'll be seeking an editor in the future, or have already found one you trust and like, your goal should be to get the most out of the experience.
Here are three pieces of advice from a professional editor on how to do so:
1. Hand It Over at Its Best.
The better shape your manuscript is in when you hand it over, the better shape it will be returned in. If you've done your homework on the big things—on structure and pacing, for example—your editor will be able to focus on flow, clarity, and punctuation, making your piece more polished, and thus closer to being publication-ready.
If after editing, you have major reworking to do, then your piece will probably require more professional editing. Because professional attention can be expensive, you may not want that. Handing over your best increases the likelihood of only needing one round.
Note: Some editors, like me, offer discounts on resubmissions, which is helpful.Before you submit your manuscript, read up on the craft of writing, and ideally have fellow writers (at least one) read all or part of your piece. Move, remove, add, and rewrite, based on their feedback and your best judgment.
2. Tell Your Editor Your Concerns.
Whether your editor does or doesn't ask, bring up any concerns you have with your piece.
Some writers don't do this. They assume the editor will catch everything. But while, hopefully, your editor will, there's no reason to take the chance.
When you do explain your concerns, be thorough and specific. If necessary, make a list.
Telling an editor you're worried about your characterization, for example, will alert them to take note of how you paint your characters for readers, but the more specific, the better. For example, "I'm especially worried about Lillian's character because..." will narrow the focus and make it more likely that you'll get an answer or solution. If you only have general concerns, that's okay. Just be sure to speak up.
3. Ask Your Editor to Offer Explanations for the Edits When Possible.
Editors have different styles. Some will explain just about every edit, some plenty of them, and others very few. Though you should have an idea of where your chosen editor falls (ask for a sample edit!), make it clear that you'd like as many comments and explanations as possible. This will allow you to not only make informed decisions on whether to keep the edits, but also to improve your writing.
There's no doubt in my mind that you will be at least a little better as a writer after receiving professional editing (if not exponentially so)—especially if you ask for explanations.
To get the most out of professional editing employ these three tips and keep this in mind: trust your editor, trust yourself, and be glad that you're on the track.
About the Author
Lauren I. Ruiz is the founder of Pure Text, where she offers professional but affordable proofreading and editing for authors, businesses, and creative writers. She loves helping writers and writing be better.