Common Myths About Hiring a Freelance Book Editor

When you surf the internet looking for advice and information about hiring a freelance editor or writer, you’ll find many myths floating about. Too often, I’ve been called in to help out a would-be writer after she’s plopped down several thousand dollars for editorial or acim services, only to find herself no closer to a publishable manuscript. I get frustrated when I hear such stories of editing gone bad! That’s why I’d like to bust some myths about editors and agents I’ve come across on the web to help you avoid hiring the wrong freelance book editor.

MYTH 1: An excellent editor can help you with any type of book you’d like to publish.

REALITY: Editors specialize. They can’t be an expert on everything, and an editor with integrity will tell you flat out that she isn’t the right person to help you with your book. She may be able to recommend a trusted colleague, but not always, because she may not know editors who work in your genre. Ask a lot of questions and do your homework before you commit to hire a freelance book editor.

MYTH 2: Editors at book publishing houses don’t edit these days.

REALITY: Traditional book publishers who pick and choose which books they’ll publish and pay you for the privilege of publishing your book do include editing as part of their publishing process. If a “book publisher” doesn’t edit your book for free prior to publication, you’re working with a vanity press, not at “book publisher.” A vanity press essentially prints your book for you and offers adjunct services, some for free, others for a fee, and the quality may not be good. Do your research and know whether you are working with a publisher or a vanity press. That said, book publishers are looking for manuscripts that only require light editing, not a major overhaul
. You or your agent may decide to hire a freelance editor, book doctor, or writer to get your manuscript in shape for submission to an editor.

MYTH 3: A freelance editor who helps you prepare your book proposal to sell to a traditional book publisher does not need to know the marketplace.

REALITY: If you’re saying to yourself, “I want a book deal!” you need someone who is knowledgeable about what publishers are looking for and keeps up on the latest trends, even what books are “in the pipeline” (not yet published but under contract). Work with a savvy professional freelance book editor and you’ll maximize your ability to get your book published.

MYTH 4: All editors do the same type of work.

REALITY: There are several types of editors. Some editors are in-house acquisitions editors at book publishing houses and they may not do the actual line editing or structural editing of your book. Their job may be simply to find book projects they think are viable in the marketplace and, often, to oversee their publication (sometimes this job is handled by others in the house). Freelance editors are often developmental editors who restructure manuscripts, clean up marginal writing to make it less awkward, and add in transitions and headers (this is often called heavy line editing or book doctoring). They will also fix grammar, and, sometimes, offer writing advice so that you can do this work yourself. Freelance editors can also be light line editors or copyeditors who do little work with the structure of the book and mostly fix grammar, styling (such as when to hyphenate words) and mechanics (spelling and punctuation). A fantastic copyeditor (or light line editor) doesn’t necessarily do developmental editing. A developmental editor doesn’t necessarily copyedi A fantastic copyeditor (or light line editor) doesn’t necessarily do developmental editing. A developmental editor doesn’t necessarily copyedit. When you hire an “editor,” be clear on what type of “editing” you are seeking.

MYTH 5: A great editor can proofread, copyedit, and do heavy structural and line editing at the same time.

REALITY: It’s a waste of time to bother proofreading or copyediting a book that needs major structural changes and extensive line editing until that work is done. An excellent editor cannot keep her head on the big picture while devoting attention to typos and grammar glitches. The final polish is just that. There’s no point in fussing about typos in a section that may be edited out or totally rewritten.

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