DO YOU NEED AN EDITOR?
proud of your finished novel. You’ve objectively compared the quality of
your writing to that of several best-selling authors and are convinced that
it’s equal to, or even better than, some. Your beta readers have given you
glowing reviews, and your critique group is solidly behind you. Your
confidence is high.
submit your novel to a few literary agents and, shockingly, your manuscript
is rejected with only vague comments like “This isn’t quite what we’re
looking for” or “This is close, but not there yet.” Unfortunately, this
experience is quite common.
topic of discussion in “The Five Biggest Mistakes of Novelists Seeking
Commercial Publication” is assuming
that good writing alone is the key to commercial publisher acceptance.
If your manuscript reflects excellent writing skills, what else could
publishers possibly want?
writing alone can be ineffective. As Stephen King himself once said,
“Book-buyers aren’t attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a
novel; book-buyers want a good story . . .”
readers and critique group are blind to the wishes of commercial publishers.
They don’t know any more about it than you do. Yes, they can likely
recognize good writing, but that’s about all, and again, good writing alone
won’t get you published. You’ll need a professional editor with commercial
publishing experience to tell you what your manuscript may be lacking.
BETWEEN THE LINES
Effectively executed fiction must be focused, relevant, and meaningful to
the reader. It should function much like a chef’s recipe—it must contain the
right ingredients, of the right measure, mixed at the appropriate time.
recipe can flop; so can a beautifully written novel. The key ingredients of
a first novel are an interesting character with an interesting problem, and
publishers want both to be presented in certain ways. A well written novel
must also be well crafted.
effective novel must be directed, like a movie. An author needs to know how
to focus the story, determine which scenes should be cut and which should be
expanded, which character should dominate the story, and perhaps even if any
characters should be minimized or eliminated.
author, you’re an entertainer. You don’t perform on a screen or a stage; you
perform on pages. You won’t impress readers with the quality of your writing
alone. Effective execution of story progression and proper pacing is a must.
BEST TO IMPROVE YOUR CRAFT
were pursuing any other profession, you would likely attend college to
master the concepts. Approach a manuscript edit as an educational
experience. Consider the cost of an edit as tuition. Study your editorial
results for assurance that you won’t make the same mistakes again.
don’t plan to perform a thorough rewrite following an edit, however, don’t
waste your money on one. Making changes to your manuscript from the markings
of an edit alone won’t get you very far. Issues such as viewpoint
violations, plot inconsistencies, faulty motivation, or too many characters
are not quickly and easily resolved, as are many other potential major
focus following an edit should be
rewriting your manuscript, not just making corrections.
A STRONG FIRST IMPRESSION
editors are in high demand and can be selective in terms of whom they choose
to work with. If you’re serious about your future as a writer, you’ll want
to maximize the value of your editorial experience by finding the most
qualified editor. If this editor has a backlog of work, it’s worth the wait.
an element of professionalism when you approach an editor. Never present a
manuscript that has not been rewritten, thoroughly proofread, and
SpellChecked. Make your work the very best that it can be before allowing
anyone else to see it, especially anyone connected with the publishing
start your online search for editors, you’ll be swamped with possibilities.
How do you separate the good from the bad and find the best editor for you?
important criteria in your search for editorial services is the level of
commercial publishing experience of the editors you’re considering. Only
those with extensive commercial editing experience can see your work as
literary agents and publishers will.
how impressive a potential editor’s resume might seem, if commercial editing
experience is missing, go elsewhere.
qualified editors you’ll find various approaches to editing. Some may make
minor modifications to your manuscript while others point out issues for you
to address on your own to teach you how to become self-reliant as an author.
Which do you need?
merit. If you view your writing interest as temporary and feel that you have
only one book in you, hire an editor who is more hands-on and will do some
of the work for you.
view your interest long-term and hope to build a career as a writer, you
need an editor whose approach will teach you how to meet the needs of
A PROFESSIONAL EDIT ASSURE A WRITER’S SUCCESS?
not. At least two major factors lie beyond the editor’s control—the quality
of your rewrite and the marketplace. Your editor will tell you what your
manuscript needs, then it’s up to you to effectively make changes. Also, the
market is unpredictable. A perfectly written manuscript could still be
beyond the needs of major commercial publishers. Times are constantly
changing, as do the interests of readers.
TO AVOID IN A POTENTIAL EDITOR
FALSE / MISLEADING CREDENTIALS – You’re paying for an editor’s level of
expertise attained through actual commercial experience. Verify his/her
credentials. Unfortunately, some people are known to fabricate their
MISREPRESENTATION -- Watch out for editors who attract business
based upon their own impressive credentials, but then sub-contract the edit
to far less qualified individuals. Ask a potential editor if he/she actually
performs the work.
SPECIFIC REFERRALS --
If anyone seems to be steering you heavily toward a particular editor,
he/she may be receiving referral fees, and steering you toward the editor in
question may benefit him/her more than you.
It's safer to find your
UNIVERSAL QUALIFICATIONS --
No one is qualified to professionally edit
everything. An honest editor should be willing to admit
when something lies beyond his/her level of expertise.
SAMPLE EDITS – Many well-meaning websites and publications
suggest that you get a sample edit prior to hiring an editor. I
wholeheartedly disagree. To find out why sample edits can be misleading, see
the Frequently Asked Questions on my website,
time and make the right choice of editors. It could likely be the most
important decision of your writing career.
Help and Advice For Unpublished Writers
The Five Biggest Mistakes of Those Who Self-Publish
The Five Biggest Mistakes of Novelists Seeking Commercial Publication
Basic Manuscript Standards
Manuscript Format Specifications