Hiring an Editor
Some things you plan to do for a long time, and when you finally get around to doing them, it feels like you’re taking a huge step forward.
There are, of course, reasons why it takes so long. But there comes a time when those reasons run out. You end up doing what needs to be done, or you get sent back to square one. Eventually, the risk becomes worth the price.
All of this is just my way of saying that I did something big this week.
Previously, on Mr. Horne’s Book of Secrets…
Long time followers of this blog will remember that I committed to hiring a professional editor as far back as 2016. And, back then, I thought it would be easy. There are so many people offering editing services online that surely it is a buyer’s market, right?
Turns out that finding an editor isn’t as straightforward as finding a dentist or a car mechanic. With other kinds of services, you’re only looking for a decent worker. As long as they’re honest and competent, there’s no reason to look at other candidates. Most dentists, and countably many mechanics, are as good as anyone else in their fields.
But you don’t want competent with a book editor. You’re looking for something better.
A Problem of Credentialing
Even the best editors are fallible. And the worst editors are worse than fallible. But this has already been discussed ad nauseum.
Editors are extremely fallible people, all of them. Don’t put too much trust in them.MAXWELL PERKINS
Only work with smart editors who are happy being editors.KURT ANDERSEN
Good editors are really the third eye. Cool. Dispassionate. They don’t love you or your work.TONI MORRISON
Sometimes editors don’t read the books they publish.STEPHEN SPENDER
It is generally acknowledged that editors are created unequal, and it is better to have no editor than a bad editor.
And you would think, since this is common knowledge, that freelance editors for hire would go to great lengths to display their credentials. It would be good for business if they could point to a popular book and say, “I worked on this.”
Yet in my search for the right editor, I found remarkably few freelancers who could give me any such credentials. Some of them claimed a need for anonymity or non-disclosure (which, for all I know, might be 100% true; I’m not the expert with the kinds of agreements freelance editors normally make with authors; but it still creates a problem of confidence).
One place I also looked was in the “Acknowledgments” sections of books, since authors usually list their editors there. But few of these list freelancers. They mostly lavish praise on those editors who were under the roof of the book’s publishing company.
Quite simply, it’s almost impossible to verify the qualifications of a freelance editor. Hiring one is usually a shot in the dark.
Cutting the Gordian Knot
As perplexing as the problem is, there are still ways to solve it. But they generally require sidestepping the issue entirely.
Since it’s impossible to find a freelancer who is qualified, why not instead find a qualified editor who is willing to freelance?
Now that’s the kind of outside-the-box solution a cheater like me can really get behind.
This week, I finally screwed up the courage to make an inquiry with someone who, in my opinion (an informed opinion, too, I must say), is the best editor on the planet. He has a strong history in the industry, knows almost everyone and is known by all, and has a solid pedigree.
And by pedigree, I’m specifically talking about the authors that have sprang from him (his literary descendants) moreso than the authors he sprang from (his literary ancestors). It’s a star studded list that pairs well with his array of accomplishments.
Naturally, even having him edit the manuscript does not guarantee ultimate success. But he is a good person to have as a reference, and he is extremely familiar with what it takes to get any book published in today’s market. Realistically, there isn’t anyone better for this job.
Progress at Last
I must emphasize: there are still a million things that could go wrong.
And also, this will take some time. I don’t expect to get my edits back for months yet.
Still, it finally feels like I am making headway on my path to publication, if only because I was willing to put my money where my mouth is and assume the risk of hiring an editor.
Because there comes a point where one has to stop behaving like a hobbyist and start treating writing as a business. I only hope I have the maturity and humility necessary to accept whatever notes I am given, and make my book what it always should have been.
Naturally, I have stopped querying this book to agents. Hiring an editor is an acknowledgement that the book is not finished, and there is nothing to be gained by sending agents an unfinished book.
But when this step has been completed, I should have an easier time opening doors. If it only makes the process significantly smoother, it will be well worth the risk.
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2 thoughts on “Hiring an Editor”
I had a really bad editor experience. While her advice was good, many of the comments she made in the sidelines were snarky. It was really hard to swallow comments like, “eye roll”, “booorrring”, or “OMG can you get the point already.” She also suggested changes that were more of a style preference than a problem with the writing. But the final straw was when she had the audacity to rewrite my entire first chapter, which changed my MC into a stereotypical jarhead, and say “You can use this if you want.” Despite great praise from others and her blog having a huge following, I found her highly unprofessional and quite full of herself. Now I’m in the same boat as you were–finding a good editor. Who is the editor you chose? Why do you think he’s good? How did you find him?
The editor I chose is one I have met in person several times.
I learned of him by talking with bestselling authors whose books he has edited or who were tutored at his feet. As a writing teacher, he has a disproportionate number of students who have gone on to become mega-sellers.
I hesitate to name him publicly because he is so well known. And I don’t want to incur resentment from people who can’t afford him.
Naturally, if everything works out, and I land a publishing contract due to his efforts (which is in no way guaranteed, but I strongly believe no one else could bring me closer to publication), I will be singing his praises in the “acknowledgements” section of my book and name him specifically.
I feel it’s best to wait for the final result before publicly thanking him. In much the same way, I believe you hesitated from naming your editor because you had a bad experience, and don’t want to spread ill will online. The privilege of publicity is reserved for good editors.
If you absolutely must know, then shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Be sure to notify me that you sent the email (because I do not check that particular inbox unless prompted).