I will not do a pros and cons thing like I do with so many posts. Editors are a worthy investment. I will break down the perks of working with one and how to find the perfect editor for you.
I always say, “write for yourself, edit for the world.” What I mean is write the stories you want to read but have an editor to make sure someone outside of your “bubble” can understand it.
We live in cultural bubbles. Sayings, phrases, items, and a million other things make our bubbles unique, but if we can’t convey what something is so that others can understand it, you’re shunning a larger population of readers.
An example, in one of my Laughing P books, I talked about cattle guards. Where I live, cattle guards are common. They are poles laid across a road for trucks to drive across but anything with a hoof can’t walk across. Sometimes they are part of a larger box that is inserted into the road and sometimes it’s just a grate type insert—depends on the road/terrain/ground components.
My editor texted me with questions. My prose didn’t do it justice; people who didn’t grow up in farming communities couldn’t understand it. I was limiting my market instead of making my book as reader friendly as possible while sticking to the vibe of the books.
“Well, that’s one example.”
I ran my manuscripts through Grammarly and ProWritingAid. I had betas, and I’d read it dozens of times. I learned a few things…
- Betas aren’t editors. They are readers. It’s a good thing, but they are looking for a good time in a good story and not to make sure you didn’t put the wrong form of to or forget a hyphen or where the proper place for an ellipse is.
- The mind likes to make the job easier. It’s why we naturally overlook spelling errors as long as the first two letters and the last letter are in the correct spot.
- Manuscripts bleed red.
- That red made me realize that computers don’t replace the human component.
A well-edited book does a few things.
Rules are always rules, until they aren’t, or were they rules to begin with? Most rules of grammar and punctuation in Fiction Writing are dictated by the Chicago Manual of Styles NOT the APA, MLA, AP, Oxford Guide or what you learned in eighth grade English class. There are hard rules, hard rules with exceptions, rules that fluctuate depending on where a word falls in the sentence, there are assumptions which people think are rules that aren’t rules … It’s the difference between following the recipe to a tee on the back of a pre-packaged cake box and being a good enough cook who understands the chemistry of baking and can make a cake from scratch without relying on a cookbook. The average writer can follow the directions. They are the “common sense” rules—the ones we learned in eighth grade, but they aren’t the best rules for running a bakery.
It makes the book readable by everyone. Not everyone will like the subject, but an English teacher can enjoy the same book as a doctor, car mechanic, stay-at-home parent, young person, older person, etc. because it’s not riddled with errors. A poorly edited book … there are some things people are willing suspend their belief in (think of movies like Avatar, Power Rangers, Bird Box) but constantly noticing things like misspellings, incomplete thoughts, odd formatting (yes, even the layout can change a reader’s perspective), pull the reader out of the book, and the thing they love now becomes a chore.
It’s cheaper to maintain. You can throw money at promos, but once reviews start rolling in about how bad it is to read, you’re having to throw more money in, hoping someone 1-clicks without reading those reviews. If you have it edited first, the reviews would be a mix of people who loved every moment and those who didn’t like the premise, not a bunch of 1 and 2 star reviews and DNFs because it was hard to read.
They can be one of your biggest champions. Editors talk to other editors, they talk to their wives/husbands, and buy books for friends. A good editor can become a friend, an ally, the support that you didn’t realize you need. They can be the sounding board for when something just confuses the piss out of you, and to be fair, writers pour their SOULS into what they write. They chip at it and thread a piece of themselves into it, and I’m not talking about if they write about murder they think about killing someone. No, I’m talking about the little nuances, like your favorite color or your preference for names that start with a B that you never even noticed. They don’t replace your beta team, but they understand you in a way that no one else does because they have that critical eye and WANT you to be the best that you can be.
If none of this has convinced of the importance of an editor, write a short story and pay for it to be edited by three different editors. If it doesn’t bleed redder than you expected—you’re claiming you don’t need one so even a little red is bad—then you must be a miracle, an exception to the rule.
Stephen King, Kim Harrison, James Patterson, JK Rowling, Suzan Tisdale, SK Quinn, Craig Martelle, and thousands of others who have turned their love of writing into a career have one thing in common regardless if they are traditionally published or indie. They all have editors. The names known across the globe, all have editors.