There are many ways an editor can help a writer and a book be better, and there are many different kinds of editors, but the fact remains that to have a successful, published book, you will need an editor. I do freelance editing now, but I used to work at a publishing company doing editing work, and it always shocked me when I came across authors who felt like editing was just a stage to get through to the “real” part: marketing and selling their book.
This confused me, because without an editor, you aren’t going to have a marketable book! When an author tells me he or she doesn’t need editing, the reason is usually either one of the following
a) They are an English teacher and/or got all “A”s in English and therefore don’t think an editor will be able to find any mistakes.
b) They already had 10 people read it and give it amazing reviews, so there’s nothing to change.
I realize many of you reading this understand the value of an editor; otherwise why would you be here? But it’s still good to review what brought us here: why editors are important. There are many reasons, as previously stated, but I would say the most important contribution an editor makes to a book, at least initially, is: a professional, unbiased opinion.
Let’s take a look at both of these words and flesh out exactly what you’re getting when you hire an editor.
|[ PROFESSIONAL ]|
Let’s go back to points A and B above. Just because you’re an English teacher doesn’t mean it wouldn’t do your book good to have a second look. No book is perfect, and the more eyes you have on it, the better.
An editor is able to offer you a professional eye, looking for not only grammatical mistakes and typos but larger developmental issues like plot or character development. Even the most successful authors you can name went through extensive editing before their book appeared on the shelves of Barnes & Noble.
Editors know the genre, they have researched the publishing field, hopefully worked in it, and they know what sells. They can give you recommendations and helpful tips that pertain to your book while lending a professional eye to your work.
|[ UNBIASED ]|
In the case of point B, the 10 people who read the book were more than likely a close friend or family member. These people will not be able to offer unbiased opinions! It doesn’t matter if you told them to tell it to you straight, your mom or your best friend will lie or at the very least sugar coat their true feelings about your story. This is nice but entirely unhelpful.
That’s where an editor is indispensable. An editor will be able to provide first a professional eye and secondly a completely unbiased opinion. This is going to be invaluable to you as you take steps toward sending out query letters and pursuing traditional publishing or even self-publishing.
Even a critique partner might not be as unbiased as you would hope. I’ve heard a few stories from authors about bad critique partners who weren’t helpful and didn’t give good advice. This might have been because they weren’t very good, or maybe they were jealous. Whatever the case, an editor is one of the only people if not the only person who can truly offer unbiased opinion. It’s of course up to you how to handle the unbiased opinion they give, but the opinion is there for you to use how you will.
I’ve (kindly) suggested that a book needs more work on this or that, and the author flat-out refused to listen. I’m not suggesting you have to implement every single change an editor suggests, but it would be in your best interest to take it into consideration. After all, if the critique is truly unbiased and professional, what does the editor have to gain by saying a book needs work when it doesn’t? I suppose you could say the editor would suggest changes so they could get paid more to edit them like a dentist who recommends an unnecessary root canal, but that wouldn’t be professional, would it?
I could go on and on about this topic, but I’ll stop there. Editing is something I am passionate about. It’s something I enjoy, and what I love most of all is seeing books become better. My point in all of this is to show you that yes, editors are important. They are the line between a long, boring book and an exciting page turner. An editor isn’t magical. We can’t literally change bad writing.
But we can take an average book and make it good. We can take a good book and make it great. We can take a great book and make it a best seller. And who doesn’t want to read one of those?