Professional writers and publishing industry watchdogs have good reason to be wary of people who offer editorial services to new writers. It’s too easy for the novice writer, dreaming of publication and success, to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous people promising the moon, or at least a huge publishing contract, if only the writer will hand over large sums of money.
So it’s important to me that if you hire me, we both know that you will genuinely benefit from having a personal editor at this point in your career.
As a novice writer planning to make a career of writing, how do you know when hiring a pro editor is right for you?
Writers who can produce professional quality work weren’t born knowing how to write well. We all went through a long and rigorous learning process. If you can say yes to most of the following statements, you are already doing what it takes to become a good, professional writer, and you are probably ready to benefit from personal editorial attention.
- I write regularly, and not only that, but I revise my work often, rewriting each piece 3 or 4 or more times, until it is as good as I know how to make it.
- I read or have read a LOT of how-to books and articles and I constantly try to apply them to my own writing.
- I have studied English grammar, punctuation, syntax and usage, either on my own through reading the appropriate books, or in school, so that I am completely familiar with the medium of my chosen craft.
- I work to improve my vocabulary all the time, by looking up words I am unfamiliar with. I own a good print dictionary and thesaurus to enrich my language, and I might even sometimes browse them for fun.
- I read a lot of published work, especially in the field I want to publish in. I read not just for pleasure but critically and analytically, always asking myself, “how did this author make this piece of writing work? Or if it doesn’t work, why not, and what would I do to fix it?”
- I am in the habit of having my work read and critiqued by people who understand how to read critically and offer constructive suggestions—and I am always receptive to those suggestions, because I find that most of the time, they help me improve my work.* (These readers could include trusted friends with good literary knowledge and judgment, fellow writers, writing conference workshops, writing instructors in school or continuing education.)
- I spend time studying the markets that I hope to sell my work to. I read their submission guidelines, and any other information I can find about what they want to see; I also read what they publish and try to compare it realistically to what I hope sell them.
- I’ve done my best to learn how to make professional submissions and how to behave professionally throughout the submission process, because I know the market is extremely competitive, and that my manuscript is very unlikely to be the Holy Grail of submissions.
- I have submitted my manuscript to a number of carefully researched markets. I may be getting only form rejections and no-replies; I may sometimes get a personal note explaining why I’ve been rejected; or I may even have some sales.
If you are doing all most or all of these, then let’s talk. If not, you have some work to do!
*Important! Both seeking and valuing regular, knowledgeable and constructive critique is in my opinion the most important element in becoming a professional level writer. We all need people to spot the flaws that we can’t see because we’re just too close to the work. Even the best and most successful writers still have trusted editors or colleagues who review their manuscripts and offer suggestions, just as the Superbowl winning quarterback still listens to his coach, and the best concert violinist in the world still takes lessons from anyone he can find who is good enough to teach him.
If you can’t stand hearing any response to your manuscript but, “It’s great, I love it!” – if your usual response to a reader’s criticism or an editor’s rejection is, “You don’t know what you’re talking about, all my friends love this story, and some of them are teachers/librarians/writers!” – then you can stop right here, save your money, and go back to writing for fun.