Hiring a Freelance Editor

I am occasionally asked my advice about self-publishing. The writing part of it is universal: you have to put one keystroke down after the other, over and over, until you have a digital pile of words equaling a story. Or, if you have an analogue soul, you bleed out pens or bang out lettered shapes from the typewriter ribbon (if you don’t understand this part, you are too young. Work on that.) Use whatever metaphor you like, you have to write the damn story before you can do anything else.

pen and paper

Then you have to edit it. And edit it again. I’ve tried to edit as I go, with almost always disastrous results. Just don’t do that. Yes, you’ll have a jumbled mess after you pound out the last period of your narrative, but it will retain much, much more clarity if you take that tangled skein as a whole pile and then work at smoothing it all out. (BTW, I’m on a roll with imagery today!)

And then, here’s the thing: hire an editor. But…you’re a good editor, and you can just do it yourself and…nope. Hire one. Here’s why: you are too close. Stephen King says to kill your darlings, and this guy says “I’m just too close to love you,” and they are both right. You live with all these people, the villains and heroes and quirky neighbors who just show up for comic relief. They don’t want you to kill them, and, frankly, you don’t want to either. You need an impartial judge, one you pay to analyze and dissect the story, and then hold up a surgical tray laid out with quivering organs. Fix it, they tell you. Or throw it out.

But…your budget only allows for a killer digital book cover by this cool artist…well, yes, that’s important, too, but if you put a pretty cover on a shoddy story, it’s still shoddy.

An editor is the only thing I’ve spent money on in my self-publishing adventures. Mostly because I’m a broke artist, and I’ve had to prioritize ruthlessly. You can judge the quality of my book covers and marketing endeavors on your own time, but for now focus on the topic at hand. For my second book, I used Karen C. Armstrong, and I searched diligently to find her. Here’s why I chose Karen:

Here’s why I recommend her for other independent writers:

You’ll notice I placed her enjoyment of fantasy first. That’s not arbitrary; I put out a Craigslist ad for a freelance editor. I asked candidates to tell me whether they like fantasy (the ad stated outright that the work was an independent fantasy novella), and most responded with “meh.” One even told me outright they did not like fantasy, but would be willing to tolerate it. (!?) There is no greater crusher of creativity than “meh.” You need an editor who actually likes what you are writing about, one who will be in your fan camp solidly if your work is any good…and, if you get a good editor, it will be much closer.


5 responses to “Hiring a Freelance Editor”

  1. Thanks for this post Meghan. You’ve answered a question I always had in the back of my mind: “What if an editor just doesn’t like my story?”. I can’t imagine anything worse than an editor just doing the bare minimum because they’re just not a fan of the genre. At least if I know someone is into Fantasy, or whatever else, I know I can value their opinions that little bit more in terms of the story and plot. That said, I didn’t actually think to search by Genre when it comes to an editor… But you’ve made it quite clear. So thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you liked the post, Shaun. I agree: what’s the point of hiring someone to help refine your work if they don’t really even like it? Professional editors will give you a free sample edit (or at least an edit for a nominal fee). This lets you see how they will respond to your work with a chapter or so, and whether you like their editing style. Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Awesome post Meghan (the addition of the music video was brilliant, love that song). Your rationale for choosing an editor was spot on. I think the trap people fall into is they’ve written the piece – now it’s time to rush, rush, rush to publication. Why spend months (or longer) writing then not take the extra steps to polish?

    My first freelance job was editing a medieval romance novel (way out of my genre comfort level). While the line editing was no problem (analytical), I struggled providing creative guidance because I don’t read enough romance novels. Basic understanding of syntax, flow, and character development helped me muddle through – but I would have rather my first been something I loved.

    After that, I wanted potential clients to interview me. Phone, web video, emails, I didn’t care. Not so I could dazzle them with my brilliance, so I could be sure we were a fit. Like you said, “You need an editor who actually likes what you are writing about, one who will be in your fan camp solidly if your work is any good…” Take the time to interview the person you are trusting to take your work to the next level.

    Again, brilliant post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Great to get the backup from an editor on this post. (And I like that song, too…even more since it reminds me of this song every time I hear the “dub step.” Yes, I’m a weirdo.) Kudos for trying to jump in on a romance novel. I’m all for pushing comfort boundaries in all aspects of writing!

      I, too, have been so, so guilty of wanting to rush to publication, only to be crestfallen when readers are less than wow-ed. Sigh.


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