Hiring an editor: The good, the bad, and the necessary

If you’re thinking about hiring a freelance editor for your book, you might be wondering what it’s like to work with an editor and what you’ll gain from the experience. At The Book Shelf, we work with authors on a daily basis, so we’ll tell you honestly what it’s like to work with a book editor. We promise you it can be magical, invaluable, and insightful. But it can also be frustrating, demoralising, and expensive, so we’ll give you some top tips to ensure it doesn’t go wrong.

The good 

Working with an editor can be an incredible experience. The editor’s insider knowledge of publishing, experience of working on other similar books, and understanding of what your readers want means that you end up with a far better book. One that’s more compelling, focusing, clear, accurate, and interesting. One that gets better reviews, more sales, and more traction.

Not only that, but you become a better writer. You learn more about your own craft, notice mistakes in your own writing, and start to see things from the perspective of what the reader wants, rather than what you want. This means you need the editor less and less. The right editor will empower you to write better books in the future—and their job is done when you don’t need them anymore.

The bad 

Working with an editor can also be a horrible experience. If the editor doesn’t really know what they’re doing, then you can end up with a book full of errors. If the editor doesn’t understand your genre or readers, then your book won’t meet the reader’s needs. If the editor doesn’t deliver what you want, then it can be a waste of your time and money. It can lead to bad reviews and poor sales.

If you don’t choose the right editor for you, then you probably won’t enjoy the experience — even if the editor does a decent job and the result is better than having no editor at all. Choose the wrong editor and you probably won’t improve your craft. You certainly won’t want to work with them again and develop a long-term relationship for future books. Worse still, you may not even want to write more books.

The necessary 

To get the most out of the experience, it’s vital to pick the right book editor for your book and your personality. The right editor is experienced in your genre, target audience, and type of publishing. They specialise in the type of editing you need at this stage, be it critique, content editing, or copy editing. Importantly, the right editor is someone you get along with and can develop a great working relationship with. This means it’s essential to have a communication style that gels — and to set clear expectations of what you want from the editor.

Even if you choose the right editor, it’s worth noting that to enjoy the experience and get the most benefits from it, you need to have an open mind and a genuine receptiveness to feedback. Hearing constructive criticism on your manuscript can be tough, but if you’re truly committed to creating the best book possible for your readers, then you have to separate yourself from your creation and enjoy the process of improvement as much as you enjoyed the writing.

In summary 

Get it right and working with an editor can be the best thing you ever did for your manuscript, so choose wisely. Don’t just choose an editor because they’re cheap, available immediately, or the first one you came across. Choose them because they can make your book better and make you a better writer. If you’d like to find out whether The Book Shelf have the right nonfiction editors for you, get in touch and we can have a consultancy call to see whether we’re the perfect match. If not, we’ll point you in the right direction to find the editor for you.