Editorial musings: The value (cost?) of editing

Editing can be expensive. I know, I’m both an editor and an author who has been edited. If you’re an independent self-publisher then, ideally, your book will go through a developmental edit as well as a line edit, copy-edit and a proofread (or some combination thereof). Furthermore, each of these stages could include more than one round of revisions (to learn more about what editing involves, see my post: The writing and editing process for self-publishers). In other words, you’re looking at multiple rounds of editing and, potentially, thousands of dollars/pounds leaving your bank account (depending on the length and quality of your work and the amount of guidance required at each stage).

          In practice, this means that a newer, less experienced writer may pay a premium for their work, often before they have an established fan base and, sometimes, when they’re still finding their literary voice. These uncertainties can result in newer, less experienced writers seeking to do everything on their own, in the belief that getting professional feedback is tantamount to ‘destroying their creative vision’ or, somehow, cheating.

          This is an issue that has cropped up with writers I’ve been in contact with, so I’d like to take a little time and space here to address it.

‘I can’t afford editing’

While it’s true that editing is expensive and not everyone—I’ll go so far as to say most of us—don’t have a few extra thousand sitting in the bank just waiting for us to spend it, editing is an investment in your work and your career as a writer. A good editor brings value to the process. They help you learn where your strengths and weaknesses lie and how to work on them. They teach you about writing craft with guidance tailored specifically to your writing and story. Plus, it’s very easy to tell a professionally edited book from one where the author simply uploaded their manuscript file direct to Kindle, immediately after typing ‘The End’.

          It’s very difficult for writers to spot the weaknesses in their own stories, and for good reason—they have to be enamoured with them in order to stick with them for so long. While a good critique group—or critique partner—can go a long way towards helping you improve your craft, they don’t always have the time or skills to really get under the skin of your story in the way that a good editor does (I sometimes think of developmental editing as a sort of literary excavation, digging to discover the writer’s true purpose and then helping them to polish the rough away to reveal the smooth).

          Also, it’s not uncommon for writers who’ve been in a critique group (or partnership) for a while to succumb to elements of groupthink or wanting to please each other. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Praise is necessary too, but praise doesn’t always help you to improve the difficult areas you might be struggling with (which you may not even be aware that you’re struggling with).

          Of course, beta readers—especially skilled ones—also have their place, but, like critique partners, they too may not have the time to really dig deep into your story and show you how and where to improve it.

          When you pay a professional editor for developmental advice, you’re paying them to not only tell you the difficult truths, but also to be objective and to teach you about writing the specific story you’re trying to tell. In other words, a good editor can make you a better writer. If that’s not an investment in your craft, your writing business and yourself, then I don’t know what is.

#editing #writingtips #editorialmusings

One thought on “Editorial musings: The value (cost?) of editing

  1. Pingback: New post on my editing website about the value of editing | Kendra Olson

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