Authors, heed my words. Hire an editor. Find someone you have never met before, some good soul with a great resume and references, but someone who has no emotional interest in you or your project. Hire an editor who won’t give a rat’s shiny fanny whether your manuscript changes the course of history; hire an editor who just wants to know what your deadlines are and whether your check will clear.
I am by profession one of these editors, and I also make a decent living wage as a ghostwriter. Considering the quantity of disorganized sentences that I have strung together into readable text, I thought myself well qualified to edit my own book. Each line of text was painstakingly broken down and reconstructed, every argument assessed for hyperbole and flaws in presentation. This, I thought as I submitted my manuscript for publication, was a solid book.
However, when I read the first printed galley copy of the manuscript, I was moved to tears. Where did these errors come from? The mistakes in grammar? The spelling? The missing words? And some of these statements don’t even make sense! Hundreds of problems stared at me in dead, accusatory print.
All publishing houses require their prospective authors to make certain sacrifices, and many require a loss of control over the manuscript. Editing was a sacrifice I was not prepared to make, as the majority of POD houses tend to up-sell authors on editing services and charge inflated prices. I would not pay some editor of questionable background large sums of money to do a job (I thought) I could easily do myself. Booklocker.com caught my eye for this reason, for they do not force in-house editing onto its prospective clients. They have a list of freelance editors from which authors can obtain quotes, but they don’t earn referral fees or any compensation from these editors, and authors are free to hire an editor from elsewhere if they choose.
I was stunned when I discovered errors in the first printed version of the manuscript, and in the next versionÖand the next one, too! Not only that, but despite three major revisions, I failed to realize that I had unknowingly given one sub-title for the book to Booklocker and another one to my cover designer.
There’s not a lot that could have undermined my faith in my book more quickly than such a stupid oversight as mismatched titles. If I had failed to catch this, what else had slipped past multiple edits? I spent several weeks with the revised manuscript and regretted ever trying to get a book in print in the first place: I repeated myself; I misspelled or misused words; I failed to follow themes through to their conclusions.
Authors, hire an editor for your books. I can prove right now why you need one-Go take any paragraph from your favorite novel and use that grade school trick where you read it aloud twenty times. By the end, these wonderful words are meaningless. This is what happens in our books, where we work so closely with our own words and we know their content so well that we fail to recognize problems in construction. Angela Hoy of BookLocker.com tells me she is familiar with this phenomenon and has seen it happen to numerous authors, herself included.
A little time and a little distance helps us to get perspective, helps us find the small things like grammar and punctuation, but this isn’t enough. Unfortunately, our books are living things in our heads and we will never have the objectivity required to make a good manuscript into a great book, as we are not the audience for our books. To make our books more accessible for our intended readership, hiring an editor is a wise and necessary sacrifice.
Dougie Child is the author of Product Versus Process: The Term Paper Industry and the New Face of Cheating in American Education. She sincerely apologizes for any persnickety problems that may still running wild and free in the text.