Why do you need a professional editor?

February 1, 2013

red-crayonOn Lesfic_Unbound, a yahoo group for writers and readers of lesbian fiction, people have been discussing editing fees this week. Editing is expensive, so some self-published authors and some small publishers try to cut costs by skipping the editing.

Needless to say that’s a really bad idea.


After spending months or even years writing a story, you’re too close to it. You’re so familiar with the story that you don’t see its weak spots anymore. You read the story that you THINK you’ve written, not the one you actually wrote. What was clear in your head might not be so clear on paper. No one, not even someone who edits for a living, can view her own story with an objective eye.

So every writer needs feedback from other people. Writing is mostly a solitary activity, but it takes a village to produce a good book.

The first line of defense against mistakes and weaknesses in your manuscript are beta readers and critique partners.

Beta readers are friends, colleagues, or family members who will read the manuscript and give feedback. What worked for them? What didn’t work? Was there anything that didn’t make sense? etc.

Critique partners are similar to beta readers, but they are fellow writers, so they can give more detailed feedback or might even be able to tell you how to fix some problems in your story. You can also learn a lot about writing by critiquing your critique partner’s story in return.

Beta readers and critique partners can be a great sounding board and support system.

But most of them aren’t trained professionals, and especially friends and family members might not be totally objective. That’s where editors come in. An experienced editor has worked on hundreds of manuscripts and with many different authors, so they have identified and solved the same problems that haunt your book many times before.

So if you’re planning on self-publishing or if you want to make sure your manuscript is in great shape before you send it to publishers, you need an editor. But there are different types of editing and editors, so you need to know what you’re looking for. I’ll blog about the different types of editors tomorrow.



  1. Thanks Jae that was fascinating.

    • Thanks for commenting! I’m glad you found it interesting.

  2. Trouble is, Jae, that so many writers, who are not really trained or experienced editors, and need editing themselves, are now hanging out the shingle as editors. And so many lesbian micro presses are only using other writers as their editors. Does this mean, by your terms, that these writers-also-doing-editing, are merely beta readers? Is it a better idea to hire an editor that is not also a fellow writer?

    • Thanks for your comment and your questions, Patty.

      No, that wasn’t at all implying that an editor who’s also a writer is merely a beta reader or that it’s better to hire an editor who’s not a writer.

      The fact that someone is a writer doesn’t make him or her a good or a bad editor per se. I’ve met writers who were also great editors and editors who were also talented writers. On the other hand, I also know first-class editors who are not writers, and I know writers who can’t edit at all.

      These are two separate skill sets. Personally, I think it helps if the editor is also a writer because she knows the editing process from a writer’s point of view too and might be able to make suggestions if the writer gets stuck rewriting a sentence or a paragraph.

      But it always depends on the individuals involved. Like writing, editing takes a some talent and a lot of education, training, and experience.

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