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Do You Need An Editor?

One hundred percent yes!

In the olden days, when traditional publishers had a crew of talented editors aboard their ships, a writer had someone to suggest changes and to perform the final proof-reading.

Nowadays, editors are being tossed overboard. If your book is traditionally published, your manuscript should get at least a cursory once-over if not three. However, being published by a big house is not a guarantee that your book will be solid or error-free anymore.

Self-publishing means you must either: be a good editor, know and bribe a good editor, or hire one. Hiring an editor is tricky. Anyone with a fair grasp of English can hang out their shingle as an editor. If you decide to hire one, check their credentials. Ask for references. Do a criminal background check, just kidding, but only slightly. Search for them on the Preditors & Editors website:

I highly recommend you have several people with some knowledge of craft go over your work. I'm not talking about Cousin Dick or Aunt Sally, unless they are experienced fiction writers or possess a degree in English.

I'm suggesting other writers, preferably those with grammar knowledge and those who have studied the craft of writing. Have them proofread your manuscript for you. Pass out printed or digital copies freely and let them go to town.

Don't worry. They won't steal it.

I guarantee they will catch things you can't. Even if your critique group critiqued your draft, the final product needs to be gone over thoroughly.

If you self-publish, after your file has been uploaded don't hit "publish" yet. Order a proof. Reread it and make changes.

Order a second proof. Reread it and make changes.

Order a third proof and proofread for periods, commas, and typos until you've found every last error you can find. You'll be amazed at what you missed in the first and second proofs. I assure you there will still be one or two errors in the finished product. What you want to avoid is one on every page.

Errors are speed bumps that affect the reader's enjoyment of the ride you are taking them on.

Stringent editing keeps the reader focused on your story instead of your punctuation and word usage.

For more on revision and tips on proofreading pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers available in print and E-book.

Read more:

What Does An Editor Cost?

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Agree completely, Diana ... and if someone asks me if I know where to find a good editor, I answer, "Why yes, I do. Go to the good folks at the Blood Red Pencil.

  2. Great post, Diana, and I especially liked "Errors are speed bumps that affect the reader's enjoyment of the ride you are taking them on."

    That is a truism that too many new writers dismiss, thinking that because there are errors in books coming from major publishers, it is not necessary to take such care with editing.

    It is imperative to hire a good editor for development and for copy editing. Even though I do both as an editor, I hire editors to help me with my books. I really don't believe a writer can edit their own work. I do edit a lot before I send my ms to the editor who does the copy edits, and I am shocked at how many mistakes she finds. I always think there will only be a few. Ha!

    1. I can read a book over ten times and still find a few stragglers.

    2. I agree. Would I ever encourage anyone to publish a book without having it edited? Absolutely not! Great post, Diana.

  3. Wow, I have read a couple of really good novels lately that would have been stellar if they'd had one more revision - those speed bumps can be absolute killers.

    1. Badly composed sentences (especially. long. strings. of. one. word. sentences) drive me bonkers. :)

  4. I've used two different editors, both professional and with good reputations. One has gone on to win a boatload of awards and accolades, but I'd hired her early in her career and she obviously wasn't as accomplished back then. I also wasn't as meticulous about re-reading work AFTER the editor finished as I am now, so mistakes like a wrong last name for a character and not catching the incorrect discrete/discreet usages slipped by, among others.

    Having just dealt with producing two of my books into audio, I can attest to the fact that even edited works still have mistakes. While no listener would be able to tell discrete from discreet, readers can. Going over the manuscript at an audio book pace really helps ferret out the sneaky little typos and mistakes that creep in when you turn off your computer.

    At least being an indie author means you can fix the mistakes and republish the book.

  5. Great post, Diana. I would make one more suggestion. Hire someone familiar with your genre. An editor familiar with the romance genre formula--and I used the term seriously--might not be great with a dark suspense book where different elements are necessary. I'm not talking about a copy editor who will catch typos and grammar mistakes as much as a content editor.

    1. It is also important to find one (even in a traditional publishing house) that does not have their own view of what your story should be rather than working with the story you wrote. :)

  6. I have to admit that in 37 years of writing, I've never had an editor other than my publishers'.

    1. Most publishers still have a few editors left. But so many are self-publishing these days, even writers who were let go by their houses. Every book needs a read through ... or ten. :)


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