Editing falls squarely in those categories.
Now, I’d be the last person to argue that a skilled editor won’t improve your work, but, as I said in the post a few days ago, editing can enhance, but not save, your work.
In self-publishing-land, there are all sorts of claims about editors:
– That you must absolutely get one
– That they can be found for as little as $200
– That they magically fix everything that’s wrong with a book
All these claims, even the first, are false.
So… if a couple of independent people look at a book, and say that ‘it needs editing’, what they really mean, and what they’re far too polite to say is: this author needs to learn to write.
Such author ‘desperately in need of an editor’ cannot be saved by an editor, and any editor with half a sense of pride should refuse the job and tell the author kindly to go and do some writing courses and join a crit group, or some such.
But, this author finds a steal of an editor for $200, who goes through the manuscript and fixes typos and punctuation, and then claims the work has been ‘professionally edited’. And gets really angry when the ‘this needs editing’ claims don’t go away.
Think about it. You do not need any qualifications to call yourself an editor. There are degrees you can get that include editing. Large publishing houses choose editors with such degrees, or people who have a proven track record of experience, preferably both. These people are professionals, and they will not work for $200. You might be able to get a student for $200, but as soon as this person gets a reputation for being good, they’ll want to charge more. For $200, you can get a glorified crit from a fellow writer. Or from someone who will give the manuscript a cursory look, rubber-stamp it and collect the money.
If you pay peanuts, it is quite likely that you will get monkeys.
A well-written and well-plotted piece of fiction will likely be improved by editing, but will be both readable and enjoyable with a light proof-read from a nitpicky writerly friend. If you can afford a couple of thousand $$$ for a good editor, go for it, but because your work will be readable, there is no flying hurry to do this.
A poorly-written piece of fiction will not be saved no matter how much money you spend on editing.
I have invited a real professional editor to write a guest post on what to look out for when you choose an editor for your books.
Patty Jansen is a sometimes backyard editor with no editorial credentials except a handful of courses, six years of workshop experience and two issues of ASIM, and no greater editorial aspirations. She very much prefers to write fiction over editing.
Patty is a member of SFWA and has sold fiction to Redstone SF, the Grantville Gazette and was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest. She has a story forthcoming in Analog Science Fiction and Fact.