Five Reasons Why You May Not Want to Hire a Freelance Editor—and Why None of Them are Valid

by David Cathcart

David Cathcart - Christian Book Editor and Screenplay Editor

Many writers, especially first-time writers, are hesitant to hire an editor to help them prepare their manuscript for publication or to send out to agents and publishers. Ironically, this reluctance to engage with a qualified editor could be the very thing that stands between the writer and publishing success. Here are a few of the most common objections to hiring a freelance editor and why I don’t find any of them compelling.

  1. I don’t need an editor:  Every writer needs an editor. Ernest Hemingway had an editor; so do Stephen King and J. K. Rowling. I don’t care who you are or how many books you’ve had published, everyone can benefit from a second set of qualified eyes. Whether it’s identifying weak plot points or shoring up the validity of an argument in a non-fiction book, an experienced freelance editor is exactly the sort of person you need to take your manuscript to the next level.
  2. I don’t know if I can trust them: While there may be a few “preditors” out there, by and large, freelance editors are an honest, respectable group who are legitimately trying to help writers be all they can be. The contraction of the publishing industry has forced many editors who would have normally worked inside a publishing house to hang out their own shingle, meaning the number of experienced editors is greater than ever. As with any professional relationship, you need to shop around and be careful before signing on to any sort of official relationship. And don’t be afraid to request a free sample edit or ask for a few references. Any editor worth his or her salt will be more than happy to supply you with both.
  3. I don’t have time: If you’ve written your first novel or a book that is particularly timely, you may be in a hurry to get it out to agents and publishers. But remember: You only get one chance to make a first impression, so it’s worth waiting a few weeks to ensure that when your manuscript goes out, it’s the best it can possibly be.
  4. I don’t know where to find a qualified editor: Google “freelance book editor,” and this excuse will evaporate immediately. Not only are there dozens of freelance editors advertising their wares online, there are also groups of editors, such as you’ll find on Book-Editing.com and Editing-Writing.com, who have been vetted in terms of their expertise and integrity, so you can feel confident that they will do the job right. Additionally, feedback from prior clients are posted on the sites.
  5. It costs too much: Okay, you got me; freelance editors don’t work for free. In fact, they can charge anywhere from 1.5–15 cents per word, depending on the level of editing required. But that could be literally pennies on the dollar in terms of what you will lose out on if your manuscript is rejected because it’s not up to snuff. Don’t think of the editor’s fee as an expense; think of it as an investment in your writing future. Better yet, if you do manage to earn some income from your writing, the editor’s fee becomes a tax write-off, meaning you’ll be able to get some of that money back.

So there you have it—five reasons not to hire a freelance editor, and none of them are valid. So if you have a new manuscript ready to send out, what are you waiting for?