I only have one answer to the question of who needs an editor. Everyone who writes needs an editor.
Recently, two beginning writers expressed something that quite astounded me. They both said they didn’t think it mattered if they knew the rules of writing because when they were accepted by a publisher, an editor would take care of all the mechanical things they’d neglected.
Both writers were intelligent, mature, yet misinformed for whatever reason.
So many folks want to be published; millions are taking it into their own hands and publishing e-books because of the tight competitive field in traditional publishing.
The agents and editors in traditional publishing receive hundreds of queries every single day. There are whole seminars and classes just in the art of writing a stellar query letter. There are formats to follow; but first and foremost, the letter better be “letter perfect” or an agent, editor or publisher will simply toss you into the circular file or most likely into the recycling bin on the desktop. If somehow you manage to write a good enough query letter and the agent or editor requests pages, you are among the lucky small percentage that made it past the first barrier. Again, whatever you send them of your completed work, better stand out. If the mechanics are poor, your professional reader will not make it past the first paragraph.
It’s true if you’re accepted by a publisher, an editor will be assigned to you. However, those editors are looking for more than just a misplaced comma. They are looking for the commercial viability of the work, the length of the book, and the readability. They do not have time or an inclination to teach a grammar lesson.
Here’s my advice, if you’re stumbling with mechanics: First, purchase a good handbook on craft. The oldie but still standard reference book for any writer’s desk is Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Use resources online such as Writers Market and Poynter News University. Spend money on a real editor if you are serious. Sites such as World Literary Cafe can lead you to sources for editing that won’t blast your budget.
With Google searches just a few pecks away on your computer keyboard, finding resources is easy.
So you say, to heck with it. I’m just going to publish it myself and put it out there without worrying about petty things such as commas and sentence structure. Go ahead, but don’t expect anyone to read what you’ve written. Sure, you might sell a few copies initially, but who’s going to recommend a poorly written book. If you want to see what I mean, go to amazon.com and download a few bad books. Do you want to continue reading a book that is difficult to understand because of lack of technical technique?
I love to write, but it is sometimes a grueling, down in the dirt business when it comes to the mechanics. But it’s all worth it in the end to proudly publish a piece and then have someone say, “That moved me to tears” or “That made me laugh.”
Please share your resources for other writers, myself included! I would love to hear about your experiences.
5 responses to “Who Needs an Editor?”
Great post! I’m always surprised when someone expects that an editor will fix everything. If the writer doesn’t want to put in the effort to make sure everything is in top shape, why should an editor?
Absolutely! In my first job as an editor of a magazine, one of the writers I inherited told me on my first day he didn’t need an editor. What he wrote was what he wanted published without anyone “meddling” with it. Not only was it my first gig as an editor, it was the first time I had to fire someone:)
Haha, big day! I guess believing editors are “meddlers” is the other end of the spectrum.
Very true! I’m working with an editor now…and did I need it!!
You found someone? That’s great, Ryan. How did you find this editor? Is it someone you can recommend to others? Thanks.