Writers, you know that feeling you get when you’re lost in your writing? That feeling of being sort of free yet safe at the same time?
That doesn’t last.
At least, not if you ever want people to read your work.
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I enjoyed writing my first book. It was a challenge, but I liked getting to know my characters and learning where they wanted to go. But I finally reached a pivotal moment when I knew I either had to move forward or let it go. And moving forward meant finding an editor.
So I took a leap of faith and a chunk of our dwindling savings and hired a professional. First, I researched editors. I read testimonials. I took note of their response times and their attention to detail. (The one who emailed me back three days later addressing me by the wrong name — I think he called me Stephanie — didn’t get my manuscript or my money.) I agonized over pricing and availability. I talked myself out of it multiple times, thinking it was too frivolous a thing to afford. Thinking we had a baby coming and I needed to save every last penny in preparation.
I started a spreadsheet, because what else is new. Then I reached out to the editors who seemed like the best fit for me and my book. I easily narrowed it down to one. Seriously, it pretty much only took one email from her to realize she was the right fit for me. Especially because she not only edited in my genre regularly, but she also wrote in my genre. (I just finished reading her novel Finding Lucas, which I highly recommend! You can get it right here.)
In her emails, she was genuine and kind, but based on her sample edit I also had no doubt she would be thorough. She uncovered issues I’d never have thought to look for. If I was going to hire an editor at all, she was the one.
(If you’re wondering, I worked with Sam at Perfect Pen Communications. It was a fantastic experience, and I will definitely work with her again in the future!)
But still. The scary money thing. And the scary criticism thing. What if it wasn’t worthy of publication after all?
Now that I’m safely on the other side of my first professional edit, I want to unpack those two big fears to prove how not scary they really are.
If you’re a writer, money has probably been an issue at some point. That’s not true for everyone, but most of us struggle with the notion that writers, unless otherwise employed, are broke. Well, we don’t have to be.
One of the best things you can do to make sure your books work for you (and your readers) is to invest in them. Not spend on them, invest in them. Editing is one of the best investments you can make, not only for your book but for your career as an author. (Cover design and marketing are up there, too, but that’s for a different post.)
If you’re going to publish a book and hope to not only reach your ideal readers but make any income from it, then it has to be the best it can possibly be. That means putting other eyes on it, preferably professional eyes, who can recognize exactly what isn’t working and exactly how to fix it. When you think of hiring an editor as an investment, you also realize there will be a greater return on an investment like that. So you could save, say, $900 right now and not have your book edited, OR you could spend the $900, polish your book, and end up selling more copies of a better product that readers will actually connect with and enjoy. (And keep coming back for more!)
I’m going to go ahead and talk to you here the way I’ve been talking to myself about this: get over it. You’re a writer, and criticism is an inevitable and necessary part of your job.
When you hire a professional editor, you’ll receive constructive criticism. The keyword is constructive. It’s not criticism for the sake of bashing your work or berating you as an artist. It’s criticism for the sake of making your book (and you) better.
Now, when it comes to those who criticize you simply to hurt you, be mean-spirited, or tear down your work, that’s a different issue (and, again, for another post). But every bit of advice you get from an editor should ultimately be taken with a heart of gratitude, not a heart of offense.
When you get your manuscript back and you see those pages upon pages of markups and comments, you WILL feel discouraged. When you have to rewrite your entire first chapter or rearrange the last half of the book, you WILL feel like giving up. Don’t. This is all just part of it. Writing for a living isn’t just writing for a living. It’s also reading, editing, listening, revising, deleting, rewriting, and pouring yourself enough coffee (or tea) to get through it all without ultimately questioning your worth.
It’ll take a few pep talks in the mirror. It’ll take a few note cards posted on the wall of your office (or wherever you write) reminding you that you can do it. You know all those other authors out there with multiple published titles? They did this, too. Their journey may have looked a bit different depending on their own publishing routes, but you better believe they all worked — yes, worked — through heaps of unnecessary criticism.
Hiring a professional editor was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done as an indie author. But it was also one of the best. It made me feel more confident about my books and how I was presenting them to the world.
If you’re thinking of hiring an editor, here are some additional resources to help:
- Editorial Freelancers Association
- Freelance Writers Den
- Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn
- Edit Me: How to Find, Hire. & Work with an Editor by Sarah Barbour
- Everything You Need to Know About Finding and Hiring a Freelance Book Editor
- When Is the Right Time for Me to Hire a Professional Editor?
- How to Pick the Perfect Indie Editor
Want proof of how much my editor helped me? Head on over to MegBlissBooks.com to stay updated on my new release, To Lennon, With Love, coming this month. Oh–and to get the free prequel while you’re at it. 😉
What’s the scariest and/or best thing you’ve had to do as an author? Let me know in the comments below. For more writing help, pick up a copy of Ink Blots & Happy Thoughts: 20 Lessons Learned in My First Year of Freelance Writing (currently FREE on KindleUnlimited)!