If I’m self-publishing, should I hire a professional editor to look at my book? Or can I rely on a well-read relative or friend to do the job for nothing?
For authors who are self-publishing, this question is as perennial as daffodils and it deserves to be answered honestly.
Many self-publishing authors decide to dispense with the professional editing stage because they view it as too expensive. Why? Largely economics. The bitter truth is that many self-publishing authors won’t fully recoup the expense that a round of professional editing will entail.
To copyedit a reasonably well-written novel of an average length of 50,000 words might take a proficient fiction editor between 20-25 hours. Average minimum suggested rates for editors in Ireland are €35 an hour (source: AFEPI recommended minimum rates), so most editors would probably charge something in the region of €700-800. This is reflective of the time it takes to read a manuscript, correct the mechanical errors (punctuation, spelling, wrong word usage, homophones etc), assess other copy-editing problems like inappropriate language, factual errors, consistency faults, plot holes and so on. An editor has to annotate the manuscript appropriately, and probably provide some kind of editorial report at the end. There’s a lot involved, and it takes skill and training to perform.
That’s still getting on for a grand, though. Why shouldn’t I use a well-read relative for free instead?
Absolutely. It’s a valid question. There are two aspects to my answer.
One is that even the most hard-nosed relative is unlikely to feel that they have a completely free hand in critiquing your book. They will be well aware that you’ve put a huge amount of effort into writing it. They’ll know that you want it to be good; that you will be hoping that they like it. They will also be aware that they will probably meet you at Auntie Marjorie’s wedding next month, or little Sean’s Holy Communion next year. They don’t want to be held up against the function room wall by the neck by an apoplectic author shouting, “How could you not feel Shelby’s inner pain?”. So the chances are that they will be “nice”, instead of editorially objective.
The second is that it takes editorial training, and experience, to critique someone else’s writing sensitively, appropriately, constructively and correctly. Professional associations encourage members to participate in ongoing professional development (in some cases it’s a requirement to achieve accreditation). Such courses might include the art of giving constructive feedback, and copy-editing and proofreading tests. A good editor has had training in using the advanced review functions in Microsoft Word correctly. Furthermore, they’ve also probably studied novel structure for fiction editors and fact-checking and indexing for non-fiction editors, and so on. Not everyone can do it.
For the full article, read it here: The full Irish Times article.