By Jason Graves, CFH Editing Services Lead
As an aspiring indie author or as someone looking to shop their manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher's submissions editor, you must do at least one of two things. Either you need to be disciplined in your re-writing and develop impressive chops at self-editing, or you need to hire a competent editor. Even if you achieve the former, it is still incredibly helpful to have the latter, because you cannot catch every mistake and beyond that a competent editor can offer suggestions on how to make your manuscript even better. I stress competence because many people allow their friends to ‘beta’ read their manuscript and then declare that all is well and good when the friends reply with a thumbs up and a few typo catches. Honestly, there is so much more to making a book from a manuscript.
A competent editor, depending on the services you engage them for, will look at not only spelling, but word use, punctuation, grammar, syntax, flow, pacing, plot development and holes, consistency, character development, world building, description, and dialogue. They will assure that not only will your characters keep the same name throughout the story, but also the same personality and mannerisms. They will catch inconsistencies and errors of omission, and remark on what you are doing well and what you should drop or rewrite. They will save you time and embarrassment, and might just be the polish that gets your manuscript accepted.
Speaking of accepted, I can tell you from my experience, as a reader and an editor and a published author, that small and even mid-sized publishers lack the financial wherewithal to edit your manuscript as closely as a large or a major publisher would accomplish. These smaller publishers are generally running on tight margins and often cannot dedicate the resources to shepherd a problem-filled manuscript, no matter how promising, into a polished book. I admire them for everything that they do accomplish in this climate of corporate domination, but if you have ever wondered why even small presses turn down your manuscript, it is possibly because of this very issue: they cannot spend the money and time to properly edit your work. So that becomes your job, or the job of a freelance editor or a service like ours, to clean up your manuscript into something that a publisher will keep in their hand (and not toss within seconds) and a reader will eagerly read and want to recommend to friends.
Some people believe that editing is not important. They’re wrong. But don’t take my word for it—go read book reviews. Read what people have to say about the sloppy writing that pervades modern indie and even small press publishing, and then seek out a competent editor to assure that the reviews of your books will never say such things.