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Why You Need a Professional Editor
After completing the final draft of a manuscript for my fifth book, I wanted a reality check. I hired a professional editor and learned something important about self-publishing

My initial editing process was hardly ineffective. My latest book is a memoir of my sailing adventures from the 1980s and 90s. I rounded up a capable crew that included people who were there, people who were college writing instructors and people who were simply avid readers. I sent them one chapter (1500-2500 words) per week for almost a year (so as not to burden anyone with a huge job to do gratis), and offered to edit their material in return. I got useful feedback about everything from seamanship to grammar along with their general reader reactions. The collaborative process also forced me to polish each chapter before I sent it out; I usually spent a few hours rewriting before posting the week's installment on Google Docs and sharing it with my group. That unquestionably improved the book.

Editing with Software Tools

I also ran every chapter through AutoCrit is a remarkable style checker. It highlights duplicate words and phrases, ferrets out clichés, identifies weak writing patterns and generally helps point out places in your writing where you should consider making changes. It's a machine—it's not perfect—but it scans your text with cold, digital objectivity. Give it your best shot and it will embarrass you over and over again. How could I have missed something so obvious? Learning to write prose that won't upset AutoCrit is a fantastic growing and learning experience that's available to any writer at nominal cost.

At the end of the group editing process, I had a tight draft manuscript approved by a tough piece of software and some people I'm convinced are bona fide geniuses. Still, I had this lingering doubt; I wanted my book to be great—better than anything else I'd ever produced. But all my previous writing was created in a personal vacuum, edited by people who knew me. I wondered, "What will an industry professional say about my work? Am I camping in my own back yard?"

Finding a Professional Editor

I decided to hire a professional editor. I began my search at the Editorial Freelancer's Association website, threw a few darts at the map and took a trip to Steven Bauer's Hollow Tree Literary Services. The general tone of his site and the testimonials from previous clients sold me. Of course, the right editor for you is one who works with your writing genre and understands your subject matter; a law book or a technology book will have different editing requirements than a novel. You may speak with several people before deciding on an editor whose style and background are complementary to your purposes.

I called Steven, got on his (not unreasonably long) waiting list, finished polishing my final chapters and sent him my manuscript. When we spoke, I made it clear that my goal was to produce a well-written book, independent of any business aspirations or target reader groups.

Your aspirations are important information to give your editor. Polishing a manuscript to a high standard of literary excellence and preparing a manuscript for acceptance by a particular market segment are not necessarily the same task. Know your goals, or at least have an experienced editor help you choose them. I told Steven that his job was to "protect my manuscript from me."

Complete article here.