Words to the Wise
Why Use a Freelance Editor?
Some readers of
The Beacon have asked: Why would I need a freelance editor?
What does a freelance editor do that a publisher's editor
doesn't? The answer that comes immediately to mind—an answer
that may sound flippant but is decidedly not—is that a freelance
editor may make the difference in whether your manuscript ever
reaches the desk of a publisher's editor.
In days gone by,
publishers and publishers' editors spent a great deal of time,
often extending to years, mentoring promising writers in their
craft. There are even famous relationships between writers and
editors that have themselves become stories and the subject of
books (for example, the relationship between F. Scott
Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, and his editor
Max Perkins). Sadly, those days are largely gone. Publishing has
become tough business, and publishers haven't the time,
patience, or money to draw the best out of writers, especially
new or little-known writers. Those writers must come to
publishers already at their best to have any chance of
And that's where a
freelance editor comes in. You, as a writer, may have written
for years, attended writing classes and a critique group, read
the latest and best guides on the craft. But you may never have
had anyone take a dispassionate look at your entire manuscript
with a view to what it would need to break through that
ever-growing barrier into publication. An experienced freelance
editor, not under the gun of publication deadlines, can spend
the time that publishers' editors used to spend with promising
writers, guiding them or, as Susan Bell says in
The Artful Edit,
freshening their notion of what editing can do. A freelance
editor can never promise publication—even an agent can't do
that—but she can show you what's possible and help you gain
perspective on your work.
Susan Bell, The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing
Yourself. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.
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