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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 being noticed.

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.

Reference:

Susan Bell, The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.

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