Do You Need an Editor? Here’s How to Find Support For Your Writing Project

meditation for writersRecently, a member of a Facebook group for bloggers posted this question: Who do you use to edit your blog posts? The answers ranged from some type of software to “my mother” to a seasoned pro. Why the disparity? I think because when people use the term “editor,” they tend to use it loosely. So, do you need an editor, or does your project require another kind of service?

What is an editor?

An editor is not a proofreader. Sure, all editors will proofread, but that’s not the focus of their art. And make no mistake, editing is both an art and a science. An editor is also not a ghostwriter, though many editors do ghostwrite as well. (It’s a distinct service.)

Most editing projects float somewhere among the three services I’ve just described. But even if your needs fall squarely within the realm of editing, there is more than one type of service to consider. Most seasoned, professional editors break services into three categories: light editing (which lives at the border of proofreading), moderate editing (also called line editing or copyediting), and substantive editing (which lives at the border of ghostwriting).

Do you need an editor?

Many people ask for proofreading or light editing when they really need something more. Being specific about what you need is not the same thing as being specific about what you want to pay for. If you ask for proofreading but your copy is still in the “rough draft” stage, you’ll need to rethink your strategy.  After all, you wouldn’t hire a painter before you’ve had drywall installed, would you?

Think of an editor as more than someone who will check your grammar and spelling. Yes, you can probably use software for that, though even the best software will miss nuances that make your writing unique. Unless you’re writing academic or technical material, there’s little need to be so “correct” that your writing is boring. Trying to get all the red and green lines in your Word doc to disappear is usually a waste of time (though I’ll admit it is tempting)!

For most writers, especially bloggers and authors who craft pieces to communicate something they’re passionate about, an editor should have at least the following three things to offer.

1. She should know more about grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. than your friend who was good in English. Ask which style guide she uses, and check out the resource she mentions. Ask what kind of training she has. (I have an eye for detail is not an adequate answer.) This is especially important if you’re writing a book that you would like to market professionally at some point.

2. She should have an editorial process. Unless you simply want a proofreader, your editing project should involve several steps. You should understand how you will participate in the process, and you should be clear on what your editor will and will not do. (Hint: She will not change your voice or rewrite your content unless you ask her to, and she will not act like your high school English teacher!)

3. She should be familiar with your niche or subject. Search for an editor, and you’ll probably find hundreds in no time at all! The icing on the cake if you want the best fit for your project is knowledge of your subject matter. Why? It won’t necessarily cost you more to hire someone familiar with your topic (unless it’s very technical). But you will get more for your money. An editor who knows your audience will serve not only as a grammar geek who can ensure that your copy flows well, but she will also stand in for your readers. She’ll understand what you’re trying to communicate, and she’ll be able to suggest when your message isn’t clear.

A good editor with experience in your niche is an ally for both you and your readers. She’ll help you when you’re stuck on a way to find the words for something you’re passionate about because she is passionate about the same thing! For example, my clients who are nutritionists, health coaches, life coaches, personal trainers, therapists, and yoga teachers are comfortable working with me because they know I’ve read hundreds of pages of content on these topics. I know what’s out there, how to make their project unique, and how to make sure it’s on par with content that works for other well-being professionals.

What does a good editor cost?

Again, there’s no simple answer to this question. A good place to start is the Editorial Freelancers Association’s rate sheet. You can find it here.

High quality editing doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but don’t expect it to be cheap either. You truly will get what you pay for. Look for someone who is reasonably priced, but understand that editing is not as simple as many people think. If you’re in doubt about what you’ll get for your money, ask for a free sample edit. Most editors will provide one.

If you’re lucky enough to find someone who values her own abilities as well as yours—in other words, if your editor is passionate enough about what you do to see beyond dollar signs, but also a consummate professional—you’ve got a keeper. Respect for each other is the key to a professional relationship that goes beyond spell-checking and “correcting” your work.

So, do you need an editor, or is your project safe in your roommate’s hands? Only you can decide!

Not ready to hire an editor? Join my email list and receive access to my free guide that will help you start editing your own work today!

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Maria Kuzmiak, M.A. is a health and well-being writer with a background in nutrition, psychology and education and a passion for yoga. She has written hundreds of articles, blogs and newsletters for clients in health-related fields, particularly those specializing in yoga, natural medicine, nutrition, and spiritual health and healing. Maria has also worked as a nutritionist, teacher and technical editor. Learn more about her writing at www.wellbeingwriter.net.

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