is a professional editor a waste of money?

Is a Professional Editor a Waste of Money?

Should you hire a professional editor? I’m asked that question often, and although my knee-jerk reaction is always a resounding Yes!, it’s a qualified answer. Hiring an editor is a decision that involves many factors, including your level of experience, your intent for your book, and your budget.

3 Reasons Not to Hire a Professional Editor

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t really want to hire an editor. Above all, they’re bank-breakingly expensive. Plus, we’re often stumped about where to find a good editor. And then there’s the fact that a certain amount of time and agony is always involved, since we’re offering up our precious babies for the specific purpose of being criticized.

Before we go any farther, let’s consider a few reasons you may be justified in not seeking a professional editor.

1. You’re an Expert Writer

If you’ve been writing for at least a decade or have written ten or more bestsellers, you may have the experience to continue your career without an editor. Although a writing education is a never-ending journey, there does come a point where we have the game pretty much figured out. But that point isn’t likely to come until after many years of being edited.

2. Your Book Is a Personal Project, Not Intended for a Wide Market

If you’re planning to independently publish your book for yourself, your family, or a very small and personal market, you can probably get away without a professional editor. Always weigh the cost of hiring an editor against your projected profits. If you don’t feel a professionally edited project will earn back at least the editing fee, then it would be poor business sense to bother with an editor.

3. You Can’t Afford One

This is a tough one. Sometimes, no matter how much we may want or need the services of an editor, we simply can’t afford one. Editors work long hours and deserve every penny they earn, but they’re not cheap. Fees can run into the thousands of dollars, and few starving artists have that kind of money lying around. Although an editor will almost always be a worthwhile investment, if you simply can’t afford one, then your next best option is to spend your time and money advancing your education with writing craft books.

3 Reasons You Should Hire a Professional Editor

With the above exceptions out of the way, let’s take a look at the reasons every author—whether you’re bound for an independent or traditional career—should spend some serious time considering the advantages of an editor.

1. You Owe It to Yourself

Hiring an editor is an investment in your future. A good editor won’t just clean up this book, he’ll impact all future books by teaching you to be a better writer. If you want a decent shot at a writing career, you owe it to yourself to hire an editor for at least one of your books. But, remember, even though the education you’ll gain from one edit will be invaluable, every book will have its own problems to solve and its own lessons to teach. I hire an editor for every book I write, and I learn something new every time.

2. You Owe It to Readers

Good business sense aside, you owe your readers as polished and professional a reading experience as possible. Your readers are some of the most important people in your life. If readers are going to spend time and money taking a chance on your book, why risk giving them less than your best? Win a reader, and you’ve won him for at least several more books. Lose him, and you’ve lost him forever. Professional editing can make all the difference in that crucial first impression.

3. You Owe It to the Industry

Every time a poorly edited book is purchased, an author dies. Okay, so maybe the fallout isn’t quite so dramatic. But it’s close. Particularly with our industry in its current state of gateless revolution, we owe it to our fellow authors to produce only the best. When we publish poorly edited work, we’re not only blackening our own names, but the names of thousands of fellow authors.

5 Places to Look for a Professional Editor

Even after making the decision to commit to a professional edit, the toughest part is finding a good editor. Below are a few suggestions. I’ve worked personally with the top one and have heard good reports about the others.

  1. Canopy Editing Services
  2. The Editorial Department
  3. 2nd Draft Critique Service
  4. Susan Tunis
  5. Ashley Gainer
  6. Ebook Launch

What if You Can’t Afford a Professional Editor?

I began publishing independently in 2006—without an editor. But the secret here is that I was fortunate enough to benefit from excellent critique partners. My primary critique partner Linda Yezak went on to be a freelance editor in her own right (Triple Edge Critique Service, above).

If you decide to forgo professional services, make sure you have the support of beta readers and critique partners who are as knowledgeable, or more so, than you.

And where do you find good critique partners?

Almost all of my critique partners and beta readers are people I’ve met and formed relationships with via online writing venues. Writing forums, fellow writers’ blogs, your own blog, Facebook, and Twitter are all prime places to meet some of the many wonderful and knowledgeable people roaming the online writing community.

No matter your skill level, you will never be 100% objective about your own writing. The experience and objectivity of a professional editor can help you reach the next rung in your writing education—and perhaps even the top of the bestseller list!

is a professional editor a waste of money

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Do you have any professional editors you would recommend?

  2. The link to the full article isn’t working. Is it available somewhere else?

    Getting this error message:

    Sorry, the website cannot be found

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for the heads-up! Looks like the site went out of business. I added the full text of the post here, so you can access it.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with this.

    After much internal dialogue (okay, arguing with myself, sometimes aloud in an empty room, for several months) I hunted for, found, and hired an editor. As you hinted but did not state flat out, it was of first importance to find someone who could understand what I was trying to do, and also was not a failed history major, but a full time professional who earned a good living at his work. I found the Book Editing Associates web site and ‘interviewed’ several prospects.

    Of primary importance to me was to find a person who had international experience, had edited books that went on to sell well, did not see historical fiction as nothing but bodice-rippers or fantasies with dragons, and perhaps had never edited HF before but had related experience.
    And I found him. A guy with a long list of best-sellers he had edited, work in several languages, and a lot of SF experience (SF being the paternal twin of HF). He was also extremely interested in working with me and even lobbied for my attention, although I learned later that he turns down 90% of writers who contact him.

    Yes, I have paid less for (small, very unassuming) houses than I have paid him for editing my four-book series. And so what? I don’t need a new car, more shoes, more jeans, fancy groceries, fancy restaurant meals. I do need this project sent out into the world in the best possible shape. And that’s what he did for me, and we did together.

    Like any kind of hiring one might perform, from an auto mechanic to a building contractor to an editor, find the best and then trust him. It absolutely worked for me.

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