You’ve done the research about publishing a book; you already know why editing is important: to clean up the spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation; to check for inconsistencies; and to see the mistakes you can no longer see because you’re too close to the work. You know editing adds credibility to your published work in the realm of books and publishing.
But why, you wonder, do you need to pay for professional editing? Your neighbor, who published his own book a year ago, offered to take a look. So did your aunt, who has a master’s in English and teaches at the university level. Surely they can read through your manuscript for mistakes and run spellcheck. And clearly they know books.
While all of this is true, let me be a little redundant in explaining why they aren’t the best options for polishing your hard work: they aren’t professionals. You’re not going to ask a pediatrician who’s read about appendixes to perform your appendectomy; you’re going pay for the surgeon who’s done a hundred of them.
Professional editors have training, skills, and experience that someone who just writes or reads or teaches books doesn’t have. They edit every day. They study to become editors; not just books and literature (which is also important), but grammar, punctuation, and syntax. They know the manuals of style they work with (i.e., CMOS, MLA, APA, AP) intimately and know how to translate that knowledge to the written page. Professional editors have a keen eye for detail and accuracy, and read specifically for consistency and repetition. And when it comes to fact-checking, they are expert researchers. If you describe the production of the Model T in 1907, your editor is going to know production didn’t start until 1908.
Professional editors are also familiar with the publishing industry and publishing-industry standards. Knowing books doesn’t mean you know the industry. Professional editors understand copyright law and will make sure an author doesn’t break it. They know what agents, publishers, and reviewers are looking for, and will help you meet those standards. If you’re self-publishing, you want your book to stand up comparatively to traditionally published books. A professional editor will help you with that.
And something more valuable: professional editors have a passion for everything to do with editing. They love grammar and sentence structure and making stories read smoothly and coherently. They get excited when their manual of style puts out an update—and they read up on what’s new. (Did you know Chicago Manual of Style now capitalizes Romanticism when referring to the style!) They love the detective work of fact-checking, and the satisfaction of knowing they’ve fixed that detail in your book to near perfection. And they’re thrilled to be helping you make your dream of publishing a book come true.
You put long hours and hard effort into your book. You probably stayed up late with it and gave up hours of sleep to nurse it to maturity. You put your heart and soul into your work. You deserve to show your work at its best. A good editor will take what you’ve done and make it shine. Professional editing is definitely worth it.
HOLLY TRI has a BAS in Psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Her editing experience spans various genres, from poetry and fiction to memoir and children’s books, as well as promotional and educational materials. In her pre-editing life, she spent over two years working with securities and investments. A voracious reader, Holly has a keen eye for detail. She is also a published fiction writer and has a passion for ancient and medieval history and true crime mysteries.