Now I think most of us Prosers have taken a crack at posts dealing with the editing process, and there are just about a billion books out there that give varying degrees of advice on the subject. I'm not going to rehash all that this week. Instead, I want to tackle something that I've been wondering about this last month or so, ever since I started this red-pen-on-paper-while-trying-to-eat-dinner adventure. Namely, what are the benefits of paying for an edit?
From what I can tell, it depends on what you want to do with your story, and what kind of editing you are looking for. Need someone to bounce ideas off of, or just get a general sense of plot and pacing? You're probably best sticking with a critique group. It's free, and a perfect starting point.
If you're ready to submit a story to an agent, you can stay with the critique group, but here's the problem I've had with that: you have to give exactly what you want in return. If you're asking for a line-by-line edit, you'd better be prepared to offer the same for the other person. You can also get stuck in a mismatched critique situation. This has happened to me. No matter how much you respect the other writer, you find yourself critiquing, let's say horror, when you write young adult romance. I've heard from a few people that they enjoy this kind of feedback because it puts a fresh spin on their work, but in my own dealings, it's never quite worked out that way. It's hard to give advice on a subject you don't read, and even harder to take criticism from someone when they have no clue what is acceptable for your genre.
So maybe you decide to invest in a professional edit before you send out to agents. Okay, that's reasonable, but keep in mind, you're going to spend somewhere between $300 up to $3,000 for this service. To me, that seems a bit steep, even on the low end, but if you simply don't have the time to develop a solid critique group, then it might be just what you need.
Once you start talking about self-publishing, I think it's time to shell out a little bit of money. However, this comes down to what you hope to accomplish. Want to be the next Hugh Howey? Spring for the editor. Want to finally see your name on Amazon as something other than a reviewer? You can probably skip it, or skimp on it.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what your story needs, but in my own experience, it's essential to get someone to look at your work. And no, not your mom. Or sister. Or spouse. (Asking my husband to read for me is about equal to saying, "Do I look fat in this?" It's just not fair.) You might be the next Charlaine Harris or Dan Brown, but when you've spent 80,000 words (or more) on a story, you probably aren't going to be the most objective reader, so find someone that will be objective.
Yesterday, the illustrious Nathan Bransford announced that he's paying an editor to go over a how-to book on writing, and gave some fantastic reasons why. (You can read the post here.) He also linked to more information about whether to pay for editing or not in that post. It goes into a lot more detail than I can, as he's speaking from his personal, first-hand experience.
So guys, what are your thoughts on professional editing services? Better yet, has anyone out there been through the process and want to share the experience?