Should I hire a professional editor for my book?

You’ve written the final draft of your book, and you’re so proud. You want to submit it to that dream agent RIGHT NOW! You’ve revised it, used the “find” tool to go through the whole manuscript and delete unnecessary words, you’ve worked on showing, not telling, and you’ve even come up with a great pitch. Nice job, because that’s a lot of hard work.

But don’t.

I know it’s hard, and you don’t want to wait anymore. You’ve put a lot of work into this, and you’re sure it’s ready to go!

I’m telling you, don’t submit it yet.

I highly recommend you look for a professional editor to read over your book.

Why should you hire a professional editor for your book? Here’s some feedback I received on a manuscript from the editor I hired.

So immediately, readers need to know whose story it is, what’s happening, and what’s at stake, ideally on the first page. In the first sentence, readers crave the sense that something is about to change (and likely get worse). This shows that we’re not entering the story too early or at any boring event or time for the protagonist, but exactly the right moment–the one that’s a really crucial time or moment in the protagonist’s life. We want to know that a problem is imminent and about to blow up into something really huge. Of course, this opening problem doesn’t have to be the biggest problem, or the climax problem, but it almost needs to feel that way at the time.

I love this advice. It helped me address a big problem I was having in terms of where/when to start my story. The manuscript I’m working on is nonfiction, but I want it to read like a novel, so I need it to have all the elements of a great story. Beginnings are a big part of it!

Critique groups can help you with this, too, and I love my critique groups. But the big difference for me between an editor and a critique group is that we focus JUST on my manuscript. When I’m on my follow-up call, we can dive deep into all the questions and concerns I have about my manuscript. In a critique group, I’m always very mindful about not taking up too much time. And the editor is seeing lots and lots of manuscripts, so the editor has a lot of experience helping people address problems. Your critique partners may have a lot of experience, but they may not.

Critique partners help me with specific small issues, or they help me with emotional responses to parts of my stories. But professional editors help me with story structure and the overall framework of the story. I think each one has a really valuable role to play, and I’m grateful for both. But I think working with a professional editor is going to be a main part of my projects for a long time.