Guest Post: 3 Things Editors Can Do For You That You Can’t Do For Yourself

Three Things an Editor Can Do For You 2Welcome fellow writer and comrade, A.B. Michaels. Her first novel, The Art of Love, released to enthusiastic reviews and her second novel, Sinner’s Grove, is forthcoming. She’s here today to share her thoughts on editors and why every writer needs one.

Guest post by A.B. Michaels

Are you a great writer? Fine. I believe it. You still need an editor.

Listening to a panel of literary agents last spring, I was struck by the contrary advice they gave on the topic of when to submit your work to an agent for possible representation. One of the agents said, “The time to start looking is when your work is the very best it can possibly be.” The other agents agreed. Not ten minutes later, the subject of editors came up, and the agents all agreed they’d prefer not to see work that’s been seen by an editor. Their message was, “How would we know what was your work and what was the editor’s work?”

Huh? To me that’s a contradiction in terms: no one’s writing is the best it can be without being seen by an editor of some kind. No one’s.

All modesty aside, I think I’m a decent wordsmith. I’ve written in many different forms, from commercial to literary, and I think it’s fair to say I can string sentences together fairly well. I’ve received good reviews for my debut romance novel, The Art of Love. But there’s no question about it: I still need an editor.

Editors can do three things for you that you can’t do for yourself:

  1. They can point out weak points that you were aware of but hoped against hope that no one would notice.
  2. They can bring to light and give suggestions about problems you’ve recognized in your work, but for whatever reason (probably because you’re too close to it), you can’t figure out how to fix.
  3. They can really drive you crazy by bringing up problems you never even saw, but realized, after seeing it through their eyes, that they’re absolutely right.

TheArtOfLove-201x300During that panel discussion, I noticed that when the agents talked about not needing an editor, a lot of the attendees breathed a sigh of relief. Because let’s face it, professional editors cost money. In fact, I would venture to say that in the world of Indie publishing (assuming a Print On Demand, or POD production model), editing is the most expensive part of the process, right up there with having a cover professionally designed with original art. No wonder a lot of writers skip it, thinking, for example, that a friend’s read or a critique group is enough to get the job done.

But having a friend or your critique group do the job of a professional editor is asking an awful lot of them. Even if they have the editorial skills to analyze your work, it’s not what they’re geared to do, and frankly, you shouldn’t ask them to do it. So if you can’t afford a bona fide editor, here are some suggestions:

  1. Take on some extra work, if possible, to pay for one.
  2. Raise money through a crowd funding source (e.g. Kickstarter) to pay for one, or
  3. Look for a special person who:
  • reads a ton
  • knows the genre you’re writing in really well
  • has an excellent sense of what works and what doesn’t in good fiction
  • is willing to be totally honest with you (in a nice way, of course)
  • understands that you’re asking for editorial advice, not a rewrite from them, and
  • has the time—lots of it—to dig into your project and help you out.

If you are lucky enough to find someone like that, my advice would be to keep him or her happy by supplying them with legal substances they can’t live without, like homemade chocolate chip cookies!

One more thought about editors. In the olden days of traditional publishing, if a writer showed promise but was “rough around the edges,” he or she would work with an editor —extensively—before one word got published. Even the literary icons of today, when they first started out, had to run the gauntlet of the editorial staff.

These days, I don’t know how it works at the top of the heap. How extensive an edit does Stephen King go through, or Nora Roberts, or John Sandford, or Lee Child? Some would say, whatever it is, it isn’t enough. Because, as I said, it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how good the reading public says you are—you still need an editor to help you present the very best writing you can.

AB Michaels headshotA native of northern California, A.B. Michaels holds master’s degrees in history and broadcasting, and worked for many years in the public relations and marketing fields.  She currently lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two furry “sons” who don’t seem to realize they’re just dogs.  The Art of Love, her first novel, is a prequel to her upcoming contemporary romantic suspense series, “Sinner’s Grove.” To learn more about “Sinner’s Grove,” please visit the author’s website at or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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