When to Hire a Freelance Editor

redpenBy Cecilia Lewis

I often get emails from potential clients asking if they’re a good candidate for my freelance editing services. I’ve worked with clients in various stages of the publishing process, with varying goals on how they’d like to publish. Some have an agent, some are seeking an agent, and others are self-publishing. A freelance editor can often be valuable during all of these stages. But how do you know if you need to hire a freelance editor? How do you know if your manuscript is ready for freelance editing?

Let’s consider a few scenarios:

  1. Something is wrong, but you’re not sure what it is

You’ve revised over and over and over, and you can’t think of a single thing to change. You know something’s not working, but you’re not quite sure what it is. You’ve taken the advice of your critique partners, but something’s still not right. In this scenario, it might be time to consider hiring a freelance editor to help you straighten out the novel’s issues.

  1. You’re not sure if you’re ready to query

Have you gotten feedback on your manuscript from critique partners and beta readers? Do your readers think you’re ready to query? Have you thoroughly researched agents and compiled your list? Have you written and polished your query letter? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you’re probably ready to query. It’s understandable to be nervous about querying, and not necessarily a sign that something is wrong with your manuscript. A freelance editor probably isn’t necessary at this stage.

However, if the feedback from your critique partners suggests that the manuscript isn’t quite ready yet, and you’re not sure what the problem is, it might be time to consider a freelance editor. Some editors offer manuscript evaluations to help you determine your manuscript’s readiness. And if you’re struggling with your query or other materials, you might want to consider a query letter evaluation or other submission package services.

  1. You’re querying and getting rejections

If you’ve been querying for awhile and getting rejections, then it’s definitely time to consider a revision. If the requesting agents have given you helpful notes, that ought to be your starting point. Consider working with another critique partner as well. But if you don’t have notes, can’t find another critique partner, or have tried both of those things and still can’t figure out what the problem is, then it’s time to consider a freelance editor. And if you think it might be the query letter, you might want to consider a query letter critique service.

  1. You have an agent and critique partners, but your MS isn’t ready

If both your critique partners and your agent feel that the manuscript isn’t ready, I’d recommend hiring a freelance editor to help you revise the manuscript. Alternatively, if your agent isn’t very editorial and you’re having problems with a new MS, you might want to consider a freelance editor before you show the manuscript to your agent. Otherwise, you might invest months of work only to have your agent ask you to write something else because the manuscript isn’t strong enough.

  1. You’re self-publishing

I always, always recommend that self-publishing writers hire a freelance editor. Even if you have feedback from early readers, and even if you think the MS is clean, a freelance editor is still an absolute necessity. If you’re going to publish your work, you need to have it edited in order to ensure that it’s a high-quality, saleable product. (For more about why hiring a proofreader, specifically, is valuable, see this post.)


So, what’s the common thread in all of these scenarios? I believe it’s this: you believe in your manuscript and want to see it succeed, but you might need some additional help in getting it ready. In this case, a freelance editor can be an incredibly valuable resource, especially when all of your other resources have been exhausted. Of course, you have to be willing to put in the work to revise your MS based on the editor’s suggestions; an editor is not going to magically fix your book for you. But if you need a little help tackling that revision, a freelance editor might be the perfect option.

If you have a specific situation you’d like to discuss, I’m happy to advise! Leave a comment below, send me a tweet, or visit my contact page.

Interested in hiring a freelance editor? Check out my Services page for more information about what I offer.

Related Links:

-The Importance of a Good Proofreader

-5 Steps for Researching Literary Agents

-The Querying Process 101: Links and Resources

-7 Tips on Writing Engaging First Pages

-Are You Ready to Self-Publish? Evaluating Your Manuscript


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