Your First Professional Edit

August 5, 2015 by Evan Braun


Working with an editor for the first time represents a huge step forward in any writer’s career. It’s often the point when people move forward from relying on the opinions of their friends and family to getting an honest and objective perspective on their writing for the first time. Not surprisingly, it can be a bumpy ride.


To minimize those bumps, here’s a list of three crucial questions you should be asking yourself before the process begins.

1. Are you ready for editing?

A fellow editor recently posted the following quote about editing, which I think is very apropos: “You hire an editor when you are ready to spend money to hear that you have more work to do. That may sound obvious, but I’ve met many an author who hired an editor as a last step to validation, as the stamp of approval that would mean he or she could now safely publish. If you are not totally clear that hiring an editor means you will have more work to do, then you may not be ready.”

This is sound advice. The editor’s job is to pick through your book very carefully to find errors and room for improvement. Unless you’re opting solely for a proofread (in other words, you don’t want the editor to fix anything except for obvious typos), you should prepare yourself to do some real work. This is the kind of work that really pays off in the long run, so I can guarantee it will be time, energy, and money well spent.

2. How much pre-editing should you do before a professional edit?

The simple answer is: as much as you can. Your instinct might be to do less pre-editing than usual, because you figure it’s the editor’s job to catch all those things—but that’s the wrong way to think about it. You really want to put your best foot forward when you sign the editing contract. So when you feel like you’ve taken the manuscript the farthest you possibly can under your own power, and you’ve exhausted your own expertise, that’s when it’s time to get professional help. Definitely read through your book a few times and produce as clean a copy as possible. When you entrust the editor with your absolute best work, the editor can do his or her best work for you.

3. How much editing is enough?

It’s important to keep in mind that no editor and no publishing company can guarantee a completely error-free manuscript. All editing contracts include a disclaimer like this one, because even editors are human. Most readers have caught typos or other gaffes in books they’ve bought at the store, and it’s probably not for lack of attention or professionalism on behalf of the authors and editing team.

The best way to combat this is to conduct as many editing passes as possible. Word Alive Press typically offers up to three passes (more are available upon request), and other companies offer many more. And, of course, the more mistakes you catch on your own before editing even starts, the better (see Question 2).

However, there is a point of diminishing returns. While you might catch a handful of new errors on passes four, five, and six, you have to decide whether or not it’s worth the time and money to go to such lengths. Remember the famous expression: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

Do you think you’re ready for editing? If so, editors like me are ready and willing to work with you to help make your dreams reality. It’s a big step, yes, but a step worth taking.

Request an editing quote today!

About this Contributor

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Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.