Why you need editors

If you intend to self-publish, you need editors.

Note, I said editors with an ‘s’.

When I started writing, I knew very little of the publishing world, but coming from an educated background, I was aware of these creatures called ‘editor’. I mean, we all know newspapers have editors. Journals have editors. Magazines have editors. Even, come to think of it, books do too!

How many folks haven’t seen a movie with the intrepid reporter harassed by their over-demanding editor?

J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Spiderman

We all know that in the world of writing, editors are supreme, all-knowing, and most of all – annoying.

They make us work. They change things around, cut all out excess verbiage, and remind us that our gerund phrases are dangling close to obfuscation.

As someone who may be intending to self-publish, you may be tempted to ignore the fact that you need editors to shape your masterpiece.

I know, I know. You say that editors are the gate-keepers that are holding you down! Deliberately burying your dreams in the sand because of their elitist views.


They are swamped. Editors of the big six can only go through so much material that is, by the way, infinitely better than your first draft. The economics of publishing means that they can only accept the best. They are human too (I think), and they have to make difficult choices about what to accept and reject. But I digress.

Why is it that you need an editor or two?

  1. Your story/plot sucks. You may think you are leading your readers on a grand tale of adventure and intrigue, but the harsh reality is that your story is a cobbled mess of scenes that are in some vague chronological order. Come on, you know it doesn’t make sense and so do I. A story editor (sometimes called a substantial editor) will point out where your story goes awry and how you might put it back on the right track. They may also make suggestions that will bolster your characters and their goals. Take heed and start re-writing.
  2. No one really wants all those flowery words and dense, adjective heavy phrases. A copy editor will hone in on your excessive use of ‘still’ and ‘as’ sentence constructions. If they are good, they’ll even help you recognize your bad habits and teach you how to fix ’em all on your own.
  3. Typos. They are everywhere. Like lint that floats in the air, turn your back and they flutter down from the ceiling to land upon your page, forever marring it and making you look like you don’t know the difference between their and they’re. A proofreader‘s job is to catch those brain farts.

Don’t take just my word for it. Check out JW Manus’s blog post about the same subject. Her post is better, and she knows what she’s talking about. I started this post weeks ago and didn’t want to chuck it just because someone already beat me to it.

Until next time, go out and meet an editor or two. Yes, yes, I do believe, they are human.

12 thoughts on “Why you need editors

  1. At least some are human AFTER they’ve had their coffee and maybe a bite of chocolate.

    Good post, good reminder. Editors are partners in the process, not the enemy.

  2. It is so awful when I read a self-published book–or, more likely, the summary on Amazon when I’m considering reading a self-published book–and there are typos and grammatical errors and disorganized paragraphs everywhere. If only they had gotten an editor, maybe I’d be more interested in reading their book! I look at these unedited things and just think–I need a red pen. Everywhere.

    1. I know! And I don’t want my book to end up that way. It is easy to want to do everything yourself when you are self-publishing, but the reality is, unless you are superwriter, you just can’t. We need partners, and editors are the best ones we can get on our side. It does mean more work, and money, and that’s what folks new to self-publishing just don’t get.

      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting. 🙂

  3. And I thought that your crit of my stuff was just between us. But, no, here are you are telling the world my plot sucks: I use too many flowery words, and I have a plague of typos. I believe my feel bads are hurt.

    Oh, wait. You are talking in general. Never mind!

  4. Great blog idea. Much as many of us may consider avoiding the gate-keeping and long waits of traditional publishers, it’s a good reminder that we shouldn’t avoid the process that creates a properly- crafted product. .

  5. I wish every would-be self-published author would read this. And re-read it.

    I’ve been working as a writer since the age of 19, for many magazines, two NF books and for the New York Times (freelance) since 1990. You want editing? I got editing for you! The editors I’ve worked with at the Wall Street Journal are **amazing** — my prose is hugely better and you never feel a thing.

    No writer can survive without editors, and tough ones. If you’re unwilling to hear smart and helpful feedback on your work, you’re not ready to publish. Because disappointed readers will rip you to shreds….edited or not!

    1. I just started following your blog. I had meant to follow you a long time ago, but somehow never got around to clicking that little button. I hope to learn a lot from you! 🙂

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