If it’s your first time working with a freelance book editor, you might not know exactly what you can expect from them. And because editing is not a regulated profession, you are in danger of running into people who promise much, much more than they can deliver. (For some red flags while searching for an editor, you can read this post!)
So here’s a list of five things your editor absolutely cannot guarantee. If you run across anyone who promises these things, keep on running!
Same goes for “catching 100% of errors” or “error-free guarantee.” Yes, it is indeed your editor’s job to find and fix as many errors in your manuscript as possible. And if you’ve written some flash fiction that’s a hundred words or less, then your editor can most likely get all the errors out of that. However, it’s simply impossible to guarantee perfection in longer works, as much as we wish that weren’t the case.
Publishing houses employ at least half a dozen people to check each of their books before they’re printed (not to mention the author and all the author’s beta readers and critique partners), and yet a few errors still manage to sneak through! I have an entire blog post dedicated to the accuracy of editors, so give that a read for more details.
#2: Agent Representation
Hiring an editor does not mean you’ll get a literary agent. In fact, if you’re going the traditional publishing route, then you don’t even need a freelance editor (though you’re certainly welcome to hire one) in the first place.
There are several factors involved in whether an agent will agree to represent an author, and many of them don’t have anything to do with the actual writing at all, including:
the individual agent’s preferences
whether the book seems marketable
current publishing industry trends
whether the agent is already representing a similar book/author
So while a freelance editor can help you with revisions or polish up your grammar and spelling to slightly boost your chances of gaining agent interest, we just cannot guarantee that an agent will take you on.
#3: Traditional Publication
This is sort of an extension of the agents point above, but the same goes with traditional publishers. Just because you hire an editor to work on your book doesn’t mean traditional publishers will be more likely to accept it—publishers are looking at mostly the same things agents are.
And on that note, while many freelance editors do also do work for publishers, we’re usually not in contact with the people who choose which books to accept and which to reject. So you can’t skip the line by having me read your book and recommend it to my publisher contacts—the people I’m in touch with aren’t in charge of that anyway. (Besides the fact that it would be unethical for me to recommend a book I’ve been paid to edit.)
#4: Thousands of Copies Sold
Or even one copy sold, really.
Here’s the thing: Book sales depend way more on your marketing skills and your novel’s cover than they do on the editing. Because if nobody’s interested in the cover or the blurb/description, they’re not even going to open up the book and see how good the writing is, are they? And since editors aren’t also marketers or cover designers (Though some are! You can find them if you look hard enough.) we have no influence on how many books you sell.
If you want tons of people to buy your book, then you need good marketing and a good cover. If you want people to continue reading your books after they’ve tried one, then good editing can help with that.
#5: Glowing Reviews
While good editing can help reduce the overall number of grammar complainers in your reviews section, your editor can’t guarantee that you’ll never get any bad reviews. People’s tastes vary widely, so even if you’ve had all kinds of editing done—from developmental to line to copyediting to proofreading—and you’ve created the best possible version of your book, there’s always gonna be people out there who don’t like it.
Besides that, the people who complain about grammar online? They’re wrong a lot of the time. They’re often either referencing zombie rules (James Gallagher at Castle Walls Editing has an excellent post about these) or style choices, which are not actually rules but just that—choices. A lot of the time, they’re even just outright mistaken, thinking they’ve spotted a your/you’re error when the book’s version is actually right. There’s no way your editor can guarantee you won’t encounter these people, unfortunately. It’s part of the author life you’ll just have to accept.
So there you have it! Five guarantees that your editor absolutely cannot make.
As for what we can guarantee? Well, I can personally guarantee that, for the duration your manuscript is with me, I will do my utmost to find as many errors as possible within the time limit. While I’m working on your book, it will have my full attention and dedication, as does every book that ends up on my desk. I guarantee that I’ll treat both you and your manuscript with respect and kindness, and though you may not always agree with my edits or suggestions, you can be sure I make all the changes with your book’s best interests at heart, backed by my training, experience, and various reference books.
If that sounds good to you, you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions always welcome as well!