Do you Need a Professional Editor before you Publish?

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When I finished THE VERITAS DECEPTION last summer, I felt pretty good about it: I had edited it at least five times over the preceding year, gotten input from beta readers and my writing teacher and thought it was ready to go. Then I received a call from a trusted author friend who had just finished reading the manuscript. He had read hundreds of thrillers as the editor of a monthly magazine and he told me that mine was as good if not better than many of them. He did think, however, that it would benefit from developmental editing.

He referred me to Jaime Levine, a New York editor who had worked on over thirty bestsellers. Luckily for me, Jaime was taking on some freelance projects and she agreed to take on mine. I sent her the manuscript, and we arranged to have lunch the next month in New York during the Thrillerfest conference.

When we met, the first thing she said to me was, “I have a lot of work for you.” Over a three-hour lunch, we got to know each other and discussed her impressions of the book. She sent me a fifty-page letter with suggestions to deepen characters, setting, backstory, and pointed out places where plot lines disconnected.

I went home and put the letter away, completely overwhelmed. A week later, I pulled it back out and got started. I had lots of research to do to support new plot lines, as well as flesh out existing ones. It took me over two months before I was ready to send my changes to Jaime, and then she and I met and sat for over twelve hours discussing and refining those changes. To say I was lucky to have such an amazing editor is an understatement. I went back to work on the new refinements, and we repeated the process one more time. By January, I had her blessing to move on to a copy edit. The copy edit took another two months and by spring, the manuscript was ready.

Then came the third phase of editing: the proofread. Amazingly enough, as I sat and read my book for the, let’s say, twentieth, time, I still found small inconsistencies that I had to fix. And the typos. “Hard” for “had”, “of “for “off”, and missing “a”s and “the” s in so many places. My husband just shook his head as the sticky notes on my proof grew until I’d used an entire pad. I had to keep reading the entire book again every time I found an error. I started to think that I’d be able to recite the book verbatim by the time the final proof was approved.

With today’s speed to market and all the fast publishing options open to authors, it’s possible to write a book and publish it the next month. But the reality is if you want a quality book—one that can compete with all the other wonderful books out there—professional editing is not a luxury but a necessity.

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