Have you ever heard the expression, “Dressed up to the Nines?” Back in the late twenties and early thirties there was a famous night club/restaurant that required white tie, waistcoat and top hat to get in. Women had to have on an evening gown, and no woman unescorted by a male was allowed. It was called The Nines. I found that explanation in an article I read in a magazine forty years ago. Naturally, I can’t find any reference to it on the Internet now. Regardless, you get the idea. It means dressed up in the most elegant fashion possible to show yourself off and be received in the best places.
Let’s put that in perspective about your work of blinding brilliance: Your book, your article, your web content, etc.
You have a masterpiece all completed. It is a work of art. Until you have it in your hands in printed form and you start reading. There are mistakes all over the place. Misspelled words… How can that happen when you spellchecked three times? What happened to that quirky character that in your writing seemed so funny and added so much spice? In the printed version, he comes off as lame and abrasive with no compassion. But what can you do? The book is in print, and that self-publishing company is going to charge you for making all those changes that you have to make!
We need to rewind to the time before that manuscript ever left to brave the reading, book-fan world.
Think of an editor as Coco Chanel or Christian Dior of the publishing world. But you don’t have to pay fashion designer prices to get fashion designer quality in your writing. The investment in the right editing has a very high return on investment (ROI). Your fan base will be so impressed they will keep buying your books. As you incorporate your editor’s suggested changes, you become a better writer. After you see the suggested corrections and see how much better your work is, you will remember those rewrites and changes and apply what you learned in your next work of art. That makes you a better writer.
Your work is a masterpiece because no one else could have told the story exactly the way you have. No one else thought of the story or studied the subject like you did for that article. Yet, the “clothes” your work is “wearing” are not fashion designer quality. They are definitely serviceable and enduring, but sending your work out into the world without dressing it up to the nines reflects badly on you and can tarnish your reputation. Read that: readers won’t buy your next book.
In choosing an editor, everything depends upon what kind of editing you need. Every solid piece of writing can be tweaked and trimmed into excellent writing. An author is too close to the work to be able to see the whole clearly. An author needs to be married to the idea, but not to the words. A professional can give you on the job training in how to write more clearly, how to use active voice instead of passive voice, how to develop your characters into vibrant, lifelike humans instead of caricatures. Your work will be like a river with white water rapids as well as still water depths where your readers can dive deep.
How to choose an editor?
I completely understand about the sample edit thing. Five pages is hardly enough to display the skill of an editor, but it takes so much time to edit some things because of many reasons: a) the author has English as a second language; b) the author does not have the work perfected enough (first draft) to be ready for a comprehensive edit because the author wants the work “cleaned up” so more writing can be done; c) the author has no clue where the story is going; and d) the author does not know what kind of editing he/she needs.
I never knew that I was such a bad proofreader of my own writing until I had a professional proofreader edit one of my books. I thought I had done a really good job proofing the thing. I received back a gold mine of corrections that saved me a lot of embarrassment because I indie-pubbed that book. (You can take your pick from the books I’ve published.) I am truly proud to market my book because I know it is a professional presentation of my thoughts and studies. That is priceless. I also realized that I was far too close to the work. My words were my deepest thoughts so I didn’t realize I had so many common errors that writers make until I saw them highlighted by my worthy proofreader.
Another excellent benefit from having your work professionally edited is that it makes the author a better writer. I know, I said that already, but it bears repeating. Editing makes you a better writer. I have read three of Dean Koontz’s books that were not completely edited yet. I never knew how wordy the man is. Sure, his description is marvelous, even poetic! But sometimes that drains the story/plot momentum and even takes attention away from the character development. Koontz is a superb storyteller, but his editors make his stories zing! There are many people out there with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees who still can’t put a really good fiction book together. An editor can see the big picture. An editor is far enough away from the author’s work (both fiction and non-fiction) to identify the holes in story or thesis, give great advice on characterizations, make sure that dialogue is snappy and character-unique instead of all characters talking the same (I’ve read many books with this problem).
What an author could consider is more value-realizing of the superior investment of good editing. Note, I said good editing. There are some very bad editors out there, so beware. That’s why that 5-page edit that you receive before your hire your editor is so valuable.