10 Things Freelance Editors Shouldn’t Do for You

I’ve talked about readers’ expectations and agents’ expectations, but what about writers’ expectations when it comes to hiring a freelance editor? Of course, you’ll want her to be professional, knowledgeable, courteous, respectful, etc. But there are a few things that people have asked me over the years that tell me they don’t really know what to expect from a freelance editor.

Freelance editors won’t (or shouldn’t):

-Submit your manuscript to agents or publishers: We can help you improve the work, but it’s up to you to approach agents and publishers with a polished manuscript and hook them.

-Guarantee your book will sell after we’ve edited it: Again, we can help you improve the work, but we don’t know how much (if any) of our suggestions you’ve implemented. We don’t know what an agent or publisher is looking for at any particular time or what’s hot in the market. I follow agents’ blogs and industry articles, so I have an idea of what’s selling and what’s not, but this business is very subjective and the market is constantly changing. Agents meet with editors (online or in person) on a regular basis to get to know them and their personal tastes. Freelance editors don’t.

-Recommend your work to an agent or publisher: Our job is to help you polish your manuscript. Your job is to hook an agent or publisher (or self-publish).

-Evaluate your book based off a synopsis or query: Agents get this request too. A writer doesn’t want to waste months or years writing a book unless she knows it’s something that could sell, so she contacts freelance editors or agents with a synopsis and ask for opinions. In her mind, if industry professionals see potential in the premise, she’ll invest her time in it. There are many problems with this idea.
1) Something might be selling today, but that doesn’t mean the premise will work by the time you’ve finished writing the book. So, you might be in the same situation—unable to sell the book.
2) Synopses don’t represent the author’s writing because they are a different kind of beast. Most synopses are filled with telling while the novel should be full of showing. A synopsis is a summary. A novel is something a reader can experience.
3) A story that might sound good on paper (in the synopsis) might flop once written. It’s all about execution, the writing, and the author’s voice. A synopsis helps an agent or publisher see where the story is going and can hook him into wanting to read the book. A synopsis won’t sell the book. An agent or publisher won’t send you a contract based off the synopsis alone. He’ll want to read the novel. I know. Not what you wanted to hear. You actually have to write the book to see if it’ll sell.

Note: This might be different for nonfiction, which can sell on proposal only, and for submissions by published authors who have proven themselves with high sales.

-Write the book for you: Some freelance editors will help an author mold the book into something more sellable, but we won’t write the book from scratch. I’ve had people contact me with an idea and want me to put it all together for them. That’s what copywriters and ghostwriters do, not freelance editors.

-Write the synopsis or query for you: If I haven’t read your book, I can’t summarize it. I can help you rework your query letter and synopsis based off your main characters’ GMCs (goals, motivations, and conflicts), but you need to write these yourself. Agents want to see your voice in the query and synopsis, not someone else’s. Plus, these are things you’ll need to learn to do once you have an agent. Might as well start now.

-Review a book we edited: This is obviously a conflict of interest.

-Help you promote your book by spreading the word about its launch on our social media networks: We’re here to edit your manuscript. We offer editorial services not marketing or promotional services.

-Tell you which agents you should query or which publishers you should target: Do your homework. Research agents and publishers. We won’t do this for you.

-Help you set up a marketing plan: We’re in the business to help you polish your manuscript. If you need help putting together a marketing plan, look into hiring someone who specializes in marketing and promotions.

What are other things a naïve writer might want a freelance editor to do that aren’t a part of her services?

Lynnette Labelle

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2 Responses to 10 Things Freelance Editors Shouldn’t Do for You

  1. Graeme Ing says:

    if you really love the book though, is telling your friends about it (in a non professional capacity) still breaking the code of ethics?

  2. Lynnette Labelle says:

    Graeme: I don’t think so. I’ve recommended your book and other books I’ve edited before. I simply make it known that I edited those books and may be biased. However, I wouldn’t do that on my blog or Facebook page with the exception of a traditionally published book. If I edit a book for an author who has it traditionally published, I know an agent might edit the book to her liking and the publisher will definitely edit it to meet its readers’ expectations for a particular line. Because there are so many other cooks in the kitchen, I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable mentioning the book’s launch. I wouldn’t review it, though.

    Lynnette Labelle

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