A professional editor bridges the gap between the writer and the reader, a gap that the writer, may not be aware of. Once you have finished editing your manuscript yourself, a professional editor is essential.
But should you spend money on a professional editor?
The short answer is, if you want to get it published, whether through a traditional publisher or via self publishing, professional editing is crucial. I want to show you why paying a professional editor was actually the secret to me getting the publishing deal that I wanted.
I had already tried and failed to find an agent. I had spent six gruelling months honing and refining proposals, author biogs, chapter summaries, covering letters, synopsis, taylor made to suit each agent. I had heard nothing back. I felt despair at having such a wall of silence and no sense of how I was doing and how I should tweak what I was doing to succeed. Many people would have given up at this point and I too felt like doing so. I realised I had wanted an agent to validate me as a writer. I had needed them to believe in me so that I would believe in myself. But hadn’t many other authors before me received just as many rejections, if not more, and gone on to find success? It was time to start believing in myself.
I really wanted to find a publisher but I wanted to be sure that my book was as good as it could be before I sent it to anyone. that’s why I decided to send my manuscript off to someone in the publishing industry. I wasn’t going to risk putting something out there that lacked credibility. I wanted an editor to acts as a gate keeper; a window onto how my book would be seen by a potential publisher.
I found Victoria Roddam through Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, who were recommended by two different people in the same week. I took that as a good sign. Cornerstones also act as agent scouts and if they like your work then you have a chance at a publishing contract. I wanted feedback on my book, to know whether it had potential and if so, what I needed to do to achieve it.
The opening paragraph was positive and showed the editor had grasped what I was trying to do:
“This is a powerful, honest and lucid memoir that details seven so-called ‘psychotic’ episodes which take place over two or so decades. Through the framework of these episodes we join the author on a transformative journey not only through the troubled landscapes of the psychiatric wards but also on her own pilgrimage, from troubled twenty-something to a respected documentary filmmaker and campaigner for a new perspective on mental health and wellbeing.
“My Beautiful Psychosis questions conventional methods of ‘treating’ psychosis and psychotic episodes and points towards a radical vision where ‘diagnosis’ of mental illness makes allowances for spiritual growth and transformation rather than simply treating a perceived chemical imbalance in the brain.”
Reading back in someone else’s words what I set out to do was incredibly validating. It’s like in therapy where the therapist just repeats back the words you just used. It makes you feel really understood.
Then under a heading called general comments the editor wrote:
“This brave and fluently written manuscript is not only a searing and honest account of what it is to experience psychotic episodes and a concomitant spiritual transformation, but it also has a powerful message to convey.
“The standard of writing is very high, lyrical and layered – it is immediately clear to the reader that you have spent a great deal of time styling your narrative, and you have a natural gift for capturing potent emotions and challenging situations in a manner which renders their full intensity without belabouring the subject matter. There is an immediacy and power in your narrative which conveys not only the passion with which you view the subject matter but also, of course, the turbulent experiences and dramatic awakenings that you yourself have undergone.”
But here’s the bit I was waiting for:
“Given the high standard of your writing, your platform as a filmmaker/campaigner and the strength of your belief in this message, I am perhaps not making too much of an assumption if I presume that your long-term ambition is to attract agent and/or publisher interest, in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.
“Indeed your profile, combined with your very readable writing style, means that this should not be an impossible dream for you, although I think there are one or two significant challenges facing you that you may or may not wish to overcome/address should you be seeking a traditional publishing contract or agent representation.”
Did I just read that it’s not an impossible for me to find an agent and/or publisher? My stomach flipped! I was back in the game.
I invested £900 on this twenty page report on My Beautiful Psychosis. It was a lot of money, but I felt it was worth every penny. A new hope was born in me, that I might find a publisher if I kept on working at it.
“It will be the purpose of this report not only to highlight the strengths of your manuscript but also to identify some of the issues that agents or publishers might find off-putting. If you do decide to address these areas, of course it cannot be guaranteed that you will, as a result, find representation or a publishing contract, but I do believe your manuscript will be the stronger for it, even in a self-published form, and will stand a stronger chance of reaching the wider audience you are perhaps seeking.”
I followed almost every piece of advice listed in the report. Thanks to this professional editorial feedback, I went on to secure a publishing deal.
My Beautiful Psychosis was published by Aeon Books on World Mental Health Day 2020. It is now available as an AUDIOBOOK.
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