I generally spend just as long editing as I do drafting, so naturally I've wondered from time to time whether it would be worth it to hire a freelance editor. On my last manuscript, I splurged on a first-chapter edit from a talented editor friend of mine, and it was hugely helpful in identifying the weak points.
Here are some points to consider before you hire an editor for your manuscript.
1. Do your prep work before you take the plunge.
To get the most out of your editing experience, you need to make sure your manuscript is in the absolute best shape you can get it before you send a word of it out to an editor. This means resisting the temptation to send it when you're heartily sick of it and just want to write something else (trust me, we've all been there!).
Books & Such Literary Management has a great blog post that covers some other vital preliminary steps.
2. Check compatibility.
As you probably know if you've worked with critique partners in the past, it's important to make sure you mesh well with someone who's giving you notes on your work. Try to talk to past clients of the editor to make sure they were happy with their experience. In addition, most editors will give you a few pages of edits for free—that way you can make sure their edits will work for you before you commit to anything further.
3. Get the most bang for your buck.
Editors' rates vary, but in general you can expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars (and often a lot more than that) for a full, in-depth manuscript critique. If this is a little rich for your blood, you can choose to focus on key parts of your manuscript. For example, if you're not getting a good response from sending the first few chapters to agents, hire an editor to look at them. They'll be able to tell you any immediate turnoffs that might be causing the problem. Many editors will also work on query letters, synopses, and even contest pitches.
4. Going indie? Don't skimp on the editing.
There are many advantages to self-publishing, like complete creative control and the ability to put books out on whatever schedule works best for you. But it's important to remember that you won't have access to professional editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders like you would if you went the traditional publishing route. This makes hiring a top-notch freelance editor a really, really good idea. I have two friends who have built up a huge following by self-publishing books, and both of them consider extensive work with a freelance editor as an essential part of the process.
Have you worked with a freelance editor before? What was your experience?