Editing Markup
D.G. Kaye,  Editing tips,  Great information,  On Writing,  self publishing,  THOUGHTS

Is The #Editor You Hired Actually Doing The Editing?

While visiting a friend’s blog recently, I was intrigued at something Amy Reade’s guest, an author and freelance editor, mentioned in her interview – “English teachers are not editors.” Her comment took me back to a terrible experience I once encountered with an editor I hired after being referred to her by a highly successful author friend. At the time, I was just completing my final draft for my 3rd book – Menowhat? A Memoir  and was already quite happy and comfortable with my previous editor but somehow got caught up in the hoopla of this highly recommended editor who my friend claimed had brought his book to a new level.


I carefully vetted the editor, looked at testimonials and checked out her work, and even had a free chapter edited by her for her to demonstrate how she works. And for some unexplained reason I decided to try her out for a change of pace. I emailed her and even followed up by calling her because I wanted to get a good feel for her and her work. . . and the nightmare began.

I submitted my manuscript and anxiously awaited it to return to me with the edits, and what I got back was a holy mess.

The manuscript I was reading didn’t read like it was my voice anymore. All of who I am as a writer was stripped away from my story. My story had no emotion left in it, it read boring and almost clinical.

As I continued to scroll through the initial first pass of the edits, I literally shed tears and felt like shredding the whole manuscript. Nothing was jiving. Everything I’d read about this editor wasn’t adding up to the praise she had been given by many. And after I did a first scroll through I turned on the track changes in the review section of the Word document to read further – the explanations in the viewing panel from the editor, the panel that not only displays comments and suggested changes, but is stamped with the editor’s initials, or full name. THE NAME I SAW WAS NOT THE NAME OF THE EDITOR I HIRED!!

I was livid. I immediately drafted a letter and sent it off to ‘the editor I hired’. I let her know how I felt about the shoddy work done on my MS, and that I discovered that she did not edit my book! She replied to me with a bunch of malarkey to soften the blows and proceeded to explain to me that she was behind in her work and subbed out my MS to an English school teacher friend of hers. She did not inform me of that when I hired her, or when she sent me back the MS, hoping I wouldn’t notice!

I chewed her out and told her I would not be paying the balance owed and if she had a problem with that I’d have no problem exploiting her on social media. Then I put my tail between my legs and emailed my original editor of my other books, explained how I betrayed her and apologized, told her about the mess my book was in and asked if she’d take it on and start from scratch with the original manuscript before it was hacked to death. And of course, the good person she is, she consoled me and told me it’s not unusual for writers to want to explore other editors and that she was happy I came back to her. I wanted to hug her.

I’ve read many times how we as writers aren’t effective enough being our own editors and I know this first hand. I’ve read many a tale of woe where writers cried in protest their editors had stripped their voice from their manuscripts. And I’ve also read several times that English teachers don’t qualify as editors. Then I learned why.

I recently visited Amy’s blog where she was featuring author/editor Cindy Davis, talking about one of her books and touching on several insights about writing. Her statement and explanation below is what reminded me about the importance of hiring a real editor:

Amy asked: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


Two things. Never think you’re done learning. Keep striving to improve your writing skills. And second, get your book edited. Not by an English teacher. I know I’ll take some flack for this and I agree that teachers are awesome for punctuation and grammar, but they aren’t trained in story development or the fine-tuning it takes to bring your story to the next level—things like filter words, head hopping, and show don’t tell.


And I will add to that the importance of maintaining voice. Voice is how we project our words, how they are received by a reader with a distinct and familiar narration just as we all have our own unique sound of our actual voices, our voice should carry into our writing. We are the storytellers of our books. The editor’s voice is not the one that should emit through the story.

Remember, not every editor is suited for every book. We have to do our diligence and vet the editor. In my situation, I did my diligence vetting and when I had my MS returned to me, nothing about it gave me a wow factor as I’d expected and my suspicions proved correct because the person I hired wasn’t the person who edited my MS.

Have any of you here ever been duped or unsatisfied with a hired editor? Please share your experience with us.


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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • Jas

    Kaye! As soon as I saw the title of your new blog post in my email list, I immediately knew I had to read this post!!! I have a story to share. The book I co-authored, “The Sin of a Fresh Graduate”, was sent to an ‘experienced’ individual in the publishing industry. I got to know her sometime ago from our local writer’s group and has since then been an acquaintance.

    So, we sent her our manuscript, only to get it back with negative criticism and she even blatantly made suggestions on how the book should be written instead of trying to understand why we wrote the way it was written.

    So, due to time constraint, I end up editing the book once again and found quite a number of errors, which should have been corrected by the editor earlier.

    It was disappointing but I have to agree with you; not every editor is suited for every book.

    It was a good learning experience.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us here today Jas. Sadly, I’ve heard your story many times over the years. I’m not sure what happened in your situation, possibly the editor didn’t bother doing the regular editing until you fixed up the initial suggestions, as rewrites would entail starting over with edits? An editor shouldn’t be changing our stories or our voices, but if a plot isn’t flowing properly that’s part of developmental editing, which in fact would change the structure of a story, but not the story itself. I hope this helps. 🙂

  • Marian Beaman

    Unforgivable! I gasped when I read this: “She was behind in her work and subbed out my MS to an English school teacher friend of hers. She did not inform me of that when I hired her, or when she sent me back the MS, hoping I wouldn’t notice!”

    By the way, English teachers can learn to be editors, but editing requires a different set of skills than teaching grammar and punctuation. By the way, I have had excellent experiences with all the editors I’ve hired. One of my best ones was listed in Acknowledgements in a friend’s memoir. Besides, I heard she was great to work with when I queried the author, an added bonus.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for adding to the conversation Marian. Yes, it’s unbelievable, but true how this sneaky move happened. And yes, of course English teachers undoubtedly would make good editors if they studied to do so specifically as editor. Of course an English teacher knows grammar and punctuation, but story development and all those other goodies editors look for are best left to an editor. All writers like to think they can edit because of course we’re writers, but we are also biased and too tuned into our work to be objective and sometimes blind to glaring typos because we see what we look at daily in our WIP, we get so used to with every revision.

    • Terri Webster Schrandt

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Deb! You bring up excellent points about the copy editing vs development editing processes. I used to be a freelance copy editor and was very good, but I stayed away from overall flow other than to make a suggestion or two. I hope to have enough written in my fitness book to get the editing process started in the next few months.

  • Hugh Roberts

    What a terrible thing to have happened, Debby. Please to say that not only do I know I have a great editor, but she also specialises in short stories. I’ve even recommended her to others.

    • dgkaye

      Consider yourself lucky Hugh. I learned an expensive lesson for sure. It’s so important to vet a new editor and have them do a sample of their work on a chapter of work to see if they’re a good fit for us. Of course, I did all this but didn’t expect my MS to get subbed out after all the vetting!!! So important to look at those initials in track changes to make sure it’s the person we hired to do the work! 🙂 x

      • Hugh Roberts

        Oh, I do, Debby. As I’ve only published two books, I’ve only ever used the same editor. I also had the chance to meet her, so that was also a bonus. However, I realise that’s not always possible to do.
        I’m glad your original editor didn’t see that you had done anything wrong by trying somebody else. Another sure sign that she’s great.

  • Christy B

    Oh wow I would have cried too, Debby! Our books are so near and dear to us that having it edited in a way that doesn’t “jive” as you put it is heartbreaking. This post is sure to help many people look deeper into a recommended editor and, hopefully, in turn, get one that is a good fit for their book and their needs.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Christy. Yes, it’s so important to vet an editor and that they offer a free few pages or chapter sample edit to get a feel for how they work. In my case, I did all that but was duped by her handing it over to someone else after I hired her. 🙁

  • Pete Springer

    What an awful experience! Not only is it unprofessional, but it is also highly unethical. I’m not sure what I would have done if I were in your shoes, Debby, but I would have asked for a full refund. When we hire an “expert.” it seems that is what we should get. It would be similar to hiring a lawyer and getting the services of someone who had watched Judge Judy and now felt qualified to offer legal advice. I’m glad that your original editor handled the situation with such class.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much for chiming in here Pete. Absolutely! One would think that the actual person they hired would be doing the work. I did my part in the proper vetting, so if it weren’t for the embossed initials that Microsoft Word stamps in the comment section of track changes, I would have never known better, other than I would have questioned my own ability to hire a proper editor. I hope many catch on to noticing the initials on their returned manuscripts. 🙂

  • Diana Peach

    Finding a good editor is so hard, not only because they need to have experience with many parts of what makes a good story, but they need to maintain the author’s voice and style. I guess you learned the hard way, Debby. I’m glad you’re back with the editor who’s served you well in the past. 🙂

  • lisa thomson

    What a nightmare, Deb! Yikes, I can’t believe she sent your MS out without asking you first, plus charging you HER rates and not a school teacher’s. 😛

    I’ve been very fortunate with my editors. I used a Canadian company out of Toronto for my first book. They were excellent. I would have used them again but my fiction, I decided to go with an independent editor. I actually had three stories edited by separate editors. This was an interesting process, because they each had different suggestions.

    My experience with editing is that ultimately, as the writer, you have to make the decision to keep or throw out certain aspects of your story, character, dialogue, plot, etc. And you have to go with your instincts at times. This way you keep your voice.

    Great share, Deb. Such an important step for any author yet not an easy one.

    • dgkaye

      Thanks so much Lis for sharing some of your own experience here. You hit the nail on the head – if we gave our work to 3 different editors, it would come back different from all. The main thing is the editor know their job but if they go further as to destroy our voice, they’ve gone too far. And yes, we do have final say what stays and what goes, but if we’ve hired a good editor, we’re more inclined to listen to them. Glad you found editors that work good for you.
      If you’re ever looking for another editor, let me know, I’ll put you on to my Canadian editor, in Canadian dollars, very reasonable rates! <3 x

  • Carol

    Oh, what a disaster and how unprofessional was she? I also would have asked for a full refund…As someone who has not quite got there yet a good post. Thank you for sharing Hugs xx

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Carol. Yes, it was a very unpleasant time for sure. I just wanted to enlighten others on what to look for here. <3 xx

  • sally cronin

    Absolutely dreadful Debby and she should have offered a full refund and she is lucky you did not name and shame her. Hopefully she learnt her lesson and did not do it again to someone else. Your voice is unique and should always be allowed to shine… ♥♥

    • dgkaye

      I thought about it for a long time Sal -wanting to say who it was to possibly spare others, but ultimately didn’t to spare myself any potential unpleasantries. <3 xx

  • Adele Marie Park

    So sad to hear your experience, Debby, if this had happened to a first-time author well, I dread to think. Good for you not taking any of the editor’s flimsy excuses. <3

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Adele. And you’re so right. What if it was someone’s first book and they didn’t know any different how an editor works, leaving them thinking their work was in such bad shape when it wasn’t. 🙁 <3

  • Amy M Reade

    Thanks for the shout-out, Debby. I have a different story to share–my publishing company once sent my book out-of-house to be edited, which they frequently do. I was horrified by the job this person did. I emailed my real editor, the one actually employed by the publishing company, to tell him the editor’s “corrections” were unacceptable and I would refuse to work with that editor in the future. Once my real editor took a look at what had been inflicted upon my ms, he agreed.

    This is all to say that sometimes we can’t even trust a publisher to get the editing right. I wish the company had told me they would be sending my ms out, because I could have checked the credentials of the outside editor personally. Unfortunately, I gave that right away when I signed with the company.

    • dgkaye

      Wow Amy, that’s a nightmare. Did your original editor agree and take back your MS to redo? What the heck is up with these people we painstakingly take time to vet, only to have our work subbed out. Hiring an editor is a personal thing with a working relationship between the writer and the editor. This isn’t right!

  • Robbie Cheadle

    Oh dear, that is horrible. I have been very lucky with both my editors, they have been amazing and I have learned so much from them.

  • John Maberry

    Amazing!!!!! What unmitigated gall and/or chutzpah to subcontract the editing job! I might assume that SOME English teachers might make good editors if they had PhDs and taught graduate level courses in appropriate topics. But if they did that, then they probably wouldn’t need to edit on the side–would they?

  • Hilary

    Hi Debby – how very unprofessional of her … and deceitful … but I’m glad you were able to get your helpful first editor back helping you out … we can all make a mess, it’s just so wonderful when people can be generous and realise it was ‘a real mistake’ … as you say live and learn – or as we do here, read and inwardly digest – just in case. So glad it all worked out … cheers Hilary

  • Annika Perry

    Debby, the gall of the woman beggars belief! To sub out the work, to an unprofessional in the field of editing and without telling you! How many would have accepted the changes and not dared question them and/or realise that someone else had worked on the ms. I’m glad you got it all sorted and sage advice for us all. I have an expert editor whose edits I trust implicitly… she picks up the most silly mistakes and always offers up great tips to improve the writing! At times, I will stand my corner with a word / phrase though! 😀

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Annika for adding to the conversation. Yes, quite unbelievable and I’m glad I shared it to warn others. Your editor sounds like mine (my original and ongoing editor). She never alters my voice and sometimes leaves suggestions to change a word or phrase with her thoughts, and I sometimes agree or disagree. And that’s how a working relationship should be. When I come across those suggestions, I email her with my questions about it and we discuss. If it aint broken, don’t fix! <3

  • Kate Johnston

    Ai yi yi! As an editor, I cringe at your story! What she did is not professional by any standard. She absolutely should have let you know of the delay in her schedule and given you the option to back out of the agreement. I’m sorry you had that experience, and I’m glad you were able to return to your previous editor.

    Writers and editors need to build relationships because the very nature of the work is personal and comes from the soul. Voice is extremely difficult to edit around, and I can say, easily, that the majority of my conversations and quick check-ins with my writers has been about voice. A sentence could be grammatically incorrect, but if voice is what is creating the issue, then sometimes it’s best to stet and move on. Editors tend to get a wee bit up on their high horses, and they forget there could be a meaningful, personal reason for a run-on sentence, fragment, or prepositional phrase. 🙂

    • dgkaye

      Hi Kate. Thank you soooooo much for adding to the conversation from your editor point of view! Yes, not very professional at all. Thanks for reiterating the part about the working relationship and that if a pre-vetted editor is too busy for our work, yes, a simple notification would have been nice instead of subbing out my work WITHOUT LETTING ME KNOW. Those initials in the track change column were a smart move by Microsoft,lol. 🙂

  • Jeri

    The fact that the editor did not let you know she was farming out your manuscript to another editor is unforgivable. It would have been more prudent for her to ask for more time. Editors who use subcontractors should be very careful about who they hire and what types of editing they allow them to make. It’s essential they ensure the subcontractors have an editing style consistent with their own and a similar editing philosophy. Even if I was at the level that I needed to farm out editing projects, I would do so by providing a finder’s fee for when I refer an author to another editor. I would not want someone else to edit under my name for Word Bank. I also agree that an English teacher is not an editor per so, but sometimes English teachers do become editors (such as myself). However, my background in the literary arts is quite extensive and includes writing workshops and graduate work in rhetoric and composition. It’s sad that so many people call themselves editors these days. That is why I’m pulling back and rethinking what I do for a living and the types of authors I want to work with.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you so much for sharing your perspective here as an editor Jeri. Choosing an editor who fits with us and our writing is definitely a process and when we feel confident we’ve done the proper vetting to see if we’re a good fit with the editor, the editor has no right pulling the rug from under us by handing over our MS to someone we didn’t hire. Thank you for adding to the conversation. 🙂

  • Norah Colvin

    What a disaster, Debby, but fortunately it turned out okay in the end. How unethical of that editor to take your work and not explain her situation and that she was not editing your book. Good on you for discovering the deception and calling her out on it. I’m so pleased that your original editor agreed to work with you again. I’m sure you are a wonderful client. Why would she not?

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for the voice of encouragement Norah. No, this was absolutely not alright and I thought the time had come to bring this issue to the attention of all writers who endeavor to work with an editor. I don’t take anything lying down so I’m calling it out loud and clear. 🙂 xx

  • Terry Tyler

    What a story! I will, if I may, add this to the post on my own blog on which I share good advice posts for writers. Good for you for sussing it out!!

    Worse still are the writers who think that, just because they’ve written a couple of self-published books, they are qualified to set themselves up as editors, and charge for it. Editing is a skill that needs to be learned, understood and honed before you start charging money for it, I am sure you agree! I will say, though, that authors themselves need to learn not to do things like telling not showing, head hopping, etc – I have never used an editor because I think I should be able to take that first draft to a whole new level myself (and boy, do those first drafts need some work, ha ha!).

    Once or twice, my proofreading sister has been snowed under, and has passed work over to another in the industry (there are a couple she will work with; not many, though!), but she always asks the client first.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you so much for dropping by Terry. You may certainly feel free to add my post to your good advice section, I’m humbled. 🙂 I’m with you on all counts. And I’ll add that anyone who thinks that sending a first draft to an editor is ready, needs to sit themselves down and begin revisions before even thinking about editors.
      Thanks Terry 🙂

  • Liesbet

    What a terrible experience, Debby! And you still lost the up-front money. Part of me feels like that editor – hiring her own work out to someone else without telling you – should be exposed, but I understand why you refrain from name calling. You’re a good person. 🙂

    I haven’t hired any editors yet, but I’m quite worried about that process. Yes, we will do our vetting, read reviews, and listen to personal recommendations. But, the perfectionist and low-budget person I am, I want value for my money and have high expectations when I pay money for services… We will see what happens next in my memoir journey. Right now, nothing, as I am prioritizing other things again (volunteering at an animal sanctuary for a couple of weeks).

    • dgkaye

      Thanks Liesbet. No, I’m not looking to make waves, only to share my gained experience to warn others. It was a very crappy time in the midst of everything. Just take your time. Your deadlines re self-imposed. 🙂

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