- I think the answer will vary on your specific situation.
- There are many 'in-betweens,' between not hiring an editor and hiring an editor.
- If you do hire an editor, that editor needs to be a good fit for you and your book.
My answer to this question is to look at your budget and see what you can afford.
a. If you have no money at all for this, you can still test a few editors out, for a few pages. Maybe five pages total. In my experience, about half the freelance editors looking for work will be willing to show you a sample of their work on your opening pages. One thing you might notice from this is that each editor will return a different set of comments back to you.
Also in the 'free' category is finding a beta reader to swap stories with. As you provide feedback on their story, they provide feedback on yours. Try a chapter at a time, at first. You can find beta reading groups on Facebook.
b. If you have a few hundred dollars you are willing to spend, you can hire editors to edit the first fifty pages of your manuscript. This is a common length to ask for editing on, because you then see the issues you are bringing to your writing. It's also a not-uncommon length for querying purposes. In other words, if you have the first fifty pages edited (and I'd again suggest hiring a couple different editors for the task because they will give you different feedback, which is enlightening in multiple ways). Then you can incorporate what you like from the feedback and start sending queries.
Since queries often entail only sending the opening of your book, and since a vanishingly small percentage of first novels find a publisher, you might want to no go further than this before testing the waters with agents and publishers.
c. But if you have a thousand dollars or more to spend you could plunk it down on an editor. I really discourage this if this is your first novel. You'd learn more in the long run to get some books on fiction writing and editing from the library and learning to do as much of the work as you can, yourself. Sure, you might still decide to hire an editor down the road, but you'd do so with a manuscript that is already stronger than what you likely have at the moment.
Other free options for you include joining a writers group. Sharing excerpts on any of the forums that exist for this purpose. Printing your novel and reading it on hard copy. I think any of these approaches might be more wise in the short term.
Last thing. There are multiple editor types. Developmental editors look at plot and structure. Line editors/copy editors look at punctuation, grammar and consistency. Proofreaders check that there are no glaring errors in the proof copy.