This article explains why you really need JUST ONE good editor.

Contrary to popular belief, the quality of a manuscript is NOT improved each time ANOTHER editor works on it. Here is the math equation that governs the relationship:

MQ = 1/X

Where MQ is the Manuscript Quality and X is the number of editors.

Many people think that if 10 editors work on their manuscript, then it must be 10 times better. They deliver their manuscript smiling to the next editor or publisher, saying:

“X editors have worked on my manuscript, so there is really not much left for you to do with it. Please quote me a price on any cosmetic touch-ups you might apply…but it really doesn’t need any. You might find 1 or 2 at most.”

Inexperienced editors/publishers hear this and think:
“This manuscript will be squeaky clean. I will be lucky to find any errors or issues at all.”

Experienced editors/publishers hear this and think:
“Since they said that X editors worked on the manuscript already, that means it is roughly X times as BAD as when it started out.”

If X is greater than 3, they plug their nose and close their eyes before opening the file.

The inexperienced editor/publisher does not yet realize that a mathematical relationship governs the editorial process. Stated in words, here is the relationship:

The Quality of a Manuscript (MQ) is indirectly proportional to the number of editors (X) who have “worked” on it.

Here’s why:

If a manuscript is unfortunate enough to suffer through 10 edits, the first editor may have fixed it a little bit; then maybe the second editor improved it some more, but the 3rd editor could have taken the manuscript quality BACKWARDS quite a bit, and the 4th editor (with a quirky personality) may have put his or her own little “spin” on everything, sending the content into an odd state–i.e., an editorial nosedive that leaves the reader feeling “generally uncomfortable for no apparent reason.” Editor 5 may then fix some of this quirkiness but likely will be unable to remove the weird “personality” editor 4 has imbued the content with; frustrated, editor 5 makes a few quick changes before passing the mess to editor 6, who does some good work to keep the manuscript alive—but barely. Editor 7, who may be a pretty good editor (possibly trained formally) then does some excellent work, but ultimately capitulates, realizing how hopeless the manuscript has become since the main structure is far too damaged by all the tinkering: the “narrative cancer” is nearly terminal, so a few sentence-level changes are made, the payment is collected (via PayPal), and the manuscript is passed along to the next unsuspecting editor, editor 8, who works diligently, making many significant structural and cosmetic changes, all the while believing the content is improving and that the eventual book is possibly even nearing bestseller territory, when in reality, the body of the manuscript is in the icy grip of advanced rigor mortis and stinking to high Heaven. Editors 9 and 10 both tweak a few grammatical nits, collect their checks, and move on to their next project.

As such, the following equation reflects the forces governing the editing process (arguably more so in the 21st century):

MQ = 1/X