Are you an author who wants to increase your chances of self-publishing success?
Even the greatest authors to ever pick up the proverbial pen knew to hire an editor to review their manuscripts before they hit the market. This includes King, Atwood, Martin, and even classic literary masters, such as Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Hemingway.
Too many indie authors cut corners in an attempt to scrimp on the necessary expenses of self-publishing by choosing to self-edit and/or running their manuscript through AI editing software rather than hire a professional editor.
But in my fifteen years in publishing, especially the last decade-plus spent working as a book editor and author coach, I’ve never known nor heard of an author who successfully published their book, won a reputable award, or became a bestseller without hiring a pro editor.
I believe part of the reason so many indie authors still won’t hire an editor, aside from trying to avoid any out-of-pocket expenses, is assuming that all an editor does is fix typos.
But firstly, authors need to shift our mindset when it comes to editing fees and cover designer fees. They’re more than just an annoying expense. They’re an investment in your future as an author, and they’re also no different than the expenses you’d incur regularly with any other small business. And yes. Self-publishing is a small business.
Secondly, as a veteran book editor, I can tell you firsthand, a good, skilled, and experienced editor can and will do so much more for you, your book, and your career than most authors realize.
So, let’s break down the X reasons you cannot bypass the professional editing process and go straight to self-publishing.
What's in this post...
Find and Fix Writing Craft and Technique Issues
It’s important to be aware that there are three different types of edits your book needs: line (copy) edits, content (developmental/structural) edits, and a final proofread.
When it comes to fixing basic typos and errors, almost all editors with a modicum of natural talent can run through a manuscript and find obvious mistakes, such as grammar issues, spelling errors, and incorrect punctuation, which is “the essential step that makes your manuscript actually worth reading.”
It’s easy to assume that we, as authors, can do this part by ourselves, especially those of us who are naturally gifted when it comes to the English language and writing technique. And if we can use an AI editing software, even better.
While I do highly recommend using ProWritingAid.com for your first round of revisions prior to sending your manuscript to your pro editor. You still need human, professional editing for your book prior to publishing.
It’s been proven time and again by scientists and studies that our brains are not capable of catching nearly as many mistakes as a fresh pair of eyes can, especially skilled and trained eyes.
Just ask cognitive scientist, Tom Stafford of the University of Sheffield in the UK, who actually studies typos for a living (true story).
This is exactly why editors are better equipped to find and fix even the simplest of typos, let alone bigger, more complex line editing issues.
Find and Fix "Big Picture Issues in Your Story
As discussed in the point above, the second type of editing you need is a content edit, which is also referred to as a “developmental” or “structural” edit.
Whatever you call it, your professional editor has the skill and experience needed to detect, point out, and correct “big picture” issues, such as a confusing timeline, pacing that is too fast or too slow, issues with plotlines, underdeveloped or flat characters, an ineffective beginning and/or end to your story, and so much more.
As with line editing, there’s simply no way any author can step away from their manuscript and be objective enough to see the story as a whole and every issue contained therein. This is why simply having a proofread or light line edit done is never enough.
Most readers are much more willing to forgive typos than they are a dull character or a slowly paced narrative. So, no matter how “clean” your writing technique may be, you still need a professional to look at these all-important issues since, at the end of they day, the story is what matters above all else.
Provide Feedback on Sensitive Issues
Something that’s become increasingly popular in the past few years is what’s called a “sensitivity read” or a “sensitivity edit.” I believe this is because society, as a whole, has become increasingly aware of issues of race, gender identity, and different abilities.
Not that this is a bad thing. Some may argue it’s an advancement for our society.
Regardless of your position on these issues, your responsibility as an author is to tell your readers an entertaining story and allow them to escape their everyday, hum-drum lives to the world you’ve created for them. It’s not your job to try to influence them or change their beliefs or opinions on social issues.
But even if you aren’t intentionally trying to alter the viewpoints of readers, you can accidentally upset and alienate large groups of people by including words, phrases, or characters that are stereotypical or outright offensive.
Even if you imagined a character who is a bigot, you still must be cautious about the words you use, even in their dialogue. Or if you feature a character with a mental or physical illness, and you inadvertently portray them in the wrong light or come off as ignorant and insensitive, you’ve not only lost thousands of potential readers or more, but you may also potentially find yourself blackballed as an author and your career will be over before it began. When you hire an editor, they can help you navigate and mitigate any issues in your righting that may cause major issues later.
Another big issue your editor should look for and encourage you against is hating on your readers, even those who aren’t big fans or post negative reviews. Case in point? Check out this article by Nathan J Robinson on CurrentAffairs.org where he dives into what happens when even established authors go off the rails venting about unhappy readers who called her out on social media. It’s an informative and entertaining must-read!
A professional editor who stays on top of these types of issues and knows how to address them will also watch for and point out these types of issues. You should ask any potential editor if they are experienced in editing for sensitive issues.
Provide Respectful but Honest Feedback
Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we?
If you hire a professional editor, you are acknowledging that you need someone with more experience and an objective viewpoint to not only correct obvious, glaring mistakes but also to provide you with constructive feedback to help you avoid embarrassment or potential bad reviews and low/no sales.
Check out this post by Janey Burton on her blog which highlights just five examples of reader reviews related to poor or nonexistent editing of a book.
Too many authors are willing to hire an editor to be their “Yes Man.” They may not do this consciously, but deep down, they’ve not prepared themselves for the possibility that their book may need serious revisions and is not entirely perfect.
I see this every day as an editor. My job is not to be a sycophant or your biggest fan (although I can and will be). My job, first and foremost, is to pour through your pages, find issues big and small that you have overlooked, and provide suggestions to fix and polish them.
I want to help you bring your book baby to its fullest potential and I truly want you to succeed, as does any professional editor who truly cares about the work they do and their clients.
And this is yet another thing your editor can and should be willing to do—have those tough conversations in a respectful, polite, and helpful way.
Teach You to Become a Better Writer
Finally, but maybe most importantly, a truly great editor will take all these points to the next level. They’ll go out of their way to not just fix the problems but also to teach you how to improve your writing craft and storytelling abilities.
When I edit for one of my clients, I do this in two different ways. One, I use the bubble comments in the page margins to explain why I made certain changes, how to find them in the future, and how to avoid and/or correct them with your next book…and the next
Two, I provide a separate Word doc wherein I include 3-4 pages of comments in bullet point format on ways to improve the story itself and ways to improve your writing technique.
In my opinion, any skilled, experienced editor should also make it their mission to do more than just fix your mistakes. They will also teach you to become a better writer. This truly is the biggest responsibility of any professional editor.
Conclusion: Editors are a Necessary Part of Your Team!
Now, even with all this in mind, many authors will still believe that the ability to hire an editor is a luxury—something only famous, big-name authors who earn six-figures in royalties can afford.
The truth is, you can find professional, trained, and skilled editors who will do a thorough job, cover all we have discussed, and still not charge you an arm and leg.
For example, in my decade plus career editing books, I’ve earned the right to charge huge fees for my services…but I don’t. Instead, I keep my editing fees aligned with the recommendations of The Editorial Freelancers’ Association, which are reflected in the graphic below.
On top of that, I almost always have a discount code floating around that authors can snag and use, and I offer installment plan options, all of which I do in an effort to make professional and absolutely necessary book editing more accessible, manageable, and affordable for as many authors as possible.
If you’d like to learn more about the services I offer and my Elite Editing Team, comprised of three editors with a combined 50-plus years of experience, visit my website’s Editing Services page.
Then, fill out the short form on that page to request your free sample edit, which I will turn around in 24 hours or less. If I can accept and edit your manuscript, your sample edit and quote will be accompanied by a proposal, complete with quote and payment options.
And remember, just because someone offers to edit your manuscript for bargain basement prices, it doesn’t mean you should let them. You get what you pay for, and in the end, it is important to remember that when you hire an editor, it is an investment in yourself, your book, and your career.