Do you need an editor? A guide to self-publishing
The first draft of a story is merely the clay you throw onto your potter’s wheel. It takes patience and skill to transform it into something beautiful.
You have written a story that you are excited to publish and share with the world. What next? Editors are optional right? Well that depends on a number of things, but whatever you do, please do not publish your first draft.
A.J. O’Connell, in her article “How honest should you be when you review self-published books?”, which was published on Book Riot in 2016, said -
“Self-published books should go through layers of scrutiny as well — a smart author knows to hire beta readers and editors — but not all authors are willing (or able) to hire an editor. And it shows.”
The world wants to read your story, but readers also want to be able to enjoy it and understand what you’re trying to tell them. Only good editing can ensure your message gets across in the way you intended. If you use the wrong words, misspell them or punctuate badly it will negatively impact on the reader’s experience, and I am sure none of us want unhappy readers, even if, like A.J. O’Connell, they decide not to leave that dreaded one star review.
Answer these questions truthfully and they will help you decide whether you can afford to self-edit -
1) Do you have a good grasp on grammar and spelling?
2) Can you put the manuscript aside for at least three months, preferably a year, so you can come back to it fresh when you start to edit?
3) Do you care about your readers?
The D.I.Y guide to editing
You can’t afford an editor. You’ve read books on grammar and understand when to use a comma and an apostrophe; you refer to a good dictionary when you are even slightly unsure about the spelling of a word; you are able to leave the first, second or third draft of your story alone for long enough that when you start to edit it there is a psychological distance between you, as the writer, (who knows what they were trying to say) and you, as the editor, who can check whether you said it effectively.
Hiring an editor
I edit self-published books, but I still pay an editor to check my own. If you have the requisite skills to self edit this could be an option for you – exchange work and edit other writers’ work to pay for your own editor. There are always errors that my editor finds which make me shudder. Hiring a good editor is always worth it.
Get recommendations. You probably have friends who are indie authors. Read their books and, if you like what you read, ask them who they use to edit their work.
Check an editor’s qualifications, are they accredited? Do they know when to use its and it’s, and do they understand the difference between “Let’s eat Grandma,” and “Let’s eat, Grandma,”?
Shop around. Unless you are 100% satisfied with your editor, try someone else. As with a hairdresser, you'll know when you've found the right one.
Copy-editing is not the same as proofreading; know the difference and decide whether you need to hire both or can manage one yourself.
Good editing will not automatically mean you have a bestseller on your hands, there are other things to consider – the subject, the cover, marketing etc. However, good editing will ensure that you keep your readers coming back for more. If you are serious about your writing career, the question shouldn’t be, “Can I afford an editor?” but rather, “Can I afford to release a poorly edited book?” and the answer to the latter will be, “No, you cannot.”