editor working on laptop

If you’re writing a book and thinking of self-publishing don’t underestimate the need of an editor.  In fact, most smart writers will engage more than one editor.

Why is this so important?

Firstly, it’s almost impossible to edit your own work.  You tend to see what you thought you’d written so don’t always see things that need fixing.  The only remedy is to leave the manuscript for at least a couple of weeks before you go back over it, but that still doesn’t give you an objective perspective.

Secondly, a good editor looks at your content and the concept of your book and will then make suggestions for:

  • Where a point or section needs developing
  • Where content may need to be relocated in another part of the book
  • Where you’ve gone into too much detail
  • Where you’ve got off topic
  • Where you need to add something – a story, case study or model

This is in addition to correcting grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Typically your first draft would go to your editor for this process and then come back to you for you to work through, accept corrections, do any development work and find additional material where necessary. 

The manuscript would then go back to the editor to tidy up.

Finally – and this is usually the last job before the book goes to be laid out and printed – it goes to a proof-reader to pick up typos and any other anomalies.

If you’re thinking ‘doesn’t Word do that?’, the answer is ‘not everything’.  If you’ve typed ‘where’ instead of ‘wear’ sometimes Word won’t spot that it’s incorrect – it recognises the word.  So ‘there’, ‘their’ and they’re’ are easy to use incorrectly. 

So, I hear you ask ‘why doesn’t my editor do that during the first and second edits?’  They will usually pick most things up, but with corrections and sections being rewritten or moved, it’s easy to overlook the odd thing.  Even in the most reputable publishing houses, the odd typo or apostrophe slips through the net!  The proof-reader doesn’t have anything else to think about – just spotting things that aren’t right.

If you get a contract with a mainstream publishing house, they have editors and proof-readers in-house who do this; that’s why they only pay you 7.5% of net in royalties.  If you’re self-publishing you will need to pay your own editor.  This can range from £15-50 per 1,000 words (more if you need help with the writing), per edit.  Less for proof-reading. 

This may sound like a lot, but it’s worth it as it will affect the impact of your book.  Most self-publishing companies don’t offer editing and proof-reading and will literally publish whatever you give them, regardless of whether it’s good or bad.

When you self-publish your royalties are likely to be 33% to as much as 90% depending on the cost per copy of printing and the price you sell the book at.  This means there are advantages to making the investment up front.

Allow time for editing.  Even the best editors will only edit at around 3,000 words an hour for a first edit and probably won’t want to do more than a couple of sessions of 2-3 hours a day.

Get a good editor and you won’t regret it – it will make a significant difference to the feedback you get from your book.