Now more than ever, authors are choosing to self-publish their work. With massive industry shifts — like the rise of ebooks and the decline of local bookstores — self-publishing has become a legitimate option.
But with many authors now handling the printing and distribution of their own books, it can seem tempting to take a DIY approach with editing, too.
And hey, I get it! As a freelancer, I’ve learned to become a jack-of-all-trades, juggling my website design, accounting, book-keeping, and more (in addition to my actual client work). I know that money is tight, and that hiring a contractor is often a pricey endeavour.
But when you’re putting a book out into the world, there are still many good reasons to consider hiring an editor. Here are just five:
1. Self-published authors don’t typically have access to an editor, which is a standard part of the traditional publishing process.
There’s something to be said for by-passing many aspects of the traditional publishing process, but the author-editor relationship is one of the most crucial.
Having someone to collaborate with on an in-depth level is truly invaluable. Whether for catching typos, errors, stylistic inconsistencies, or formatting issues, editors can help you tighten up all aspects of your writing. Skipping that step altogether can seriously hinder the quality of your book.
2. The need for copyediting and proofreading is very real.
Perhaps the most important role of an editor is to polish and perfect your work. Hiring a professional can give you peace of mind to know that your writing is free from errors before it goes to the printer.
There are many types of editors — copyeditors, stylistic editors, and proofreaders, to name a few. Some editors perform all three functions, while others will focus on just one. No matter who you choose to work with, it’s imperative that you cover all areas.
You’ll need someone to scan your work, line-by-line, for technical errors; you’ll need someone to ensure that your writing style is (relatively) consistent; you’ll need someone to ask hard-hitting thematic questions.
Copyeditors in particular are also responsible for re-writing sections as needed. Having someone fully re-write sections of your book that need work can save you hours of headaches.
Hiring an editor will give you that added layer of expertise, ensuring that the book you self-publish is truly ready for publication.
3. It’s always helpful to get a second set of eyes on your work.
Look — nobody knows everything, no matter how good of a writer they are. Everyone brings a unique perspective to a piece of writing, which is informed by their personal experiences, literary tastes, and general opinions.
For example, maybe you’ve written a poem about a controversial subject, but haven’t given much thought to how certain phrases might be perceived by others. If you get an editor to read your poem, they can help you develop better ways to explain your point of view.
There’s also value in working with someone who has a different taste in literature than you. If you’re a concise writer, it’s useful to note where you could stand to expand upon certain concepts. Or, if you’re a lengthy writer, it’s useful to note where you could stand to trim certain lines.
At the end of the day, a piece of writing belongs to its readers — not its author. Getting outside feedback can help ensure that your book comes across just the way you want it to.
4. Many editors are happy to give general industry advice.
I can’t speak for everyone, but in my own work as an editor, I’m always happy to provide general industry advice to my clients. Even after I’ve finished work on a particular project, I still keep in touch with my authors to answer general questions they have about the publishing world (at no additional fee).
In this way, hiring an editor involves far more than just procuring copyediting or proofreading services — your editor will likely become one of your main contacts in the industry. We don’t just correct your spelling and grammar; we’re there to consult with and bounce ideas off of.
And especially these days — during the pandemic — making new contacts in the literary world is a serious challenge. Literary events like poetry readings, writing workshops, and book launches have been mostly cancelled. Hiring an editor is a more streamlined way to meet others in the publishing industry.
[Note: Make sure you understand of your editor’s policies/rates of pay. Some editors may charge per-hour for additional consulting. Get those terms set clearly before signing a contract!]
5. Working with an editor can make the book-writing process feel far less isolating.
As I’ve covered briefly in past articles, the process of writing a book can seem isolating. And especially as a self-published author, it’s easy to lose sight of how collaborative the entire process should feel.
Connecting with an editor allows you to feel more plugged into the literary world, which makes the process of publishing your own book seem more like a team effort. Yes, as the author, this is yourbook, but getting outside help can make your unique voice even more powerful. Your work is worth investing in!
As you can see, there are many reasons to consider hiring an editor when self-publishing a book. At the very least, if you can’t afford to hire someone, ask for feedback from your family and friends. But at the end of the day, it pays to ask a professional.
And if you’re seeking an editor for your next project, be sure to drop me a line! I’m accepting new clients, so I’d be happy to talk next steps with you.
Even if you’re not looking for an editor, you can always subscribe to the Writing Advice blog. Following the blog gives you access to free, weekly content about becoming a professional author.
Happy writing (and editing)!