You’ve done it! You’ve hit save and
shut the laptop, or put your
quill down on your pile of manuscript
paper, or carefully arranged your
stack of notebooks and biros. Take
a moment to savour that feeling.
The real work starts now.
As a traditionally published
author, you automatically get
editorial help. Your agent may
suggest someone to work with
you before you get to the stage of
submitting it to publishers, you
are taken on by a specific editor
within a publishing house and
your text goes through various
edits. While self-publishing
authors are advised to use an
editor, the advice often ends
there. I’ve heard from authors
who are worried that using an
editor will mean that their text is
no longer their own, that their
style will be lost, or that it will
simply cost a lot of money and
they’re not sure if it’s a good idea.
Here is a breakdown of the
reasons for using an editor – and
the tools you need as an author to
get the most out of your editor.
Let’s start with...
WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE
ADVISE YOU USE AN EDITOR?
At its simplest, an editor provides
another pair of eyes on your
work. Given how easy selfpublishing
is these days, it’s entirely possible
that an authorcan finish their work and put it out there before anyone else has seen a word of it.
Everyone has errors in their work;
It’s very, very hard to see what’s actually on
the page, rather than what you
think is on the page.
Apart from simple errors, a
professional reader can improve
what you’ve written. They can see
style hiccups that are stopping
your reader from enjoying the
flow of your work; they can find
plot holes and areas to improve
When I meet authors (both
traditionally published and
selfpublished), I make a point of
asking them how many drafts
they write and how many edits
their work has had. The average
appears to be fifteen.
Self-published authors are
sometimes regarded as ‘lesser’
authors, amateurs who have
somehow managed to get on the
big stage – and this impression is
strengthened when poorly
written manuscripts get out there
on sale to the public and it’s clear
that the author hasn’t edited their
You, as the self-publishing author,
owe it to yourself to produce the
best piece of writing you can
before asking an audience to pay
for it. Using a professional editor
can help you to achieve that.
HOW DO YOU FIND AN EDITOR?
As in all areas of self-publishing,
there are many options available
Before you look for an editor,
it’s important to work out:
WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR
‘Editing’ covers a range of
different services, depending on
what state your work is in, and
what you need the editor to do.
You can break it down roughly
into four different services:
Structural and editorial advice
The editor will be looking at your
writing and giving you advice on
the work as a whole, how well the
story holds together, how your
style supports that, whether your
novel fits into a genre and how
convincing it is overall. This advice
can be invaluable and will also
give you pointers on how to move
your writing forward generally,
not just how to improve what
you’re writing currently.
Copy or line-editing
An editor won’t advise you on
style or plot, but work through
your text line by line, improving
your grammar and making sure
you don’t repeat yourself,
tightening up the text, and
polishing your style. They will pick
up inconsistencies and plot holes
but won’t plug them for you.