Should I hire an editor if I want to self publish?

The short answer?

Yes.

The long answer?

Definitely yes.

If you’ve written a book and you decide to skip the middleman and go straight to the reader, then you need to make sure you have a story worth selling. Something that readers will want to read. Something that stands out above the crowd.

Self publishing: the good

The self-publishing market is huge, exciting, freeing and challenging. New writers can catch a break they might never catch through the traditional routes of submitting their work to agents or publishers. Authors like Hugh Howey have done remarkable things in the self-publishing world, going from publishing a few gripping stories online to securing book deals with major publishers. Another success story is Andy Weir’s book The Martian, self published and now a film.

There may still be some stigma attached to self publishing, but the reality is, it’s a pretty viable and increasingly respected option.

It’s argued that one of the benefits of self-publishing is that if you have some success behind you – committed readers, evidence of good sales, and a thriving website or social media presence focused on your book – then you stand in a strong position to negotiate a quality deal with a major publisher.

You’ve got proof that your story is worth telling, and worth selling.

In contrast, publishers are taking on a far more risky proposition when they haul something out of the slush pile and try it out for size.

So self publishing has some great benefits – but it has downsides as well.

Self publishing: the bad

First, you’re alone. You don’t have the major publicity campaigns of a professional publishing house behind you. You have to prepare, research, format, design, publish, market, sell and represent your work entirely. There’s no one else.

Second, you’re marching into territory already flooded with would-be authors just like yourself. You’re not alone out there, and everyone has a great idea for a book.

Third, you have less chance of getting real, honest feedback on your work when you’re not putting it through the grinder of literary agency or publishing house submission processes.

Many online writers love to have beta readers – readers who go over a new chapter before it’s published online – and that’s great, but generally speaking beta readers are friends first, editors second.

Self publishing risks stagnation. When only your friends, family and a few people at the office have read your work and told you it’s wonderful, you’re less inclined to grow, to develop, to learn the art and craft of writing to a higher degree.

If you’re not serious about your writing, that’s fine! Enjoy what you write and enjoy sharing with friends.

But if you’re serious about telling good stories, about having readers email or tweet you with a positive comment, thanking you for writing a story that has inspired or encouraged them – if you’re serious about writing well, then you need to take the whole process seriously.

And that means hiring an editor.

The value of an editor

It seems a bit rough to be forking out money for someone else to tear apart your work and tell you to go away and rewrite forty thousand words, and then maybe you’ll have a story. But without an editor, you’re blind. Writers can edit their own work, to a certain level, and accept feedback and critique from friends and family.

When you’re self publishing, you can do most of the basics yourself. If you’re handy with Photoshop or InDesign you can make your own covers, format the text correctly, and go through all the other motions. But you can’t polish the story itself to the highest possible standard without another pair of dispassionate, honest eyes reading it with you.

A good editor is a professional first and foremost, and their job is to help you make your story better. Their job is to help you make your story the best it can be.

A good editor is ruthless, honest, and kind. A good editor has a sense of humour, a respect for your work, and the willingness to tell you to cut out your favourite scene because it’s tying up the plot.

An editor is not there to rewrite your story, or tell you how to write it, but to show you where things are going wrong, and suggest alternatives, and ask a thousand questions about your characters and plot and narrative that you never thought of before.

A good editor helps you create a well-structured plot and keeps you on target. A good editor is your reassurance and your encouragement, and a good editor makes sure your book is a cut above the rest.

Self publishing is a long and lonely journey. If you have some marketing skills and aren’t afraid to hustle, then you have a chance.

If you have a great story, well written, creative and original, then you have a better chance.

If you have a great story edited judiciously and honestly, then you have something not many other self published authors have.

So while it may seem like an optional extra for a self publishing author, hiring an editor to work on your book could be the best decision you make.

Have you self published a book? Did you work with an editor or did you go it alone? What was your experience? Leave a comment and let me know.

If you’re a first time writer looking for a reliable editor to help you edit your book, send me an email today. I specialise in working with inexperienced writers or writers wanting to take the next step up to the professional level, and I love a good success story.

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