Thanks to outlets such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), it has never been easier to self-publish a book. Once a manuscript is completed, KDP promises it can be published and available on Amazon for millions of readers in less than five minutes.
Prior to the invention of services like this, authors might spend years peddling their manuscripts, hoping a reputable publishing house would agree to get it to market, only to be repeatedly turned down. In many ways, the ability to now self publish is a benefit to both authors and readers. In other ways, it is a detriment.
As an avid reader myself – and a recent subscriber of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service – I have discovered many self-published books in the last year. Some of them have been absolutely fabulous, leaving me to wonder why a traditional publishing house wasn’t interested in bringing them to the market. Others, however, were not as well done, and brought to mind the phrase “just because you can (self publish), doesn’t mean you should.”
Self-published authors who want to be successful and gain a loyal readership know that just because they are bringing their own book to market does not mean they should skip vital steps in the publishing process. One of the most important steps in that process is the hiring of a quality editor to review their manuscript prior to its publication. Self-published authors face enough challenges with readers without adding a poorly-edited product to the mix.
Nothing turns readers off from a book faster than spelling and grammar errors, which unfortunately are commonplace among many self-published works. This is an example of a reader review of a book with such issues.
In addition to spelling and grammar errors, undeveloped characters and weak plotlines can doom any book. An editor can help with all of these issues.
So now that we’ve discussed why a good editor is essential to a self-published manuscript, how do authors go about finding a reputable editor to assist them? Before we can answer that question, it’s important to understand what an editor cannot do for a manuscript.
Editors are not miracle workers. Authors who are lacking the most basic writing skills will want to seek out writing classes to help them improve on their skills before attempting to write their thoughts on paper and then expecting an editor to arrange them in a way that will make sense. While some editors also serve as writing coaches and can assist in this capacity, it is a very expensive venture – one that most self-published authors cannot afford. Authors who need to brush up on their writing skills prior to writing their manuscript can find classes through local community colleges and online.
Once authors are ready to hire an editor, the first rule of thumb is to do your research. An editor with knowledge of the publishing industry is ideal. Authors can visit indie publishing websites to seek out recommendations from other authors. Referrals from satisfied customers is always a great way to choose any professional provider. Publishing houses also may provide referrals upon request. Authors also can visit the Editorial Freelancers Association website, where they can post their projects and indicate they are searching for an editor to assist them.
After an author has decided on an editor, ask them to edit a small sample of your writing as a test of their skills. Most professional editors expect this kind of request from prospective clients and are willing to meet it. Most will charge a small fee to provide an editing sample, which is considered acceptable practice in the industry, so authors should make sure they’ve budgeted for this expense. If you are unhappy with the work they’ve done on the sample, do not consider hiring them to edit your manuscript.
A contract will be required once an editor is selected. Contracts should outline the scope of the project, the estimated timeframe for completion and the agreed-upon fee for services. The contract should be crafted to protect both the editor and the author.
Have tips to share about finding a quality manuscript editor? Please feel free to share them in the comments.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.