You HAVE to get your work professionally edited.

How many of you have read that? How many of you have been put off publishing because of that? Quite a few I’d wager.

Would you believe that I made over $3k for the first month my first ever book release, with the only additional cost the $250 I paid for the cover? No editing, no proofing, nothing.

I still have reviews with people complaining about bad editing. Justifiable complaints too. I had a LOT to learn.

You can release your work without professional editing. There are a BUNCH of ways to do that, and you don’t have to be like me and release stuff without any proper editing.

However, before we do that, let’s talk about editing as a whole and the different types.

Development Editing is the part where the editor reads over your work, helps with plot points, character voice, pacing, missing scenes, etc. This can be very important especially for new authors, but…Here’s the thing. Most beginner writers are not ready for serious developmental edits. They are often focused on the structure of sentences, on punctuation and grammar and the like. They are more focused on getting words down and making sure those word are the right ones rather than high level structural issues.

And, frankly, I think that’s okay. New authors need to build up their basic skills first before they worry about developmental issues. It’s like learning to punch and kick first. Not much use me talking to you about timing or angles in a fight when you can’t even throw a punch properly or don’t know the difference between a straight or a hook.

Dev Editing is also, in my opinion, something that can be done every 3-4 books after you’ve written your first million words. By that point, you aren’t worried about your basics, you have the time and scope to understand how the story fits together better. And what you might be missing.

(Btw – not saying you shouldn’t be trying to learn all this stuff yourself, but that a professional opinion when you’re much further along will be the best bang for your buck).

Copy & Line Editing – I’m going to slot them in together since many editors in the indie scene do them both at the same time. This the sentence level fixes, the paragraph structure and to some extent, the rhtymn of your work. It also includes stuff like punctuation, etc.

VERY important and what most author make mistakes on. New authors in particular can make use of this kind of editing the most. Even professional authors and those who have been writing for a while still get line editing done since it helps get a second pair of eyes on the work.

This can be very useful, but a lot of it can be found in various books on elf-editing and/or articles. Heck, there are ways around too so that you can learn your own ‘tics’ and fix those by doing partial copy & line editing.

Now, because this is a picky stage (did you use a . instead of a , here, why is there no indication of who is speaking here, please stop using the word said every single converstaion for 10 pages and mix it up a bit, etc.), you do need good editors here. You see, one problem I do have with copy & line editing is that certain copy or line editors get overzealous in their fixes. They miss (or never knew) where the line between grammatically correct English is and where the author voice comes in.

As an example? Sir Terry Pratchett uses multiple and’s in a single sentence. Often 3 or 4. Gramatically incorrect, but his author voice and perfect for the books he writes.

A new line editor might nix that, destroying his author voice (if he wasn’t, you know, Sir Pratchett). You HAVE to be careful about who you work with and what suggestions you take, and that can be hard if you don’t study the rules yourself.Which then leads to the question of, if you know the rules that well, do you need them? (Answer, if you can afford it and want to write faster – yes!).

Beta Reading – this isn’t technically editing, but a last review of your work before it publishes. It’s to get an idea if there are major things you are missing or need fixing, but some people advocate for beta reading rather than dev editing since some of the same areas are covered by good beta readers.

Issue with most beta reading is finding people who will do it and do it well since mostly, beta reading is either unpaid or very cheaply paid.

Proofreading – again, not really editing but a last (paid) review of your work to make sure nothing major is missed. Note that some proofers step into the line editing side of things, but they are NOT paid to do that.

Ways to Get Editing Done without Paying a Lot

1) Self-Editing

This is hard if you don’t know what you don’t know. However, there are numerous books teaching you how to self-edit. All of us have trad pub books, which if you pay attention to will show you basic things like punctuation, formatting, etc. There’s numerous internet articles about ‘common editing mistakes’. 

Within self-editing, there are numerous tricks too to get it done right:

  • setting work aside to get fresh eyes on it (a month works best I found)
  • reading aloud
  • using software to read aloud to you
  • reading backwards (more for proofing)

2) Exchange of services

Are you good at something in the author business? Writing blurbs? Formatting? Cover editing? Or maybe you know some authors who are starting out too. Exchange work with others so you can get editing and beta reading done. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to do the above. And how many authors I know who end up doing editing because that pays the bills while they write their own work.

3) Partial edit

Got a short story written? Got the first few chapters? Try getting that professionally edited instead of an entire novel. Much cheaper and you can learn what you do wrong, and fix that in future books.

4) New editors

In this case, you’re looking to use very new editors – those in school, individuals living in other (non-Western) countries. Quality here might be subjective and you’d have to test them significantly to see if they are up to standards, but you can find good people this way.

5) Publish in non-picky markets

Web serials for example published in places like Royal Road or Webnovel have readers that are much more forgiving than Amazon or other ‘professional’ locations. Pre-publishing in those locations can offer opportunities to make money (e.g. Patreon or kofi donations) and often have readers who are willing to pick at your text to help you fix issues.

And that’s all I have.

One last thing – again, reminder that you can publish and potentially do well in hot genres without editing. The market is certainly much harsher in established genres and there is a minimum requirement, but it is lower than many people think. 

While editors can and do make work better, if you have the choice of publishing or not, I’d recommend the first.

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