[Podcast] Tips on Editing for Self-Published Authors

If you’re self-publishing a book, you don’t want your book to look self-published. That means you need to pay close attention to the editing phase. Editing for self-published authors is different than when you are traditionally published.

That’s because you are responsible for the editing: finding the editor, evaluating the editor, and evaluating the edits of the editor.

We sat down with Jennifer Bisbing, author of Under the Pines, a book critic and editor who shared her insights into the self-publishing journey. Jennifer, who studied literary criticism in graduate school, provides tips on editing for self-published authors, and which services an author should allocate their money toward. 

What Is an Editor?

When it comes to a remarkable editor, an English degree isn’t the defining characteristic. (We know—it sounds counterintuitive!)

An editor should be well-versed in storytelling as well as structure and idea development—not just the mechanics of writing.

So, how do you find a well-rounded editor? 

Jennifer’s number one recommendation: Read and review other books your potential editor has edited.

As you research into your potential editor’s book list, ask yourself the following questions: Has this editor edited multiple books? (In this case, Jennifer advises, “quantity is important.” You want an editor who has dozens, if not a hundred books to their name!) Are their books well-written? Structurally sound with a well-developed plot or idea? Has the editor won any awards? Has the editor written and published a book?

Take Jennifer’s advice and find an editor who’s knowledgeable in the world of writing and publishing books.

The Editing Services Self-Published Authors Need

One of the pros to traditional publication is the guarantee of an editor to copy edit and proof your book. Also, at its most basic level, traditional publishing provides credibility to an author’s book. Self-published authors also need credibility, so you need to publish a near-perfect book. Sans typos. Sans grammatical errors. 

Let’s break down the different types of editing services for self-published authors.

A developmental edit focuses on the big picture of your book. This editor checks the details in your story, makes sure these details support your plotline, and confirms your plotline works efficiently. A developmental editor will also check the pacing, structure, and development of your idea, in the case of nonfiction. What’s the biggest payoff to a developmental editor? They understand the big picture of your book, and then help you pull it together.

A line edit succeeds a developmental edit. A line editor checks your sentences—do your sentences flow well? What cadence does your story follow? This editor will also concentrate on the finer details of your book. Do your characters remain true to their personalities? Is your dialogue accurate to what your character says/feels? Is your research correct (nonfiction especially)?

After developmental and line edits, you bring in a copy editor and proofreader. A copy editor polishes your manuscript, all while keeping the author’s voice present. This type of editor will correct grammatical and spelling errors, fix wordiness and style/tone deviations, and revise problematic sentence structure.

The proofreader is your final phase of editing—they read through your manuscript and correct any remaining mistakes. They concentrate on grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors, as well as formatting, capitalization, and page layout issues.

What Editing for Self-Published Authors Is Essential?

What if you don’t have enough money allocated for each editing service?

Don’t fret! Most self-published authors can’t afford all four stages of the editing process. If you can only afford one or two types of editorial services, Jennifer recommends you hire a copy editor and proofreader. Her reasoning: “It’s important for an author to have the finer details of their book perfected.”

Why?

Because bad book reviews tend to focus on grammatical and style issues. Poor grammar and consistent typos ruin the credibility of your book. And when you’re self-publishing, you need all the credibility you can build.

Allocate your money for a copy editor and proofreader. But don’t neglect the developmental edit of your book. Jennifer recommends you workshop your developmental edit through a group of fellow writers (in your same genre), or friends. And ask them to review your book. Be specific about the feedback you desire—plot, structure, pacing, character development, and idea development. And then provide the same review to their manuscripts as well. It’s an easy—and free!—way to land a developmental edit.

Finding a specific editor is only the first step in your editing journey. The next step is learning what feedback to accept and implement.

Feedback and Push Back

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by an editor’s feedback. Maybe you don’t agree with their judgment. Or, maybe you feel attacked. But feedback is a necessary part of the writing journey. It provides an objective evaluation of your story—your strengths and weaknesses.

With any editing for self-published authors, you should expect specific feedback on your story. There may be sections in your manuscript that are unnecessary—filler. And there may be sections that need to be filled in, sections that require more thought and development.

Because these types of changes can significantly affect your manuscript, you need to find an editor you trust. An editor whose ideas and goals for your story are the same as yours.

Even though an editor will recommend changes to your manuscript—and you should trust their judgement—you can push back.

If you are confident your audience will understand something in your book that your editor doesn’t, then push back! (This is more common in memoirs whose target audience may relate to a certain account.) It’s all about recognizing and understanding your audience, while trusting your editor has the best intent for your book.

Editing for self-published authors is necessary if you want it to be credible. From a clean and error-free final look, to specific feedback that will help you turn your manuscript into a well-developed and structured book, an editor will help you bring to life a book you are proud of.