Building a team to support your book is almost as important as you writing the book. It is a way of honoring your words. Your editor is more than just someone who checks your work. You’re looking for someone who can pick up an edit, ask the right questions, and understand the work you do. An editor is a valued member of your book project team.
Do I need a professional editor?
Often, I’m asked if an editor is needed. Let me tell you a little story. I was a judge for the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Book Awards for six years and saw hundreds of self-published books. I was tasked with reading and evaluating each one. What I saw was a horror of grammatical and spelling errors and significant sentence structure problems that made the content almost unreadable. Font choices made the book very difficult to read. A lack of research into the target market and covers that were hand-drawn (and not by a professional illustrator), and other issues are things a professional editor catches.
Spending money on an editor is a smart investment in support of your book. If you can’t find an editor, beta readers, a friend who’s a freelance writer, a retired English teacher, or a University student is better than nothing. You wouldn’t get the same depth of experience and editorial knowledge as you would with a professional editor.
A friend, student, or your child’s English teacher may be great at grammar and spelling, but professional editors spend every day dealing with the intricacies of publishing. They also help develop editorial style and usage trends, conventions, and trends within genres, e-publishing processes, standards, book marketing, typographical issues, and more. Someone who’s not a professional editor won’t even be aware of what they don’t know.
There are many places that you can cut costs and save money in the self-publishing process, and editing isn’t one of them. If you have a limited budget, save some of it for professional editing services.
3 Different Types of Editors
In general, editors evaluate and help you understand what type of editing your manuscript needs and why. A professional editor will ask you to fill out an assessment, take a brief look at your manuscript and outline, and edit a sample of a few hundred words or 3 to 4 paragraphs. You have several options of editors, depending on what your work might need. Many professional editors do several of these tasks combined into one package.
Content Editor / Development Editor
This type of editor analyzes your manuscript, so it is engaging, has good structure and flow, and makes recommendations and suggestions that make your manuscript stronger. Content editors also help keep the voice consistent throughout.
A copyeditor makes your writing clean and correct and checks for the consistency of facts, style, flow, clarity, engagement, and delivery. The process looks at your grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and usage.
Copyediting ensures that your writing is correct. Proofreading ensures that it’s polished and is designed to strengthen your writing and raise the bar on your delivery.
Traditionally, proofreading is a comparison of the final layout or proof of your book against the manuscript itself; most people today think of proofreading as “the last check.” If you do nothing else, please have a final review before you hit the “publish” button, whether you’re creating digital downloads, Ebooks, and print books.
Editing on a Budget
Editing averages $25/hr to $60/hr. The more experienced the editor, the more expensive it will be and the better quality work you’ll receive. Many editors have packages with a flat fee for their services. If you need more affordable content editing, you may want to pay for a manuscript assessment or evaluation. Manuscript assessments are critiques. They’re less time-consuming and less expensive than content editing because the editor doesn’t work directly on your manuscript. Instead, you’ll receive a thorough editorial report outlining the strengths and weaknesses of your book. A manuscript assessment is an excellent alternative if you don’t have the budget for a full content edit.
Again, there are many ways to save money in the self-publishing process, but I highly recommend that you find the money for a professional editor, at the very least, a proofreader.
Why type of editing do I need?
Don’t worry too much about what an editor calls their services. Look at the changes your editor proposes and the processes they’ll undertake on behalf of your book and you.
Some editors will do all of the editing on your book, from content editing to proofreading. Others do only copy editing and nothing else. So how are you to know what editorial services you need?
Where are your strengths? Have you been writing for a long time, other people have read your work? You should be fine with a copy editor or a proofreader. Do you need help bringing your different projects (like blog posts) together into one cohesive book, you’ll want to work with a content editor.
Many authors don’t like the idea of spending money on a book that they believe won’t earn back what they spent producing it. If you don’t have the money for a content editor or proofreader, consider something smaller: a Mini Edit or a manuscript assessment. The right editor will suggest multiple ways of getting across the finish line with a professional-caliber book that you can be proud to show to clients and customers.
Need help with your manuscript, accountability, or an assessment? You'll find my services in book witching and self-publishing here.