If you’re interested in self-publishing, there is a lot that goes into getting your book ready for readers. Perhaps one of the most time-consuming and potentially expensive elements for that book is finding a good editor. But are they absolutely necessary?
The short answer is no…but with an asterisk.
Nowadays, online platforms and retailers have made it exceptionally easy for anyone to publish a book. But if you want to publish a good book, you’ll need to put in a lot of effort.
Sometimes, that effort will come with a hefty investment.
How Much Does a Book Editor Cost?
The cost of an editor depends on the type of editing you need for your book. For instance, basic “editing” of the text or proofreading can run you anywhere from $400 to $3000 depending on the length of the manuscript.
However, developmental editing can cost as much as $10,000 for an average-sized novel.
You might be able to negotiate a price with freelance editors, but a lot of editing companies will have set amounts for the service. And most of those companies are exceptionally expensive, according to various authors and the services I’ve seen advertised on Google.
Or, you could always go the cheapest route for book editing, which is using automated apps like Grammarly or ProWritingAid.
Both of these systems work exceptionally well for the cost, especially if you want to publish a decent book without breaking the bank. Plus, you’ll be able to publish your book much sooner.
Not all of us have a bankroll to rely upon or the capacity to save up more than $10,000 just for editing services. This is especially true when you consider all of the other costs that go into self-publishing a book.
Pros and Cons of a Book Editor
Goes Beyond Spelling and Grammar
An editor for your book isn’t simply a proofreader. Although there are proofreading services for which you can hire, most editors I’ve seen go beyond making sure you spell things correctly or use the proper term in a sentence.
It also comes down to readability, in general.
Most editors I’ve spoken with are working to make sure your manuscript is comprehensible for your target audience. For instance, you wouldn’t use college-level terms while writing a children’s book.
Not to mention making sure the flow of the story isn’t confusing. You might think it reads well, but that doesn’t mean your target reader will.
Saves a Lot of Time
Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of hiring an editor for your book is the fact that it could save you an incredible amount of time.
Aside from marketing as a self-published author, editing is one of the most time-consuming elements. Of course, this also depends on your talents as an author.
Nonetheless, it took me about three times longer to edit my published books than it did to write them. That’s mostly because of the rigorous process I put into place to publish the best book I possibly could.
In the end, it would have been far easier for me to let an editor go over the manuscript while I worked on something else for the book.
You Shouldn’t Edit Your Own Book
There is a reason why authors shouldn’t edit their own work. It’s because of how our brains process information, especially if it’s fresh.
Writers will often create mistakes that they know are incorrect but won’t see them until much later.
For instance, I am a paid professional editor for blogs. Yet, I’ll come across all kinds of small mistakes within posts I’ve published after about a couple of weeks of them being live on the website.
When the text is fresh in our minds, we already think it to be correct because we just wrote it. Plus, we might use language within the text that we feel is comprehensible but truly isn’t for the average reader.
A Better Book, Overall
For the most part, hiring an editor for your book makes for a better experience for your target audience. The purpose of your manuscript is to engage the reader, and an editor will help you do just that.
Plot holes, boring lengths of text, confusing dialogue, and more can be cleared up with an extra set of eyes from a professional.
A good editor could mean the difference between a one and five-star review on Amazon or another publishing platform. And those bad reviews could dissuade anyone from even looking at the description of your book.
Can Get Very Costly
Editors aren’t cheap, and some of them can be exceptionally expensive depending on the services they offer. This often means that new authors will put publishing their manuscripts on hold for years while they save up enough to hire one.
Then there is proofreading, developmental editing, copy editing, editorial assessments, and other services that can be tacked on while convincing you they’re necessary. And for some authors, they very well could be.
For example, there are some companies on the Internet that will charge $4 per page in editing fees. As my latest book (Kingmaker) is 312 pages, that service would run me $1,248. While that may be one of the cheapest quotes I’ve had, I still don’t have more than a grand to drop in such a way.
I’m not saying that all editors are overpriced. However, you’ll need to have several hundred dollars available even for the cheapest of freelance professionals.
Not All Editors Are Worth the Money
An editor for your book is just as fallible as anyone else. Everyone has varying levels of skill and some may overcharge for their services.
I personally know an author who paid for editing services and wound up with a butchered manuscript. In this instance, though, the vanity press was scamming a lot of authors and eventually went bankrupt while facing a series of indictments and criminal charges.
Now, while this case was truly horrific for self-publishing authors, not all companies and professionals are out to scam you. But you do need to be aware that some professionals really aren’t all that capable of being good editors.
Always research the person or company you plan to use. It could save you a lot of aggravation down the road.
Pleasing the Editor
Part of the vetting process for hiring an editor is making sure they are experienced in your specific genre. This is so the editor already has a vested interest in the type of manuscript you’re providing.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. If the editor truly doesn’t like your book for any reason, they won’t put in the same level of effort to help you fix the manuscript.
Think of all the movies and books that you loved that critics hated. It’s exceptionally difficult to find someone who has a truly unbiased opinion.
While some editors will try to put themselves in the shoes of the average reader, they are still leaning on what they find to be an interesting story.
Possibility of Taking Too Long to Respond
Some editors and editing companies have a relatively quick turnaround. But you also need to consider that many out there will take exceptionally long to send back the manuscript for revisions.
In many cases, editors take several months to send back a book or to provide a response.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t expect the editor to finish going over your book within a couple of weeks. When it comes to these kinds of services, it’s all about playing the long game.
How to Edit Your Book for Free
Most self-published authors I know are essentially going it alone. That’s because we all don’t have the finances to hire professionals and it would literally take years to save up enough to do so.
However, that doesn’t mean that we have to publish the manuscript without putting in the effort to make it the best book possible.
So, here are some of the best ways to edit your book without spending thousands of dollars.
Reading Out Loud
First, read the book out loud as if you’re recording an audiobook. You’d be amazed by all of the small errors you’ll come across.
When reading the text out loud, your brain has to process the information differently. Instead of it simply being in your head, you’ll hear how it sounds out in the open.
For instance, I record and upload the Despair audiobook for YouTube. While reading the manuscript out loud during the recording, I’ll find all kinds of problems with the flow of a sentence, improper usage of certain words, or confusing elements that need fixing.
Out of the many ways I’ve edited my books, reading them out loud is probably one of the more effective.
Using Editing Apps
Editing apps like Grammarly or ProWritingAid can make a world of difference in your writing. Most will detect and fix spelling while offering better word choices or overall rewriting of an entire sentence.
I find one of the easiest ways to do this (if you use Google Chrome) is to use an online writing app and the Grammarly extension. The browser-based editor app will scan your book in real time as you write and provide suggestions while instantly fixing obvious spelling errors.
Personally, I like using the Grammarly Chrome extension while using the Reedsy writing app. However, there are plenty of online combinations from which you can choose.
Using Friends and/or Family
The most crucial distinction of a book editor is having another set of eyes going over your manuscript. As such, having friends or family who love reading to help you edit can easily improve your story.
Now, it’s best if one of these people has some kind of background in writing or editing. But I often find that just avid readers will point out the same holes a professional editor will encounter.
Even some beta readers will point out grammatical errors and such.
Come Back to the Manuscript Later
Another exceptionally effective method to edit your book for free is by coming back to it later. Once the text is no longer fresh in your mind, you’ll find all kinds of issues that are painfully obvious.
This is why I’ll re-read blog posts from a couple of months ago.
How long you should wait is really dependent on the individual. But for me, I can come back to the manuscript about a week later and detect quite a few small errors in the text.
For Kingmaker, I read and re-read the manuscript several times and I still found a few past and present tense issues within the book.
As I said before, no one is perfect.
Is It Worth Hiring an Editor for Your Book?
If you have the money to hire a book editor, it is by far a better option than trying to do it yourself. In general, books that have professional editing have higher ratings from readers.
Well, at least when it comes to the structure of the manuscript. I mean, you’ll still need to write a good story that people want to read.
Not only is the quality often better, but the sheer amount of time an editor will save you might be worth the money by itself.
Because I wanted to produce the best book possible, I spent a massive amount of time during the editing process.
Does this mean I think you should shelve the manuscript until you can save up enough to afford an editor? Not necessarily. As I pointed out above, there are viable options that are free or inexpensive.
Yet, there is nothing wrong with waiting until you can have a professional set of eyes go over the text.
It all comes down to your goals as an author and if you’re confident enough in your talents to forgo the expense. Some of us just want to tell stories and don’t care about appeasing agents or publishers.
In the grand scheme of things, all that really matters are the ones who are reading your book. If they like it and give you rave reviews, then I’d say you’re a successful author.
Personally, I’ll eventually hire an editor for an upcoming book. But I’m not going to stress it if I don’t have the money.
Regardless of what editing method you choose, always vet the company, persons, or app. Don’t just use something because it sounds amazing. Make sure it is amazing before handing over your money or your manuscript.
An editor is doing more than simply reading your book and looking for spelling errors. Editing is an involved process that may include elements such as analyzing the plot, manuscript assessments, and restructuring. All of this takes a lot of time.
No one should ever self-publish a first draft. It can take several edits to get a manuscript even close to meeting its potential. However, there is such a thing as editing too much. Perhaps 3 – 5 full edits would be enough for most authors.
From my experience, the entire editing process takes roughly three times that of what it takes to write the manuscript. This includes the editing process itself as well as getting feedback from beta readers, which could tack on additional time.
When self-publishing on platforms such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you can edit the manuscript and upload the newest version at any time. For eBooks, this change is almost instant. But any printed copies you’ve already sold will obviously exist without those changes. That’s why it’s important to get it right the first time, if possible.
For those looking to traditionally publish their books, having the manuscript edited before submitting it to an agent is ideal. That way, you’re putting the best version of your book in his or her hands.
Although editing apps like Grammarly are greatly beneficial, they lack the emotional connection humans develop with a story. As such, people are often better at detailing elements such as the flow of the plot and comprehension of the unique style of the author.
Always Publish Your Best Work
Sure, anyone can toss up any manuscript on Amazon and call themselves a “self-published author.” But if you want to be a respected and successful author, you need to put in the effort to put your best work out there.
Sometimes this means spending a lot of time and/or money editing your book. The last thing you want is for readers to give you bad ratings because the text was too difficult to follow or is riddled with consistency problems.
An editor can make all the difference between a best-selling book and one that is rarely purchased.
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