If quality sells books why do fewer than 50% of self-published authors hire a professional editor? As you can see in this slide from our 2013 eBook Self-Publisher Survey most authors edit their own book or ask a friend.
No doubt cost is one consideration but most authors I know have a production budget. I think another reason is that they don’t understand the different editorial steps in book production and frankly, don’t appreciate the value a good editor can bring to the task.
3 key editing roles for most self-publishers
With credit to Lynette Smith’s chapter on editing in my book Successful eBook Publishing here are what I consider to be the top 3 editorial functions for the average book. The contributions that each of these provides may overlap with the adjacent editing function but this is as good a framework as any for considering how to make your book better.
- Developmental editors. Before you get concerned about sentence structure or punctuation a developmental editor helps you at the earliest stages to shape your rough draft into a coherent manuscript. Part of their value-add is to help you target your book to your audience. You can’t start this process too early.
- Copyeditors. This seems to be a catch-all term for editing in general but the copyeditors primary focus is on fine-tuning the final draft. In Lynette’s words they correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, usage, flow and clarity. For those that consider this the final step before publishing you should add…
- Proofreaders. The proofreader takes a final look at the typeset book—not the manuscript. At this stage your proofreader is checking the text, headings, photo captions, front and back matter to flag typographical errors and deviations from typesetting conventions. You’d be surprised at what a completely fresh set of eyes will catch even at this stage.
The next question I usually hear is how much is this going to cost. Of course this depends on a number of factors but I suggest you visit the Editorial Freelancers Association website. Here you can search for editors and get answers to questions about rates. Other hiring options like Elance, oDesk and Media Bistro can be considered but EFA is considered by most to be the go-to organization for professional book editing resources.
One more point about hiring an editor—take time to read this article by Stacy Ennis about finding the right freelance book editor. Chemistry and background is critical to this effort so take time to find someone you can work with and who is familiar with your book’s subject matter.