You’ve written a book. You want to get it published.
The good news: you can do that!
The harder truth: you’ll take quite a few steps before you get to publication. Starting with editing.
My business, A Powerful Story, provides assisted self-publishing (and other writing and editing services as well). I pull together a team that includes editors and designers. I shepherd your book through the production process and guide you in setting up everything you need to be the publisher of your own book.
The popularity and growth of self-publishing means that many authors are also publishers. They can “do it themselves” and put their book out there. Whether it sells or not depends on many factors.
DIY publishing is easy…
You could, today, create a free account on Kindle Direct Publishing (kdp.com), a branch of amazon. You could upload your rough draft, or a book about what you had for lunch every day for the past two years–whatever manuscript you want (as long as it passes Amazon’s screening for plagiarism and decency), create a cover using their template, and have a “published” ebook tomorrow.
Getting readers and sales is harder.
This path is possible, but I don’t recommend it unless you really want to waste your time. Because a book created in this slipshod manner won’t sell. Your DIY cover could end up in an article like this one, poking fun at DIY self-pubbed covers.
Even if you manage a decent cover, your book’s interior will betray your lack of experience. The formatting will be wonky. If you don’t have it edited, it will have mistakes: typos, grammar snafus, run-on sentences, misspellings. It will likely even anger readers who even “look inside” and read a few pages because they’ll see you don’t care about quality. Scathing reviews will likely ensue. Or, no one will even bother to read your book.
Once you complete your manuscript, you’re ready to begin the publishing adventure. If you want to self-publish, and reach an audience, your next step is getting your book edited.
“Why hire an editor?”
Let’s assume you’re actually going to work hard on writing—which is only the first stage of writing a book. You study the craft, you write several drafts, revising and polishing your work.
You know you’re a good writer—your high school English teacher told you so! Even though you’ve written nothing but emails since then, because you’re working as an accountant, you wonder—why hire an editor? My book is pretty great. It seems unnecessary to hire someone who’s just going to nitpick.
Editors do more than nitpick. They improve the quality of your book. They give you a better shot at making a great first impression with readers. They save you from the embarrassment of publishing a book that doesn’t make sense, has a boring plot, is too wordy, or is full of grammar and spelling mistakes.
If you’re only writing for yourself, to simply enjoy the satisfaction of creating with words, then you don’t need an editor. But if you intend to get your work in front of readers (that is, you want to publish it), you’ll do all you can to make your writing the best it can be, and you need an editor.
Why do you want to publish a book in the first place?
You want people to read and enjoy it. Because you want to tell your powerful story, share your wisdom, mentor others via the written word, entertain readers with your wit and insight. Bottom line, you want to sell books.
Since self-publishing requires that you pay all of the production costs of your book, you hope to recoup some of those costs by selling books. But an unedited book won’t sell well. Editing is an essential step in book production.
At A Powerful Story, we provide what’s called assisted self-publishing and it’s a great way to get a book out into the world. I call myself a publishing adventure guide, because the journey from manuscript to published book can be difficult to navigate. It helps to have a guide who knows the path.
The editing process surprise
When I tell clients the first step will be editing, some are surprised. They don’t think they need editing. Imagine their surprise when I tell them that at major publishing houses, even the books of best-selling authors go through not just one edit, but several rounds of edits.
What do editors do for books
Editors catch mistakes of every kind. After working on your book manuscript for the better part of a year, you’re way too close to the project to see potential problems, or outright mistakes.
Every book goes through at least four edits:
- Self-edit: the author revises the first draft of the book, tightening and improving. They look for everything from overuse of the passive voice to holes in the plot or missing information. I provide my clients with a self-editing checklist to help them in this stage.
- Developmental edit: a big picture edit, looking at scope, sequence, and structure. In non-fiction, it looks at writing style, whether the book makes sense and keeps the reader engaged. In fiction, it might deal with character development, plot and reader engagement. Done by an editor, not the author.
- Copy edit: catches grammar, spelling, sentence structure and other small but critical details. Completed by yet another editor so you have a fresh set of eyes on your work.
- Final galley edit—the final once-over after formatting, to find any lingering typos, missing information or inconsistencies. Done by the writer, typically, to make sure everything is as they want it.
One of the hardest parts of editing to go through, and for new writers to understand, is the developmental edit.
Do I need an editor for my book?
I’ve written or co-written more than two dozen books, and all of them went through several rounds of edits (after I had self-edited and reworked each manuscript at least three times.)
I’ve turned in plenty of manuscripts where the editor responded with minor tweaks or had questions and suggestions: strengthen your opening chapter, take this out, move this chapter here, develop this idea more.
Sometimes, though, developmental edits ask more of a writer. Case in point: my current work in progress is being professionally edited. I am writing with a coauthor.
What is a coauthor? I explain what a coauthor is in this recent newsletter article. Even though we have two authors working together, we still entrust editing and proofreading to a good editor.
This week I got an email from my editor for this project, which we have contracted at a major publishing house. She’d read the manuscript my coauthor and I had turned in. Upon review—that is, her first read of a developmental edit—she wanted us to do some reworking.
This didn’t involve grammar or spelling, but rather, big picture stuff: character development (an important factor even in nonfiction), narrative arc, including more detail in scenes, deeper engagement with the reader. And of course, as editors always tell writers: More showing, less telling.
It means my coauthor and I are now working hard to revise, to make the book better—but hearing this was hard. We were quite sure we’d given her a masterpiece. Turns out we’d given her a working draft in need of revision.
Did I mention that this is my 25th book?
Such is the stuff of a developmental edit, where your editor examines the overall flow, scope, and sequence of your book, and offers suggestions on changes that need to be made. A developmental edit is hard to do, and sometimes hard to receive. But the good news is, our editor is on our side. She wants to make our book shine.
Developmental editing makes the book better, stronger, and more likely to sell. Why? Because it forces the writer to make sure they are engaging with the audience throughout the book, holding the reader’s attention and giving them what they need to stay connected and turning the pages.I think knowing this happens is why writers are so nervous about the developmental edit.
(For another perspective on whether you need an editor for your book, read this guest post from professional editor Ann Cathleen Neumann.)
How much does it cost to hire an editor?
First of all, if you are self-publishing, it’s a sizable investment (about 3 to 6 cents per word is typical). This means that the minimum costs for editing a 70,000 word manuscript can be $2,100 – $5,000.
And what if the editor reads your work and says, um, this doesn’t work? Or this chapter should be cut, and this one completely rewritten.
I’ve had clients who, at my suggestion, do some courageous self-editing, tightening and improving the writing. They are sometimes surprised to learn that the next step on the publishing adventure is a developmental edit. Didn’t they just self-edit? Wasn’t that enough?
The best books to read are edited books
Even multi-published authors, even bestsellers, need editing. Editing refines a manuscript, makes it stronger, and ultimately, more salable. In order for your book to find its readers and get them to read the whole book and want to read more from you, it need to be edited.
If you work with a traditional royalty publisher, they provide this edit as part of your contract. If you are self-publishing, that means you, the publisher, take on the cost of this task. Too many writers think that self-editing is the only editing they need because they are self-publishing.
Self-editing is not enough
Self-editing is important and necessary. But then, you need a fresh set of eyes on your book to make it the best it can be. That means being brave enough to let a professional developmental editor read and give feedback on your book.
How to find an editor for your book
When writers come to me for help with self-publishing, I assemble a team to get their book completed: a copy editor, cover designer, interior page formatter. I’ve built solid relationships with editors and designers whom I know and trust. I know they’ll do great work for my clients. Hiring an experienced team ensures you will get your book published.
There are plenty of freelance editors out there—charging a wide range of prices. Ask for samples, look at their website, and ask for references. Sites like reedsy.com or upwork.com have listings for all sorts of freelance workers including editors.
Want writing and publishing advice in your inbox every week? subscribe to the Powerful Story newsletter on Substack .
Do you need to hire a professional editor? Natalie Hanemann tackles that question in this helpful post on my agent’s blog: https://stevelaube.com/do-you-need-to-hire-a-professional-editor/
Does your book really need an editor? Professional editor Ann Cathleen Neumann offers some insights on the topic: https://keriwyattkent.com/do-i-really-need…itor-for-my-book/
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