Indie Authors and Editors

It’s hard being an indie author. You need to pay for everything yourself. This includes writing the book, prepping the book for publication, uploading it to sites for publication, publishing it, and marketing it. There’s also the expenses of software, editors, cover designers, sometimes interior designers, and advertising.

Basically, everything costs money. You need to spend money to make money, as they say. Of course, if you’re just starting out, where is all that money coming from? Most authors are not exactly swimming in it, and decisions must be made about what to pay for and what to skimp on.

There are discussions about editors in this context. Everyone wants their books edited, but the cost to do so isn’t in the budget for a lot of people. A good editor is worth it, but when your book is over 400 pages and you’re looking at a cost of a couple thousand dollars, ‘worth it’ isn’t an option. Some people rely on friends or family to help out, and there are beta readers, but these options do not replace an experienced editor.

And some people really, really need an editor.

There’s many different types of editing. For instance, an editor can look over the manuscript and check for spelling and grammar errors. They can make sure there is consistency (you say she has blue eyes in Chapter 1, but claim they are brown in Chapter 3). For a higher fee, an editor can give advice on “big picture” issues and suggest alternatives for problematic areas. Reedsy blog has a list of 9 types of editing, and an explanation about which each one entails. Not all books are going to need every type of editing (for example, most novels do not have an index, and therefore, do not need index editing).

Especially when you need help with the “big picture”, a good editor can vastly improve your manuscript. But what if you can’t afford a good editor?

I admit, I’m pretty ambivalent about editors. As a librarian, I read book after book that failed on the editing front, and these books were published by publishing houses who supposedly have access to good editors (misspellings, unclear sentences, sometimes plot holes that made me wonder how the book even got published). Then there was my first foray into acquiring an editor for my indie books. I waited 8 months for the editing to be completed, and it never was. I should have pulled my manuscript long, long before then, but I was nervous about finding an editor and the process, they were recommended by a friend, and I did not have the money to find someone better. I felt I had wasted time and resources, with absolutely nothing in return.

What to do? Editors are absolutely necessary, because indie writers are ridiculed for believing they don’t need one. It’s assumed a book is trash without one, and that a writer can never be a valuable critic of their own work. Perhaps. But there are some things a writer can do to clean up a manuscript to the point they may not have to pay for as many editing services as they think.

When I was doing research into editing, I was very surprised at how many blog posts and comments I read by editors, who talked about running manuscripts through software programs like Grammarly and Hemmingway Editor. Most of these professionals used three or four different programs, each with their own strengths, to review a document for spelling and grammar issues. That’s right, they use the same software that you can also purchase to spell and grammar check your work. While editing software can be spendy, many products have free versions that are useful. Why not use the same tools the professionals use? I don’t really need an editor to run my document through a program I already have access to. (That having been said, there are authors who simply have no clue about the finer points of grammar, and these programs are hardly infallible. They really, really need the sure hand of an editor to help them.)

I did a lot of other things to make certain my manuscripts were ready besides using spelling and grammar checkers. I re-read them and re-read them and re-read them again. I have been working on the Wellspring Dragons series for years now, and in that time, I’ve probably re-read the manuscripts over a hundred times. It takes time, but do it. Read no more than a chapter a day, and ten minutes at a time (it’s normally difficult to pay close attention for longer than that. Your mind will wander). Run that chapter through a text-to-speech program like Natural Reader and listen to how it sounds. Does something sound off? It probably is. Does something not sound clear? Then rewrite the sentence or paragraph. The reader might even catch a wrong word that is spelled correctly, but used incorrectly (I meant a “hard day’s work” not “hare day’s word”). If you don’t have access to a reader, then read your book aloud. This takes time, and a lot of it. But it also allows you to feel how your book flows, and if the way you wrote something needs work.

Keep a timeline of events. In my case, I wrote the story, then went back and filled in the timeline (planning my work just isn’t the way I do things). Because I was focused on the timeline and making summaries, at one point I noticed I had one character talking about a conversation that I had deleted. Yay, fixed! You can also catch mistakes about dates this way. Keep a brief physical description of characters and important objects you can check when needed. Consistency is key!

It is also a good idea to have others read your work. Not all readers are of equal value, but everyone does have an opinion. And, truthfully, for fiction writers, casual readers are likely the majority of your readership. Their experience will be the reading experience most will have with your work. Why not listen to what they say? Yes, there are the very strict indie writing police types who will scream and yell about a missing comma or the use of “which” vs “that”, and they will insist your mistake destroys the rest of your work, but they will not make up a very high percentage of people who pick up your book (and really, they’re not looking for an enjoyable read. They’re looking to prove how smart they are). And, if readers like your work, they will want to be helpful. Having beta readers from a certain level of Patreon support can provide loyal patrons with a great reward.

Editing is a very important step in producing a great manuscript. If a book is riddled with errors that even a casual reader notices, it won’t attract the readership you desire and reviewers will take note. There are ways to spruce up your document without necessarily paying for every aspect of editing services, though. And if you don’t have the money to pay for an editor up front, don’t lose sleep over it. It would be a shame to silence your voice over something like that. Beta readers can help get you started. You can also join a community like World Anvil, write a Manuscript, publish it there, and start getting feedback and attracting readers. It may not be publishing with an ebook retailer, but everyone starts somewhere.

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