So you have written a book. Congratulations!
The era of the digital reader has leveled the playing field. No longer do publishing houses hold all the cards when it comes to putting a book on the virtual shelves. Today, you can craft, print, and promote your own book or ebook (and reap the rewards) without a publisher slowing you down or cutting your royalty check to smithereens. No longer must hopeful authors send out dozens of queries and samples to the slush piles of infinity, only to become jaded by form rejection letters or worse, no response. In the old days, should your work finally catch a publisher’s eye and you get a book deal, often you’d wait years to see a finished product. Save on postage, time, and effort — do it yourself.
There are myriad reasons to self-publish these days. Maybe you know who your audience is and are better able to reach them than a publisher. Perhaps you want a smaller or more specific distribution than a publishing house can provide, or you are on a timeframe that means you can’t be hindered by a publisher’s catalog list requiring your book to come out in two or three years. Any stigma that may have surrounded self-publishing has long since faded away with the ease of creating books and ebooks through websites that do the heavy lifting for you — all you need to do is upload your words, choose some cover art, and voila — you will be holding your printed book in your hands, and selling it online, in a few short days.
The attraction and advantages of self-publishing come with a few disadvantages
You won’t have a seasoned publisher doing the work of editing, proofing, laying out, distributing, and promoting your work. But self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. For example, your social networks can help do the marketing for you. A key step before you publish might be to enlist a trusted reader, such as a professional editor, to go through the manuscript for you. I’d like to address the ways an editor can help you in the process of self-publishing. (Also see our Self-Publishing Checklist.)
Every writer has a story to tell
Are you telling it as clearly as possible? Before you self-publish, understand that you will benefit from having fresh eyes on your work, and find some. An experienced editor can see the gaps in the story you might overlook from staring at the same lines for ages. An editor can be the first line of defense between you and your audience’s questions. What did you forget to mention that it didn’t occur to you to say? Can you expand on a few intriguing points? A thoughtful editor can help coax even more greatness from you.
So your family doesn’t care about the historical holes in your memoir?
Well, if factual accuracy and substance are not primary concerns, an editor can still be useful to the self-published author. When you look back at your work, you’ll want a product in which you can take pride. Simply put, that means no typos. We’ve all read blogs rife with misspellings or incomplete thoughts. The writers would’ve avoided this if they’d had an editor. Make yourself look smart and get an editor who can tighten loose punctuation and straighten twisted grammar. Don’t know the difference between “affect” and “effect,” “assure” and “ensure”? Don’t worry—your copy editor will! An expert copy editor can polish your written projects to gleaming trophies should you make the right choice in your publishing journey.
Do yourself a favor, self-publishers: hire an editor!
MARIE VALENTINE has edited diverse writers, from poets to romance novelists to engineers; her clients are often first-time authors and include mystery authors, Air Force pilots, family historians, and even a self-published congressman. Her experience as a business journalist and small press editor influences her professional work.