Why You Need to Self-Edit AND Hire an Editor For Your Novel

Hi, writer! Welcome back to the Indie Publishing Roadmap series. If you haven’t read the first post about indie publishing, be sure to check that out.

This week, we’re talking about editing your novel for self-publication. We’ll tackle both self-editing and hiring a professional, including why you need to do both.

What is editing?

Editing refers to changes made to a document to revise the story, correct grammar, enhance clarity, and create a smooth reading experience.

Editing can be broken down into several different categories:

  1. Developmental editing, which looks at your story, character development, worldbuilding, etc.
  2. Line editing, which looks at your diction, syntax, sentence structure, and other elements that make up your prose;
  3. Copy editing, which smooths and corrects grammar, spelling, and punctuation; and
  4. Proofreading, which is the final review for any missed typos or grammatical errors.

If you find them confusing, that’s okay! Every editor seems to have a slightly different definition for each of these categories, so it’s best practice to check with your editor about what these edits mean to them.

Just remember that editing generally falls into story editing or language editing.

What is self-editing?

Self-editing is when you revise your story yourself. Your goal is to get your manuscript in the best shape you possibly can by yourself.

Every writer needs to self-edit because this stage in the process helps you eliminate glaring errors like major plot holes and obvious typos. Self-editing is not editing your book to perfection.

We can only take our projects so far with self-editing because we’re in our own heads. We’ve seen the same paragraphs a hundred times, and we know how the plot should unfold. A professional editor is the objective set of specially-trained eyes you need to iron out the other trouble spots in your manuscript.

As an editor who has worked on hundreds of books, I can tell you that even editors need editors. We get too close to our own work too! I’ll be hiring an editor when I’m ready to take the next step with my own novel.

To learn more about the self-editing process, go check out these posts.

Self-editing is a valuable skill and saves your editor time, allowing them to focus on the more nuanced parts of editing. It’s a good idea to take care when revising your manuscript on your own. That being said, your editor isn’t expecting your manuscript to be perfect, so don’t worry about trying to fix every little thing.

Why do you need a professional editor?

If you’ve done a thorough self-edit, that means your story is in good shape: the majority of the plot is laid out, your themes are set, your tone matches the story, and your characters are headed off on their journey. In essence, you have a strong foundation and have shaped the story you want to tell.

A professional editor isn’t just there to tell you to fix typos (though they can help with that, too).

No, your editor is there to help you take your novel to the next level.

Professional editors have special training, education, experience, and skills to help you elevate your story. Not only is your editor a fresh pair of objective eyes, but their understanding of even the smallest parts of a story allows them to provide specific, nuanced feedback for your revisions.

With your story and language smoothed out, your reader will have the best experience and will be eager for your next book!

Why should I self-edit if I’m going to hire a pro anyway?

That’s a great question. 

First, and as I already mentioned, self-editing and removing the most glaring obstacles lets your editor focus on the smaller, more nuanced parts of your story. Those can be the details that make or break your novel.

Second, self-editing can save you money. If you have a solid foundation for your story, you may only need to invest in copyediting instead of developmental and copyediting. Hiring an editor isn’t cheap, so a thorough and extensive self-edit can save you money in the long run. (But please, if you aren’t sure how much editing your story needs, consult with an editor to get their professional opinion.)

Finally, when you combine a self-edit with professional editing, your book will be the highest quality you can produce. Self-publishing is like running a small business, and you want to put out the best product possible, right? Readers won’t care if your book is self-published as long as it’s a high-quality, engaging story with clear, easy-to-read language.

What about beta readers?

Beta readers are an amazing asset for your indie publishing team, but they don’t replace professional editors. I would consider beta readers to be part of your self-editing process.

In essence, beta readers are volunteers or freelancers who review your manuscript from the perspective of a reader. If you want to learn more about beta readers, click here.

Beta readers are perfect for gauging how the market will react to your book. They can point out things they like, things they don’t like (that you may want to change), and many beta readers will also point out a typo or two that you’ve missed.

You should use beta readers, but don’t think they’re a substitute for professional editing or even self-editing. You still need to complete both of the other steps for a thorough, well-edited novel.

How can I make sure my book is perfect?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your book will never be ‘perfect.’

Trust me, I get it. I’m always aiming for perfection whether I’m editing, writing, or doing something else.

Your book will never be ‘perfect’ because that’s subjective. What’s perfect to you won’t be perfect to someone else.

Some readers are going to adore your book. Some aren’t going to like it very much for their own reasons. (Seriously! I don’t like Harry Potter. I don’t hate it, but I never could get through those books despite them being so popular.)

You have to accept that you can’t please everyone.

What you can create is a high-quality, well-edited book you’re proud of and one that many readers will love! Work with an editor who understands and supports your vision so that you can create the best book possible for your ideal readers.

If you’re ready to take your first steps toward publication, fill out my contact form to schedule your free 15-minute discovery call to see if I’m the right editor for your project.

Want more writing tips? Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest!

Why You Need to Self-Edit AND Hire an Editor For Your Novel