The Indie Files, Part Two: You Need An Editor. No, Really. You Do.

Author Elizabeth Hunter posted this on what she learned about self-publishing in 2013, and she points out that self-publishing is NOT the new Tupperware party. Yes, it seems like everyone and their uncle is doing it these days, particularly when it comes to New Adult (and Dahlia Adler thinks that publishers are failing the New Adult category and I kind of have to agree, but that’s a whole different topic). And as you probably remember from my previous review posts, there’s some truly awful self-published titles out there. I read one where every single line that contained dialogue had a comma before the dialogue started. Every. Single. Time. It made absolutely no sense. Not to mention the book took a very V for Vendetta turn about halfway through, which made even less sense.

You need an editor. No, listen. You need an editor. At the very least, you need a reader before you publish that shit. You cannot write in a vacuum. This applies to EVERY writer. You need feedback. You need someone to tell you when you’ve got too much craziness going on and not enough sanity. You need someone to remind you um, hello, his pants disappeared. They were on just a few sentences ago.

I have harped on this so many times, I bet y’all are sick of it. But if you’re going to self publish something, having a professional go over it for you is as near a must as I can insist on. It’s expensive. I know. It’s a lot of what’s holding me back. You can expect to pay anywhere between $500 to almost a $1000 (or more) for content editing. By the way, if it costs more than that, there’s a good chance your book is too long. By too long I mean over 110,000. You get an extra 40,000 if you’re writing fantasy or if you’re Kristen Ashley.

A content editor will help make your story the best it can be. Also called developmental edits, a content editor helps you fill plot holes and fix character motivations. They’ll help you decide what to chop because the pace is slow and what to add if there’s not enough detail. You may not need one. You may need one for your first and/or second book, but after that you’re flying solo because you have a better sense of what to look for. If you can swing this, good on you, and please bottle it so I can buy it off you.

Everyone needs a copy editor.

A copy editor (or line edits) will be able to tell you if you’re misusing the word “taught” (I’m sorry, but “his taught stomach” just looks wrong. Taut. TAUT. Means TIGHT.) They’ll catch the things your spell checker won’t (which you are using, right?) and explain the things your grammar checker insists are wrong (sentence fragments are hardly ever wrong). If you can’t afford a copy editor, find a beta reader or critique partner who will go all grammar Nazi on your manuscript and help you clean that shit up. No one likes missing words or commas.

I know it sounds like I’m dealing in absolutes here, and yes, in a way, I am. There are always exceptions, and there are always people who (like me) can’t afford it. But think of it this way: your book is forever. If you decide at a later date you want to pursue traditional publishing and/or an agent, they’re going to look at your previous work. That work is a reflection not only of you, but how much you value your work. Having something riddled with typos, missing words, and commas everywhere smacks of get-rich-quick and says I don’t care about my craft. I’d say the same goes for books that have ridiculous plots and pacing problems galore, but frankly, you can find those in Big Six books, too. Same with typos. Not every one of them will be caught. Just most of them. My point is, though, do you want people thinking you don’t love your book? That you don’t love what you do? Take the time and give it the attention it deserves. Be patient. And if that means saving your pennies so you can hire an editor, that’s what it means.

Most of the editors I’ve listed below do content editing, although some do copy editing as well. Myself, I’m more concerned about content vs. copy right now, because I’m a worrywart when it comes to making sure my stories have depth and resonance and emotion, all things a content editor can help with. Please note, I have not used any of the services offered by these people, so these are not endorsements. They are just people I’ve heard of, mostly through Twitter, and are intended to be a starting point. Another point – if you’re already published traditionally and thinking of self-publishing, check with your editor to see if they’d work with you on a freelance basis (some of the smaller presses hire freelancers rather than staff). You already know you work well together. They’ve helped you give your audience the quality work you’re known for. No reason you can’t carry that over into your venture into self-publishing.


Probably one of the most vocal editors on Twitter is Rhonda Helms. She’s an acquiring editor for Carina Press, but she also freelances. Her spots tend to fill quickly, and she offers a variety of services.

Danielle Fine offers develpmental and line editing, and, bonus, she does formatting and cover design, too!

Jami Gold’s specialty is the broken story, which she calls the Book Doctor. Got a story that’s just not working? Jami might be able to help you save it.

Brenda of The Eclectic Editor offers a wide variety of services, same as Rhonda, including help with things like essays and blog posts. She also pretty hip to the fact that indie authors are on a budget and offers payment plans if you can’t afford it right away.

While Authoress Anonymous doesn’t (currently) do full manuscripts, she does do partials, and sometimes that might be all you need.

And Rebecca A Weston offers copy editing services as well as proofreading. She doesn’t do content editing, but there are links to others she recommends.

As I said, this is your jumping off point. Another great way to find an editor is to take a look at the self-published books you’ve read and enjoyed and contact the author for their editor’s information. That’s how I found out about Brenda and Danielle.

Happy editing!

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