You find a blurb for the coolest-sounding self-published book ever, and smack that “Buy now with 1-Click” button like a fully-engorged mosquito sucking its dinner out of your ass. You download the shiny gem to your Kindle, rub your hands together, and open it, only to find the first page littered with typos, spelling mistakes, and poorly constructed sentences.
You’re not alone. We’ve all been snowed by a steaming pile of puppy poo disguised as Godiva chocolate.
Grumble. Hiss. Crappy self-published authors giving the rest of us a bad name…
“Well, I have nothing to worry about,” you say. “I don’t need an editor because I’m made of awesome. That whole Jacqueline Howett thing would never happen to a fantastic writer like me. Besides, who has the money to pay those money-grubbing vultures, anyway?”
If you don’t have the money, take out a freaking loan, honey. A self-published writer needs an editor like a baby needs diapers. If someone doesn’t catch all that mess before it leaks out the sides, everyone locked in the indie submarine is taking a dive on a number of uncomfortable levels. Shit stinks. Period.
NOBODY writes a perfect novel. Not Stephen King. Not Nora Roberts. Certainly not you.
At least, not without help.
I am a writer. I also freelance edit on the side for a boutique publisher, but I still hired an editor to eyeball my upcoming self-published trilogy. Here’s why:
- A fresh pair of objective eyes can gauge how your audience might react to your story. A good editor understands the market and knows what’s hot. He or she will offer advice about how to amp up your heroine’s kick-ass factor, alpha-fy your beta hero, take your point of view deeper—whatever is necessary to satisfy the hungry masses.
- After a hundred critique partners and beta readers have sliced and diced your manuscript six ways to Sunday, it’s easy to lose sight of the story. There may be entire scenes you don’t even recognize any more. An editor can help you readjust your lens, focus on what’s important, and show you what’s not.
- Like a lot of people, I’m seduced by the empty promises of my “darlings”—those momentum-robbing scenes we love with all our hearts but can’t bear to ax. Deep down, I know they’re bad for the book, but I can’t let them go without confirmation from someone I trust. When a professional tells me to cut the cord, it’s time to pay my respects to the scene and kiss it goodbye. A week later, I don’t miss it.
- Even though I’m good at catching other people’s mistakes, intimacy with my own manuscript tends to cause selective blindness. For example: six appearances of the word door in a three-sentence paragraph; a bra instead of a bar that escapes the spellchecker’s notice with a triumphant giggle; a missing word that changes the entire meaning of a sentence. A good editor has crap-seeking capabilities that can blast those pesky typo bastards out of existence in a single pass. (By the way, did you notice I used "that" three times in this bullet point? A good editor would have. :-)
- Characterization, pacing, plot holes, world building, goal, motivation, conflict…Blah blah blah. I could go on for days about all the other reasons to have a solid editor shake up your words, but I’ll have to save these for another post.
If you plan to self-publish, hire a professional editor—or, at the very least, enlist the services of an experienced critique group—before sending your baby into the world alone and diaper-less. It’s cold and lonely out there, and you don’t want some mean old reviewer like Sara calling your sweet pea stinky. :-) (Editor's Note: The only sweet pea I call stinky is my own, but that's because he usually is!)
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