REPLAY 2011: Why You Need an Editor: A Demonstration

Between now and the end of the year I’m going to be using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. This post first appeared in August, and it wasn’t a coincidence that I was editing Backpacked at the time. In the comments it was agreed that my exception number 1—you being a professional editor—wasn’t an exception, as even editors cannot edit their own work. So, unless you’re planning on publishing a book of blank pages, get an editor. 

Self-publishers need to get their books professionally copyedited. Ideally they should have their books structurally edited, copyedited and proofread, but when you have a large number of people not listening to you about something, you have to start with baby steps. So let’s just say – for now – that self-publishers have to get their books copyedited, at least, before they release them out into the world.

That includes you.

Yes, you.

No, really – it does include YOU.

In fact, there are only two acceptable excuses for not getting your book professionally copyedited (i.e. paying someone to do it) before you self-publish. They are:

  1. You being a professional editor
  2. Your book having no words in it.

Do NOT make the naive mistake of confusing copyediting with looking for typos. If you believe that, then you probably need a copyeditor more than most. Every single day – it seems – I meet a writer about to self-publish, in the process of self-publishing or who has already self-published who disagrees with me on this issue. They don’t need an editor, they claim. Or they can’t afford to hire one.

Well, you do need one, and if you can’t afford to make your book the best it can be (or even just readable, depending on your grasp of grammar, punctuation, etc.), then don’t self-publish it. I’ve done everything I can to convince self-publishers otherwise – explaining how it’ll lead to humiliation, bad reviews, loss of sales, nuclear annihilation of your career, etc. etc. – but still, many don’t listen.

So I keep trying, and my latest attempt is this:

This is a (silent) video showing you how much copyediting had to be done to Backpacked. By the time my editor got a hold of it, I had rewritten it twice and, hey, I have a fairly good grasp of the English language. In other words, my book was in relatively good shape. And yet, as you’ll see in the video, there were plenty of corrections.

Please, self-publishing boys and girls. GET AN EDITOR. I have two I highly recommend if you need their contact information. But do it. If you don’t, it may be the most costly mistake – financially and professionally – you’ll ever make.

(Dum dum DUUUUMMMM.)

(That was scary dramatic music, if that wasn’t clear.)

3 thoughts on “REPLAY 2011: Why You Need an Editor: A Demonstration

  1. chillcat says:

    Thoroughly agree here. I have a book coming out in April with an indie publisher who provided an editor and I swear over the past 6 months (okay on and off) we have been revising and I am terrified we will STILL find tiny niggling things. It is IMPOSSIBLE to edit one’s own work. I thought I was an okay writer and had already done countless really earnest revisions – ie red pen, reading out loud, back-to-front, front-to-back) but it’s just not enough.

    I also hate editing and it was great to pass my doubts over to someone else.

  2. Martin Turnbull says:

    I whole heartedly agree! I thought my MS was in “pretty good shape” until it came back from my editor. It’s like my MS got a HUGE upgrade. I am SO thankful I followed your advice in “Self Printed” and now that I’m in the process of uploading to CreateSpace this week (finally! Yay!) am VERY grateful for all the practical, “sane” advice you’ve given in your books and blog. I don’t know where I’d be without you!

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