Updated: Jul 27
Self-publishing a book is becoming a much more common practice. Thanks to digital platforms, self-published authors have greater access to the market than ever before. In fact, in 2019, self-published books accounted for 25% of sales on Kobo’s e-reader platform.
But, self-publishing requires one vital thing: book editing. While publishing houses have teams of editors, this is something indie authors have to arrange themselves.
Editing is arguably the second-most important part of how to write a book. So, finding a professional editor is vital.
In this article, we’ll cover the key things to look for in a professional book editing service.
What Does an Editor Do?
As the name implies, a book editor reviews and makes changes to a book’s manuscript before publication. Book editing can include everything from spelling and grammar checks to feedback and major restructuring.
A good book editor will advise you on clarity, brevity, language, content, and your desired audience to ensure your self-published work is as good as possible.
While they won’t rewrite the entire book, they’ll at least offer useful feedback on how to improve sections that might be lacking.
Why Hire an Editor?
You might think that self-publishing a book means you can do it all yourself. But, having someone do your book editing makes a massive difference. A fresh pair of eyes will spot mistakes and inconsistencies that you might not see in your own work.
The fact that even the best-selling and most popular authors in the world have editors should tell you all you need to know.
Types of Book Editing
Before settling on a book-editing service, you should know what kind of editing you need. Self-publishing authors can choose from the following:
· Developmental editing. This involves looking at the book as a whole and considering characters, setting, structure, and narrative.
· Line editing. Line editing involves going through the book line-by-line looking at word choices, flow, and paragraph and sentence structure.
· Copy editing. A copy editor gets a bit deeper and looks at sentences for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. They also consider consistency of language throughout the book.
· Proofreading. A proofreader looks at format, repetitive and missing text, and typos. This is more of a final check than a thorough edit of the work.
What to Look for in a Professional Editing Service
So, hopefully you can now decide what kind of book editing you need. When thinking about how to write a book, you shouldn’t focus too hard on making it perfect the first time. After all, books go through multiple drafts, and then an editor picks up on mistakes.
Once you have your initial manuscript, look for the following from a book editing service.
1. Are they in the right niche?
When hiring an editor, it really helps if they specialize in the right niche for your book. If they have prior knowledge to call on, you’re more likely to end up with a superior finished product.
For example, you wouldn’t hire an editor of academic journals for your sci-fi novel. Be sure to shop around and ask about specializations.
2. What’s your experience level?
If you’re self-publishing a book for the first time, hiring a copy editor can be massively beneficial. They can help you to refine your writing style and identify shortfalls in your experience.
Also, a developmental editor can help improve your characters and setting. After all, no one gets it right the first time, and writing is a very experience-driven activity.
3. Know your facts
Editors will often charge by word count or page count. So, make sure you know these figures before you start discussing rates.
It can help to contact editors with different charging styles. You might find that your 100,000-word, 300-page manuscript is priced differently by several editors.
4. Consider your project’s complexity
If you’re self-publishing a book on a specialist subject (often the case with non-fiction), your book editing cost will be higher. Not only will your pool of editors be smaller, but people generally charge more when dealing with specialist knowledge.
And, as mentioned above, you’ll want an editor that knows your subject matter.
As a general rule, fiction titles will be slightly cheaper for this reason. But, if your novel deals with real people, places, or facts, you’ll want them fact-checked. This can also add to the cost.
5. Know the editor’s experience
You’ll obviously want the best editor you can afford, so make sure you research their experience and prior projects. Any book editor with pride in their work will have some kind of user feedback platform.
Look into reviews and samples of previous work. Learn as much as you can about their experience and customer satisfaction. If they have some high-selling titles to their name, this is a sign that they’re probably good at their job.
It’s not unreasonable for you to ask them to edit a sample of your work. But, it’s also not unreasonable for the editor to charge a minor fee for this. That said, many editors would do a page or so for free just to showcase their ability.
6. Budget and deadline considerations
It’s all too common for self-published authors to underestimate the importance of book editing. As a result, they set aside a very minor budget for this vital stage.
By all means, set yourself a budget for hiring an editor. But do some research first so you set a realistic one. Approaching an editor and offering them $100 for a 300-page manuscript will not go down well.
The same is true for your deadline. Fast turnaround equals higher costs, so try and give an editor plenty of time to make it less expensive. Also, don’t set unreasonably tight deadlines. It’s close to impossible to properly edit a whole book in a matter of days.
At the most basic level, paying for book editing is just like any other specialist service. You must ensure they fit your needs and budget.
As self-published authors become more common, freelance editors are too. Hopefully, with the tips above, it won’t be difficult for you to find the perfect editor for your work.