For authors, the temptation to self-edit, saving time and money, is alluring. There is a real sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a book, and the urgency to get it in front of readers is real, too. However, there is a flip side to this positivity. Rushing through the editing process leads to a sub par product that reflects poorly on your reputation as a writer. Errors and typos, even if they are sparse, tell the reader that your work was not properly edited, and makes you look unprofessional. An author, especially a new author, can easily talk themselves into self-editing. “Why do I need to spend hundreds of dollars? I was an English major!”. This is a common and rational thought that occurs to many writers.
The writing aspect is not the most daunting task of getting a book from conception to printed page. Far from it, the necessary editing, cover design, and promotion will take up most of your time. It is a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. Seeking out a professional editor is wise, even if you are a skilled editor yourself. Ask any hairdresser if they cut their own hair. This is obviously an absurd question, but demonstrates the same point. Here are the key reasons why you need a professional editor.
You miss things
Even after countless hours of thorough re-reads, you are going to miss things that an editor will see. There is a natural bias that occurs when a writer reads his or her own work. Ask any well known, established author. Most of them utilize beta readers usually close friends, peers, or editors that they know and trust. Even subconsciously, you are going to read your own work as you want it to be read. You are going to skim over awkward phrasing, and likely miss even simple grammatical errors. A peer or editor with a critical eye will see things that you will not.
They will offer other recommendations
When sending out a manuscript for editing, you expect to get a revised draft with suggested edits within a few weeks. Sometimes, the wait will be longer, depending on your editor’s schedule. As an added bonus, many editors will offer other recommendations about plot, phrasing, characters, and general structure. Most importantly, the editor can and often does point out awkward wording, plot holes, or problems with readability. This is why it is crucial to get readers before publication, especially if you are self-published. Putting your work on the market without getting an editor and at least a few beta readers is a huge mistake.
Readers can tell
Again, even if you read your manuscript multiple times and are a skilled editor yourself, you are certainly going to miss things. An editor, whose job it is to read the manuscript with a keen eye for errors, will simply be more objective. Readers can tell if a book has been professionally edited or not. It’s the small things, such as:
-Misplaced or missing commas
-Your instead of you’re
-No space after a period
Small mistakes like this, even if they are infrequent, are perfect examples of errors that will cost you dearly. Even if they seem trivial, a seasoned reader will see them as red flags, and with each one they come across, their perceived quality of your work will diminish. Before long, they will put the book down (or press the x on the open tab).
It always, always pays to have more sets of eyes on your manuscript. Resist the temptation of getting your book “on the shelf” as quickly as possible. While that sense of urgency is a good thing for any author, it should not usurp quality. Price may be an issue for some, as even simple line edits will typically cost at least hundreds for anything aside from a short novella. Nonetheless, there are many experienced freelance editors who offer payment plans or are open to negotiating rates. Whatever you’re writing goals avoid self-editing and recognize the importance of using a professional.