These are two different things. I was reminded of this when I stepped into a lively discussion recently in a Facebook group. There was an author recommending to other authors that they should bypass the editing process and simply have a family member proofread their soon to be self-published book. This doesn’t work for me.
When I published my first book I had one primary purpose—I wanted readers to read my book. And yes, there were other parts of the dream too. I wanted my friends and family to hold my book in their hands and see what I’d done, and I wanted to hit the bestseller lists and have the royalty payments arrive so quickly that I couldn’t spend the money fast enough. That part of the dream is contingent on my main objective being realized first though. Before anything else happened, I had to connect with readers, and to do that I needed to produce a professional product. If I’d just wanted to hold a book in my hands, and show off my writing to those around me, it would have been much simpler. I didn’t, though. I believe that I’m a pretty good writer and I want to earn my living writing and to do that I need to find readers. So, I got some help.
I have a system in place that has worked for me for four books. I rewrite and revise constantly. Every third or fourth time that I sit down to work on my project I start at the beginning and rewrite and revise. Then, when I feel I’m finished I always have the same thought. I think to myself, “It probably ain’t gonna need much.” I’m always wrong.
I have a trusted friend who reads my work as it’s progressing and she helps me with changes as I go along. Then I enlist the help of beta readers. As most of you know, beta readers are exceptional people. They read your work and help you get it to the point where it’s as good as it possibly can be. I have an incredible team of betas that I use on all my projects but I always enlist new ones too. This way I’m truly receiving an objective critique. Inevitably, my betas always suggest changes. My “ain’t gonna need much” thought quickly becomes a distant memory.
Once I’ve calmed down and realized that most of the betas comments are indeed legitimate, I make the changes, and then move on to the next step—editing.
This is where the gentleman in the Facebook group and I disagreed. He felt that self-publishers do not require their books to be edited. This is incorrect. The only books that don’t need to be edited are the books you’re having printed to hand out to family and friends. Usually, they won’t care; they’ll still be impressed. If your dream, however, is to build your career beyond that circle and reach readers, editing is mandatory. I pointed that out to my Facebook acquaintance, but unfortunately it fell on deaf ears.
I apologize in advance for bringing up the same tired line over and over again, but I feel I have to: as self-published authors we have a target on our backs. Traditional publishing fell asleep at the wheel. While they were drafting new rejection letters we found a way to connect with readers, lots of them. And, the books that succeed have two things going for them. They are books that readers want to read, and the product is presented in a professional manner. Beta reading is not a substitute for editing. We need to have our books edited.
Once I implement my edits, my book once again goes to a team of beta readers. This is a final check before I publish and it acts as a proofread too. Even then, once it’s been professionally edited there are sometimes minor errors.
I believe that I’m not only competing with other self-published books for the reader’s attention, but also with every other book out there, including traditionally published books. About a year ago I got very close to the action. Due to a fortuitous sequence of events, my first book, My Temporary Life, hit Amazon’s overall bestseller list. For a brief period of time my book was #6 overall nestled between one of the Twilight books and The Hunger Games. It was a magical time and as all those readers downloaded my book and reviews were flying in, no one complained about the editing. For that first book I’d used a very good, professional editor, and boy, was I glad.
If I want my book to stand spine to spine on the physical or virtual shelf with other books that I’m competing against I need to step up and invest in my work. At the time of my first book my budget was minimal and the sharks did circle offering editing services for thousands of dollars. This isn’t necessary. Professional editors will copy edit your work for far less than these unscrupulous companies charge. Each project is different and I’m not an editor so I hesitate to quote prices but for my work I’ve never paid more than a few hundred dollars for a full copyedit for an entire novel. I realize this can still be a lot of money, but I encourage you to find a way to have your work professionally edited. It truly is the difference between just wanting to publish your book and connecting with readers.
Rant is now over.