Self-publishing? You need a book editor!

Publishing a book? Don’t be caught with your pants down. If you plan to parade your intellectual assets to the world, invest in an editor!

I cut my teeth as a writer, editor and literature translator in traditional print publishing – yep, the ‘oldskool’ way that entailed hard work, exceptional writing skills, depth and breadth of education. Back then, seeing your name in print was a big deal.

Gone are those days. Now, anyone with a computer and a few thoughts rattling around in their cranium can be a published author! 

Yes, I sound elitist, but I’m ecstatic about the explosion of information and opportunity. Amidst the mountains of schlock produced by self-e-publishing are gems that would never have seen the light of day. Now, anyone with a good story or information to share can do that easily and inexpensively, minus the stacks of books collecting dust in the basement.

As a reader, I have been an Amazon user since the beginning, because the platform enabled me to get content that would never have been on bookstore shelves or published in the first place. As a book editor, it wasn’t until recently that I expanded the scope of my activities to the new publishing model. In the past, my assignments came from traditional publishers, established authors, universities, ministries, and so on. Suddenly I discovered that my oldskool skills were in demand in “the content is king” reality.

When I joined the gig economy as a freelance copy and developmental editor, I was invigorated by helping first-time and seasoned self-publishing writers deliver the best versions of their manuscripts. I find it satisfying using my skills to transform books, giving them a better shot at success.

In the traditional publishing model, if a text has significant copy issues, it’s trashed immediately. Yours truly, guilty as charged – I’ve been editing a literary magazine for over a decade and I’m not ashamed to admit that I can’t be bothered reading past a few sentences of poorly written submissions. It boils down to this – no publisher or publication has the resources or the desire to fix your scribbles, even if they are brilliant. The publishers I’ve worked with do not develop books. If manuscripts are not nearly perfect, they are rejected. Nearly perfect manuscripts are also rejected for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the writing!

Self-publishing has always been the workaround to the stronghold of traditional publishing; in the past, getting a book to press was considerably more difficult and costly. The author not only had to write and edit the book, but also have it typeset, designed, printed, distributed, and promoted. Each step costs money, typically with little or no return on investment.

In the e-pub paradigm, the major costs of self-publishing have shifted from physical book production to copy and content editing. Few people are great writers, but many have great stories or information to share.

That said, if a self-published book is not at least decently written, it will disappoint or anger the reader. People who read books – not just tweets – expect substance and correct use of language. In genres such as self-help or how-to, they expect value and authority – good structure is important.

If a book is sloppily written and the content poorly developed, that reflects badly on the writer. Not only is it embarrassing, but it can also damage a professional’s credibility. The writer is seen as a hack who slapped a few pages together and was too cheap to pay a professional to at least proofread it.

Good reviews and algorithms are where’s it at, you may counter… Sure, you can beg, bribe, or pay people to rave about your book, but that will not stop it from sucking if you don’t spend the time to improve it or the money if you don’t know how.

While platforms such as Kindle have provided an invaluable ‘hack’ for self-publishing, there are no hacks in book writing. Let me say that again: There are no hacks in book writing! Whether you’re looking for a traditional publisher or planning to self-publish, you need an honest critique and professional copy and content editing. Even if your family and friends assure you that your book is good, are they qualified to make that assessment? Nothing will ever replace an evaluation by a professional editor. Before baring your intellectual assets to the world, make sure you won’t be caught with your pants down!

Written by Irena Joannides

Irena Joannides is an award-winning content creator, writer, editor, filmmaker, and literature translator. To cut a long life story short, she writes.
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