Self-help editing for self-publishers

By Allan Douglas/ One of the things that the self-publishing movement has done is to make the literary world communal.  No longer do a select few people working in the major publishing houses decide what is worth reading and what is not.  That decision is now in the hands of the buying public.

If you can develop a following, you can be successful.

The down side of self-publishing is that we all too often take the “self” part a little too far.  By deciding that we will do everything ourselves we sometimes impair our own work.  A killer cover can boost sales of a book, particularly fiction novels.  Hiring a book designer to help lay-out the interior design of a complicated non-fiction POD book can make it all that much more impressive.  Hiring an editor to polish our prose improves our image as an author.   But hiring experts for these tasks can be beyond the means of a new author.

Editing is often the first branch to get the axe because professional editors charge $5.00 to $10.00 a page to work their magic.  Quite a few successful self-published authors do not hire an editor, yet are successful.  Does this mean that there is no value in editing?   Certainly not!  But the new order of publication does offer us some options.

♦  Hire a less expensive editor.  The really good editors charge rates equal to their skills.  These are often people who have worked in publishing houses.  But there are others; retired English teachers, book editors who moonlight, and authors who are not writing as much, who will offer their services for $2.00 to $5.00 per page.   Check references; like any field there will be charlatans trying to make quick money pretending to be editors.

♦ Join a writer’s guild.  Most major cities have a local writer’s guild where members can gather to share successes, inspiration and commiseration.  Such groups allow an author to interact with like-minded souls and to acquire help with plotting and editing.

♦ Join an online writer’s community.  There are many writers’ communities like http://www.writing.com/ where writers can gather virtually to share tips, critique one another’s work and engage in creativity exercises.  To be any good such a forum must be populated by people who have some knowledge and are willing to offer honest feedback.  Some on-line communities are great at ego stroking, but not so good at constructive criticism.

♦ Build your own peer group.  If you know two or three other authors who write well and you trust, you can band together to help one another.  This often works out best if you do not start out as close friends.  You need to be able to be honest with one another to be effective.  Respect for one another as writers is, in this case, more fruitful than friendship.

Even a small group of writers can prove helpful to one another if they can stand the honesty.  To be effective it works the same way as a gem polisher; toss a handful of rough stones into a bucket and roll it around and around.  As the stones rub up against one another, they knock off the rough edges.  With time and participation, they all come out as polished gems.  Adding an abrasive (like an experienced writer or editor) to the mix only speeds the process.

My bit of free advice to you is; do not neglect the editorial step, if you cannot afford a professional editor, embrace the communal aspect of self-publishing to accomplish this task.

Related post: What Value, the Editor!

Allan Douglas has been a freelance writer for over 30 years.  Most of his work has appeared in print magazines, but also has had one book commercially published and two non-fiction books (so far) self-published.  Allan also writes and announces for radio.  He lives on a mountainside in East Tennessee with his wife and two dogs.  You may learn more about him at http://allandouglas.com/blog/about-me/


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