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Wordbird Tips: 5 Reasons You Need an Editor

Wordbird Tips: 5 Reasons You Need an Editor

Digital technology changed the game and the rules of self-publishing. Whereas twenty years ago, it could cost you to publish a book in a practice known as vanity publishing (somewhere in the range of $20,000 if you did it right), self-publishing today is quick, easy, and perhaps most importantly, free.

Most eBook publishing services take a cut of your profits, but many boast better royalty rates for authors than traditional publishers. Nowadays, you can make money self-publishing. In days of yore, it was unlikely you’d make anything at all. You’d be lucky to break even on your $20,000, making self-publishing a game for the wealthy—hence the term “vanity publishing.”
            That model still exists, of course—just look at authors getting bilked out of their money by unscrupulous places like Author House and their corporate cronies in the book industry—but many authors have turned to places like Amazon, Smashwords, and others that will help them get their books to market.
            Here’s the catch: Yes, you can upload a Word document directly to Amazon or Smashwords and have your eBook published the same day you finish writing Draft 1. Yes, you can do it for nothing; they’ll convert the file and publish it. But ultimately, your name is on the cover and you need to bring quality product to market for your readers.
            You need an editor. Don’t even kid yourself that you don’t. Here’s why.

 

5. You Make Stupid Mistakes

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And then that sentence is terrible and clunky.

I’m a life-long reader, an English lit. major, a book editor, and a writer. I’m a Millennial and I’m really good at typing. My shorthand is even better. I know the ins and outs of grammar like the back of my hand.
But I still make stupid mistakes.
I’m only human, after all, so there are definitely times when I type, “their” when I mean “they’re.” There are words I habitually have trouble spelling—or sometimes I use the wrong word. I miss periods. My grammar sometimes sucks, and I have crutch words and phrases. We all do. I’m really embarrassed when I find a dumb typo in a draft I’ve written; I’m even more embarrassed when that makes it to press—and they do. Getting an editor will help minimize the number of stupid mistakes that make it to your audience.

4. You Need to Deliver Quality Product

The self-published market is over-saturated. Because it’s so easy to publish a book through Amazon or another platform, everyone is doing it. You simply upload your Word file and hit a button, then boom! You’ve got a book. It’s like magic.

            The problem with such casual magic? Everyone who can type into a Word document thinks they can write a goddamn novel. And everyone thinks that their novel needs to be published. So they publish it because the tools are at their disposal. The market is flooded with a hundred thousand books by authors no reader has ever heard of … and readers don’t know who to trust, which books to spend their hard-earned money on. Readers get pissed if they buy something that’s crap—riddled with errors, incomprehensible, poorly formatted, and whatever else.

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And then there’s stuff like this.

            Yes, some readers simply won’t like your book. Some of them will leave you mean reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. But you can minimize those bad reviews by ensuring that you’re delivering a quality product to your audience—and that means engaging an editor.

3. Working with an Editor Is Rewarding

Many authors struggle to crank out their book. Some have difficulty finding the motivation to write. Others set themselves strict word counts to force themselves to make time for their project. Still others write themselves into a corner and have no idea how to get out. Wouldn’t it be great if you had someone to bounce ideas off of the next time writer’s block hit you in the face?
            That’s what an editor is for. Yes, you can bounce ideas off friends, other writers, your family, or even your writing/reading club. But they’re not going to work with you the same way. Chances are you’ll get an enthusiastic, “That sounds so exciting!”—not suggestions for how you could write your way out of a corner or a reasonable critique on why this character acting this way makes little to no sense in the context of the situation.
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Your editor agrees, Snoopy.

       Editors are, essentially, highly trained readers. They read. A lot. They know language well. They understand story structure. In a lot of ways, they’re a bit like you—but they’re also like your readers. They want your story to be good. They want to be thrilled and entertained. And they want it to be done with artistic language and intriguing imagery (and correct grammar and spelling, yes). In short, they want you to produce the best book possible.
            That’s why an editor’s feedback—harsh as it can seem at times—is invaluable to the writer. The editor can point out shortcomings that the author didn’t see; the editor can consider ideas and act as a sounding board for the author. You need a way out of that corner? Ask your editor.

2. Editors Can Help You Publish

While not every editor is a pro at making books or marketing them, many of them can help beyond simply fixing periods and correcting spellings. Some editors will have training in making print books; others have knowledge of eBook production. They may even have used Smashwords or another platform and will be able to guide you through the process. Or they might have other clients who have used various platforms and can report back on other people’s experiences. They can also help you identify scams—such as fake agents—or they may be able to tell you where the market is heading. They might be able to help you write rousing cover copy. In short, your editor doesn’t need to be “just” an editor. Chances are they have additional knowledge that they can share with you that can help make your publishing experience a more pleasant one.

1. Editors Don’t Have to Be Expensive

Many, many indie authors are put off because editors can charge some damn high prices. I know; I’ve seen it. I’ve freelanced and I’ve worked in-house at a book publisher, and yeah, those bills can get really high. And, unlike in the past, today’s indie authors don’t always have slews of cash to sling around. So an editor can sound like a very expensive proposition on a project you may or may not make money on—and that can sound like a very bad fiscal decision.

            Not hiring an editor is an even worse idea, though.
            First, not hiring an editor means you’re not doing thorough quality checks on your product; you might bring a good product to market—or you might bring a piece of crap to market. An editor will help you polish that turd into something better—and readers will appreciate that. If you don’t hire an editor, your stupid mistakes will still be in the book and they’ll make you look bad, even if you “don’t care.” Furthermore, you’re only depriving yourself of skill, experience, and expert advice by skipping the editing. You’re pretty much dooming your project to fail if you refuse to get an editor.
            Yes, most editors charge a lot. But if you think about everything they can offer you, and the skills and experience they’re bringing to the table, their ROI goes up quite a bit. If you consider the success of your project, that ROI increases even more. And editors can also hook you up with other people in the industry—yet another bonus. So can you really afford not to work with an editor?
            Finally, many editors are flexible in their rates. They might advertise a higher rate because they have corporate clients. Editors I know charge differently depending on their client: are we talking about a corporation, a mid-size publisher, or an indie author? They might be willing to scale back the cost to fit your budget. Negotiate! Don’t be afraid—but also be aware that the editor’s time is worth money, and they want to be fairly compensated. Offering $100 to edit your 1,000-page tome in less than 24-hours isn’t exactly going to attract top-tier talent to your project.
            Still, even if an editor says they want to charge $4 per page or $40 an hour, see if they’re willing to negotiate—or ask them why they want to charge that much. You can also ask for a flat fee. Remember that negotiations are that, though: You’ll need to be a bit flexible too.
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As the saying goes, money communicates.

So there you have it. Editors will save you time, help you hone your craft, improve the ROI of your project, loan additional help with your publishing project, and ensure you bring an excellent product to market—and they’ll most often negotiate their fees to do this. Do you need another reason to hire an editor?

 


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