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You’ve done it! You’ve hit save and

shut the laptop, or put your

quill down on your pile of manuscript

paper, or carefully arranged your

stack of notebooks and biros. Take

a moment to savour that feeling.

The real work starts now.

As a traditionally published

author, you automatically get

editorial help. Your agent may

suggest someone to work with

you before you get to the stage of

submitting it to publishers, you

are taken on by a specific editor

within a publishing house and

your text goes through various

edits. While self-publishing

authors are advised to use an

editor, the advice often ends

there. I’ve heard from authors

who are worried that using an

editor will mean that their text is

no longer their own, that their

style will be lost, or that it will

simply cost a lot of money and

they’re not sure if it’s a good idea.

Here is a  breakdown of the

reasons for using an editor – and

the tools you need as an author to

get the most out of your editor.

Let’s start with...




At its simplest, an editor provides

another pair of eyes on your

work. Given how easy selfpublishing

is these days, it’s entirely possible

that an authorcan finish their work and put it out there before anyone else has seen a word of it.

Everyone has errors in their work;

It’s very, very hard to see what’s actually on

the page, rather than what you

think is on the page.

Apart from simple errors, a

professional reader can improve

what you’ve written. They can see

style hiccups that are stopping

your reader from enjoying the

flow of your work; they can find

plot holes and areas to improve


When I meet authors (both

traditionally published and

selfpublished), I make a point of

asking them how many drafts

they write and how many edits

their work has had. The average

appears to be fifteen.

Self-published authors are

sometimes regarded as ‘lesser’

authors, amateurs who have

somehow managed to get on the

big stage – and this impression is

strengthened when poorly

written manuscripts get out there

on sale to the public and it’s clear

that the author hasn’t edited their


You, as the self-publishing author,

owe it to yourself to produce the

best piece of writing you can

before asking an audience to pay

for it. Using a professional editor

can help you to achieve that.



As in all areas of self-publishing,

there are many options available

to you.

Before you look for an editor,

it’s important to work out:




‘Editing’ covers a range of

different services, depending on

what state your work is in, and

what you need the editor to do.

You can break it down roughly

into four different services:

Structural and editorial advice

The editor will be looking at your

writing and giving you advice on

the work as a whole, how well the

story holds together, how your

style supports that, whether your

novel fits into a genre and how

convincing it is overall. This advice

can be invaluable and will also

give you pointers on how to move

your writing forward generally,

not just how to improve what

you’re writing currently.


Copy or line-editing

An editor won’t advise you on

style or plot, but work through

your text line by line, improving

your grammar and making sure

you don’t repeat yourself,

tightening up the text, and

polishing your style. They will pick

up inconsistencies and plot holes

but won’t plug them for you.