If you had asked me in 2003 (when I first took up creative writing) what an editor did, I probably would have said, ‘Someone who helps to publish books’; such was my ignorance at the time. If you had asked me, ten years later, whether my self-published book of short stories had been copy-edited, I probably would have said, ‘No, why should it?’. Such was my ignorance and arrogance at the time. If you were to ask me today whether I would have my own work published, I would reply with, ‘Of course! It would be self-defeating not to!’
So, what changed? Well, four years of studying, courses, experience, observations, research…an accumulation of knowledge; that’s what.
Before the days of self-publication, the editing process was generally something that only happened within the confines of a publishing house. We weren’t quite sure what it was, or how it happened, but within their hallowed halls the transformation of raw manuscript to printed book took place.
With the ability to self-publish, all kinds of new terminology has surfaced. Some are still not quite sure what it all means: proofreading, copy–editing, line–editing, developmental editing, structural editing, typesetting, formatting…except that having it done might make their work more saleable, so it must be a good thing.
It seems that self-publishing is here to stay, and I’m all for it. Not least because the modus operandi of traditional publishers means that many promising manuscripts never see the light of day as a printed book. Self-publishing allows those slush-pile stories to break free, but the downside is that the independent author is simply not able to prepare their own work for publication in the same way that a dedicated (read as both ‘devoted’ and ‘exclusively allocated’) editor would be. Why? For a writer, not being editorially qualified, and too close to their own work, means it is impossible for a writer to self-edit properly. Sadly, this means that a large proportion of self-published books do not meet professional standards and invariably fall by the wayside. What a waste! What a shame!
It makes no logical sense for a writer to invest time and energy into producing their novel, but not invest time and money in having it professionally edited. They are doing themselves, and independent publishing, a great disservice. After all, nobody has to read a novel. So, if yours isn’t enjoyable, page-turning, fit for purpose, then you may just get 5-star reviews from friends and family who feel obliged to say that it’s wonderful, and then, ultimately, no more sales. Why would you want that? You deserve more!
As a creative writer, I can relate to why self-publishers may not want to have their work professionally edited, but if you are serious about making (some) money from your writing, and you want recognition for all your hard work, be prepared to put it through a professional editing process. It is important, and what you learn from the experience should help you (and any subsequent editor) enormously, when you come to work on your next novel.
Happy writing! 🙂