It occurs to me that those books with lower rated reviews on this blog almost all mention the need for a professional editor. This claim deserves some explanation as the self-published writer obviously doesn’t have a handy in-house editor like the traditional publishing houses. Self-publishing gives writers total control over their work, but “With great power comes great…” well, you know the rest.


Although not subject to the lengthy, bureaucratic procedures of a publishing house to get novels out to the public, self-published work should still go through the same stringent revision process. So, after the first draft is complete (hurray!), the next steps should look something like the following:

  1. First Revision
  2. After an interlude of a week or two: Read the work beginning to end, like a reader
  3. Second Revision
  4. Send the revised novel out to beta readers
  5. Third Revision
  6. Submit the work to a professional development editor
  7. Final Revision
  8. Submit the work to a professional copy editor
  9. Final Polish
  10. Publish

Phew! Just listing the steps is exhausting! Let’s have a closer look at the editor part of the process.

There are many freelance editors that offer their services to writers intending to self-publish their work, or even those wanting to get their novel ready to send to a traditional publishing house for consideration.

What type of editor should you contract? In my research, I’ve found the development editor and the copy editor to be the most widely used.

The Development Editor:

This person will take a look at the story and call out any structural issues/inconsistencies, voice, theme, dialogue, flow, plot coherence, character development, etc. In short, they dig into the meat of the story and weed out anything that is bogging down the work. Many authors say to expect your manuscript to come back covered in red ink. In fact, it’s what you want so know you got your money’s worth.

When searching for a development editor, it’s a good idea to find one that reads your specific genre. They’ll know better what works and what doesn’t within the context of that type of story.

The Copy Editor:

This person will review your work for spelling and grammar errors, verb tense issues, commas/semi-colons/quotation mark snafus, and so forth. They do not look at anything big picture as far as the story and should be used only after the development editor revisions are complete (and on the flip side, the development editor does not look for any of these copy errors).

Trust me when I say that I’ve seen scathing 1 and 2 star reviews on Amazon from readers who couldn’t stand the book just because of typos. There may only be a dozen or so scattered through the entire novel, but boy do they tick people off! Potential readers decide whether or not to buy a book based partially on its star rating. Don’t let a misspelled word or verb tense error drag down yours.

Important!! Be wary of scammers! Like gum on the sidewalk, these bottom feeders are lurking out there, hoping to stick to your shoe. Here’s a very good article on what to look out for: http://killzoneblog.com/2014/04/looking-for-editor-check-them-out-very.html

This process may seem overly complicated, but to put out the best book possible, many successful authors say these steps are required, not optional. Writing the first draft is a lot of work on its own. I definitely had a ‘face meets keyboard’ moment at the end of mine.

I think Nathaniel Hawthorne described it best: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” That’s as true now as it was in the 1800s.


Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, I’d love to pay for all these editors, but I’ve got bills too and I can’t afford to blow my savings.” Fair point, and one I too am facing. I’ve got daycare costs that make payments on a loan to the Soprano family look like chump change.

But don’t despair!

Over the coming weeks I’ll be posting a “Ways & Means” series on how the self-published author can still put out a quality product without going broke.

Stay tuned!