Should You Self-Edit Your Manuscript or Hire a Professional Editor?
Self-editing your manuscript is an important first step toward getting your work published, but you shouldn’t rely solely on your own editing abilities when it comes to your writing, even if you’re a professional editor yourself. After your first run of self-editing, you should hire a professional editor to go over your manuscript before you publish it or pitch it to an agent. You may be put off by the cost, but it’s better to think of it as an investment into making your book the best it can be.
Working with a professional editor has numerous advantages, notably bringing out the best in your manuscript and improving your writing abilities—it’s about more than typos and spelling mistakes. There’s a lot of teamwork involved in self-publishing a book, and editing is only the first step, so if you’re ready to start working with a professional team, check out our services for authors.
Pros and cons of self-editing
Honestly, the advantages of self-editing a manuscript are few, and they basically boil down to saving money. Self-editing is necessary in the beginning, when you’re still working on your first draft, but receiving feedback, notes, and corrections is a crucial step every author must take before even thinking about publishing. Self-editing also eases the burden on your professional editor, allowing them to dive deeper into other aspects of your manuscript.
What about the disadvantages of self-editing? There are plenty. We’ve all skipped over typos or missing words after reading the same sentence a million times, right? That’s because we lose objectivity when we’re too deep in our writing process and tend to see and read what we want to because we know what the story is supposed to be. However, what we think is on the page and what’s actually on the page aren’t always the same thing. Unfortunately, these oversights tend to become glaringly obvious the minute our text is released to the public.
Much harder than spotting typos is recognizing the structural errors in our own work. Since the story makes perfect sense in a writer’s head, they might not see the missing links that another person would easily notice. For this reason, you should take some time from your work before you sit down to self-edit your first draft. Even though you’ll surely find flaws in your storytelling, language, and narrative after allowing yourself some distance, you’ll never have the objectivity required to make a truly profound improvement. You need an objective third party to tell you what doesn’t make sense or fit well.
Another factor to consider is your own knowledge of grammar, spelling rules, and vocabulary. You’re a writer, so we can safely assume you have a decent grasp of the pillars of writing, but are you as good as a professional editor? Many great writers still need to hone their high-level linguistic expertise. Are you willing to kill your darlings if they’re not working for the story, be they specific lines, particular events, or a character you like? What about the publishing industry? Do you know what the trends and standards are, and are you capable of bringing your story up to par?
If you want to write a book that meets industry standards and is going to sell and make you money, you need to invest in a professional editor with the experience to shape your manuscript into the best version of itself. We’re not saying you should never self-edit, but consider this a reminder that to write a professional book, you have to work with the pros. Don’t worry—it’s still your book, and you’re free to reject any suggestion your editor makes, so everything is ultimately up to you.
Pros and cons of working with a professional editor
There are numerous advantages to working with a professional editor, starting with having a fresh pair of eyes to refine your text and spot inconsistencies, plot holes, lackluster character arcs, and more. An editor will thoroughly review your manuscript and make sure the structure, style, characters, dialogue, voice, and narrative are working for the story rather than detracting from it. They’ll also suggest cuts—some of which you probably won’t like at first—in order to focus on those parts of your story that need more space, time, and exposition. Trust the process: Your editor is an industry professional who’s simply trying to make your story even better.
An editor will also help you improve the clarity and flow of your writing, talk you through the themes and messages you’re sending to the reader, and persuade you to make changes necessary to benefit your book. They’re experts in language, writing, and the publishing industry, so take full advantage of their knowledge to make your manuscript shine. Still, use your own discretion when wading through their suggestions. An editor might misunderstand the meaning of a certain passage or your intention with a given scene; in this case, gently explain what your intention was, and they’ll help you make that clear.
Proofreading is a huge part of editing though that comes at the end and is usually done by someone other than your main editor, who is now, like you, too familiar with the manuscript to catch those tiny little errors. A professional proofreader will focus specifically on grammar, spelling, consistency, formatting, and punctuation rather than structure and development and will produce a spotless copy of your manuscript, ready for either self-publishing or pitching to an agent.
Ready to find your editor? Take our quick editorial needs quiz if you’re not sure what kind of editor you need, or check out our services for authors to see the complete list of editing and publishing services we offer.