Free Editing Options for Self-Pubs

crowd surfer
Image by Photos by Mavis (CC BY 2.0)

by Corina Koch Macleod

You want people to buy your book, right? To give your book a fighting chance, you need to ensure that it’s as error-free as possible. To accomplish that, you need to put your professional foot forward and make editing part of your publishing process.

You have many options when it comes to editing your book. I’ve listed them below, from the least expensive to the most expensive:

DIY: Put it on Ice
After you write your book, set it aside for at least week, though a month or two would be better. (If you’re writing a short article to a deadline, set it aside for twenty-four hours.) Then approach it again with fresh eyes. The more time you leave between writing and editing, the more objectively you’ll approach the editing process. Why? If you’re still feeling the muscle aches from that sentence you laboured over yesterday, you’ll be less likely to excise that sentence today. Give some time for the labour pains to subside, and then take Faulkner’s advice and “kill your darlings.”

Cost: Time

Participate in a Writing Group
Some authors swear by writing groups. It’s never a bad idea to put your writing in front of those who understand what writing entails. In writing groups, writers get together to read excerpts from works in progress (WIP), and members of the group offer feedback. Writing groups can work particularly well at the developmental stages of writing — when you’re still working on ideas, plot, characters, and other big picture items. Members of writing groups may also offer to proofread manuscripts that are nearly ready for publication. Don’t have a local writing group? Consider joining a virtual group, like Grub Street.

Cost: Volunteer time – $65

Crowdsource Your Book
Another way to edit your book is to put it front of people. Lots of people. In fact, it’s a great idea to get it front of people while it’s still a WIP. There’s nothing worse than hearing about plot holes when you thought your book was a fait accompli. There are lots of ways to get your book in front of a crowd. You can work your social media networks and send out free copies of your draft for review, or you can post your WIP to a crowdsourcing website like Wattpad:

You can also consider crowdfunding options, like Pubslush or the Redhat Project, which invite donors to fund your writing project. According to Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch, authors of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book, a professionally executed self-published book costs, on average, $4,000 to produce when you factor in cover design and editorial services. That’s right: producing a book  through traditional or self-published means  costs money, and if people believe in your book idea, they may help you offset some of those costs.

Cost: Time

Hire an Editor
You knew I was going to suggest this option, right? Many editors are trained to look for clarity and spot inconsistencies in a piece of writing. They read style guides for fun, and they get giddy about words, grammar, and usage rules in ways that the average author does not. They are experts at removing anything that will distract a reader from enjoying your book.

But that’s not all. Many of my editing colleagues wish that authors would contact them for a book, or manuscript evaluation, at the beginning stage of their book project, so that they can point out big picture issues that will create a lot of rewrites later. As an author, I can’t think of anything more disheartening than hiring an editor for a proofread, only to hear that your book has structural problems that a proofread cannot possibly fix. Besides, a manuscript evaluation is much cheaper than a structural edit  which is the kind of editing you’d need to fix the structural issues in your book.

Cost: $30+/ hour, depending on the kind of editing required. Some copyeditors charge a per-page rate, but at Beyond Paper, we think authors should have more say in the elements we address.

Your options for editing are many, so there’s no excuse to publish a book without polishing it first.

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How to Proofread Like a Pro, Part 2
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