If you ask me what my top piece of advice is for writer’s I’d have to say there’s a few things equally important. Actually writing is one of them. Reading widely is another. But ultimately if you want to be profitable as an author write long term one of the most important things you can do is get your writing edited properly. Professional editing can be expensive but is essential.
Poorly edited books, or books with no editing at all, often result in a negative reading experience for the reader. Most readers will not finish a badly written or edited book. Readers who are inclined to leave reviews or star ratings generally do not leave positive reviews or ratings for badly edited books. Furthermore, I’ve written on a number of occasions about the stigma of Indie Publishing/Self Publishing in the literary world. Badly edited books add to this negative stereotype and hurt the entire Indie industry.
Regardless of how many books you’ve written. Regardless of whether or not you have a degree in Writing or Editing yourself. I always, always, recommend getting a second person to read through and edit your book. Why? Because you’re too close to your project. It’s probably like a baby to you. Your brain knows what is supposed to be there and can trick you into reading what you expect to see not what you actually see. Because of this its really easy to miss mistakes in your own writing. Getting a second pair of eyes on it can make a huge difference in reader experience, future sales, longevity of your career, and more. I say this not as an author who also offers editing services, but as someone who genuinely wants us all to succeed, and who wants to read great books. Nothing turns me off faster than a badly edited book. The book market is a saturation market. Readers are going to keep reading. There’s room for all of us.
Still not convinced? Here some additional reasons to get a professional editor.
There are so many easy mistakes to make. Some “mistakes” are regional like differences between Australian English and American English like realise and realize, or which inverted commas to use for dialogue. Some things are colloquially correct in dialogue but not correct in written word. Mistakes in comma placement are the number one mistake I see in books both as a reader and as an editor. Some of this can be attributed to style (I will fight to the death for the Oxford comma) but often it’s due to writers being unsure in their placements. Professional editors can make sure your book is technically and stylistically correct to the market you are writing for.
Wrong character names. I have read a number of books where the author changed a character name partway through the book and never went back and edited the earlier parts of the book to reflect the new name. It was confusing as a reader when I suddenly had to work out who this “new” character was. A professional editor should be able to catch any changes you’ve made to characters names, descriptions (one minute your MC has red hair and a chapter later she’s a blonde?), settings etc.
Wrong gender pronouns. Wrong gender pronouns are a common mistake. Usually it’s typographical rather than intentional. Turning a “she” into a “he” with careless typing. But a simple mistake like that will get a readers attention. They’ll also catch the attention of an editor worth their salt.
Typos. Typos are another common issue I see especially with the rise of autocorrect (which often is more accurately described as autofail) as well as Cut and Paste fails. I’ve read several books where the author clearly “moved” a section of text during the editing process and forgot to delete the original because the same page and a half appeared several pages later. Or a scene was changed and parts of the original scene were left in making we wonder where a character got a gun from or why they’re suddenly in Tahiti. Editors check for consistency as well as typos.
Spell checkers aren’t always right. So many times spell checking software gets it wrong. It’s always a good idea to let it do a once over on your writing but you should never trust it to do your editing for you. Like spelling choices some “corrections” are only regionally correct. Software programs can be outdated. Style and grammar rules change over time. New words are created yearly. Using a professional editor will help ensure your writing is technically correct and to current styles/rules.
Badly edited Indie books devalue entire industry. As previously mentioned, I’ve written extensively about the negative stigma associated with Indie Publishing. It’s slowly changing over time but when I started publishing five years ago there was a definite vibe of “Indie publishing means you weren’t good enough to get traditionally published”. I’ve written several articles on why this is false but badly written and badly edited books add to this stereotype and make it harder for Indie Authors as a group to be taken seriously in the literary world. As the world of Indie Publishing grows it is essential that we eradicate this stigma for the benefit of all of us. Will our books ever be 100% perfect? Probably not, but then the Traditional Publishing world only gets like 95% accuracy. Professionally edited books are one of the best ways we can fight this stigma.
Edited books will get you further in your career. Readers judge books by their covers. A professional cover will draw readers in but if the book inside is poorly edited they may not finish the book. They may leave bad reviews. Above all they will be less likely to pay money for another of your books. Readers are not going to value books they are paying money for that are badly written or edited. You want to offer an excellent read at reasonable price (both for your investment and the reader’s pocket) that makes your reader want to come back for more.
Of course there are other things that can be wrong with your book too. I read an Indie book that was entire dialogue with no description or dialogue tags. It was incredibly hard to understand what was going on and who was talking. But the issues I’ve outlined above are the most common I’ve come across both in Indie Publishing and Traditionally published books. Professional editing can be expensive but is essential for your career growth. As Indie Authors we want to do the best we can to make our dreams a reality and editing is a huge step in the right direction for a lot of writers.