As an independent writer, do I even need an editor? They’re just the people who work at the publishing houses and buy books, aren’t they? Many would-be writers think they can simply rattle off a good yarn, submit it to a publisher and the editor will tidy it up and iron out all the creases, while the writer moves on to the next masterpiece. Maybe it did used to work that way once – but not anymore.
You want to submit your novel to a traditional publishing house? It had better be as damn-near perfect as you can make it. Whether it’s one of the Big 6/5/4 (however many there are now…) or a smaller independent publisher, the reader assigned to your submission is looking for an excuse to reject it – any excuse at all. So don’t give him/her an easy one straight off. I’ve read submissions for many competitions and anthologies and trust me – one that is easy on the eye and typo-free has a galloping head-start!
Or you’ve decided to publish your novel yourself? Good for you. But that doesn’t mean you can skip the processes the big boys do; you have to budget and buy them in for yourself if necessary. Editing is one of those processes.
So can you self-edit? To a certain degree, yes. The beauty of independent publishing is that you make your own rules and you are free to experiment with language as you wish – the proof of the pudding is in the eating (and you can beat your readers over the head with every cliché under the sun too…). Some writers are better at self-editing than others. I find that just changing the font and/or size helps – words moving around the page somehow makes things easier to spot and you start reading what is actually there rather than what you thought you’d written.
Or you can buy-in editing. I decided to do this with my latest novel Rat’s Tale, which I released in April. My first thriller Hamelin’s Child was agency-edited and I now have eagle-eyed and dedicated beta-readers, but Rat’s was different. For a start it’s significantly shorter than my other novels at 47k and I wanted to structure it slightly differently. I also wasn’t confident about my ability to write believably from the point of view of one of the bad guys and yet create reader empathy with him.
So I sent a sample to John Hudspith who does a lot of indie editing and came highly-recommended. He came back with lots of useful suggestions (mostly of cutting all the redundant words I didn’t realise I was using) and so the process continued 10k at a time.
It’s fascinating watching somebody analyse your writing – pick apart the bits that don’t work and suggest things that might. I think that’s the mark of a good editor – somebody who gets what you are trying to do, but is objective enough not to tell you how to do it and simply suggest ideas that might work. I argued a lot (which may not surprise those people who know me), but after thinking about it, John was usually right and my final chapters ended up significantly changed for the better.