Top 5 Ways Authors Sabotage Their Own Book

by | Oct 20, 2014

by Shayla Eaton (@CuriouserEdit)

Over the years The Book Designer has featured guest articles by authors, designers, marketing pros, and many others in the field of self-publishing. But more than any other people involved in publishing, we’ve featured editors.

The reason for this is that editing is crucial to self-publishers, and should be the number 1 priority on an author’s list when they start thinking about getting a book ready for publication. Nothing will prejudice readers against your book—except for a boring book, that is—than a sloppy presentation or worse, a completely unedited one.

Today Shayla Eaton looks at some of the attitudes that cause authors to hurt their own prospects by trying to avoid the editing process, or by rationalizing it away. Here’s her article.

Authors work hard—there’s no doubt about that. They get up early and stay up late. They drink copious amounts of caffeine to break out just one hundred more words. They dream about their characters and create marvelous worlds for their readers. Some dedicate their lives to writing their novels.

So why do so many authors work so hard only to sabotage their books by neglecting to hire a professional editor?

Here are some common answers:

  1. “Professional editors are expensive.”
  2. “An editor will butcher my unique voice.”
  3. “How will I know if my book is properly edited?”
  4. “I used an editor once, and my book had errors. I won’t do that again.”
  5. “I edited my book myself, so I don’t need an editor.”

These notions are all false. Whether you’ve decided to pursue self-publishing or if you’re gearing up to submit your manuscript to an agent or publisher, your book must be professionally edited. Without a polished manuscript, poor Amazon reviews will saturate your feed, publishers will toss your book in the “no” pile, and agents will groan just a little louder.

Let’s counter these misconceptions of hiring a professional editor, shall we?

1. “Professional editors are expensive.”

Have you ever attended a wedding for which the bride and groom opted to have their unskilled family member photograph their wedding, only to receive shoddy photos? Perhaps you’ve actually experienced this firsthand. Hiring a professional photographer can take your wedding scene from “pretty” to “jaw-dropping.”

And an editor can take your good book and turn it into a masterpiece. Just as in hiring a skilled photographer, contracting with a knowledgeable editor is an investment. You’re paying someone to help make your book the best that it can be.

2. “An editor will butcher my unique voice.”

A professionally trained editor knows how important it is to maintain the author’s unique voice. Any revisions three words or over will prompt the editor to make a comment for the author to address. A great editor cares about you as much as she cares about your book.

3. “How will I know if my book is properly edited?”

Check the editor’s references or read the testimonials on his website. See what other people are saying. Ask for a before-and-after. A successful editor will happily show you the results from the first draft to the last. Look at the editor’s own work. If you can spot errors, try broadening your search.

4. “I used an editor once, and my book has errors. I won’t do that again.”

For an editor to claim that he can edit a manuscript to perfection means that there are no errors, which is unfeasible. And for an author to assume his book should be error free is improbable. We are not perfect human beings, so to create a perfect (error-free) manuscript is impossible. Pick up any bestseller in your local bookstore, and I promise you’ll find errors.

5. “I edited the book myself, so I don’t need an editor.”

This is probably the most used excuse—as well as the most detrimental to an author’s book. We cannot be objective with our own writing. You could edit the same page over and over and still miss errors. Your brain will tell you a word is there that isn’t. Even editors need editors.

When authors use these excuses, they welcome sabotage to their own work. If you hired an editor, what would those Amazon reviews look like? What would your agent say? Would your book go from the “no” pile to the “yes” pile?

If you, as an author, spent all that time creating something that means so much to you, wouldn’t you want to give it the finishing touch it deserves?

Shayla Eaton headshotShayla Eaton is a connoisseur of the writing and editing process, having edited over 150 books and countless articles, blogs, social media posts, and marketing campaigns. She operates her own business at Curiouser Editing. Shayla loves coffee and is an admirer of all things artsy, creative, and bookish.


tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. C. Michael Lorion

    Joel, above you said, “And why would an author spend valuable time learning cover design, editing, typography, page layout, press release writing, or any of the other skills needed by serious self-publishers, if they are only going to use these skills on an occasional basis? It seems like a poor allocation of resources to me.”

    I don’t understand what you mean, particularly the part about using these skills on an occasional basis. Do you mean they’ll only use these skills once or twice a year, whenever they publish another book? If so, I see your point. However, there are people who have built entire houses from the ground up, using various skills like carpentry, plumbing, masonry, electrical wiring, roofing, sheet rocking, blue print reading, etc. Was it a waste of time for them to learn all those skills to build the house they wanted?

    Now, I did not do my own cover, and when I can afford it I will more than likely hire an editor, but I just don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for an author to do everything in creating a successful book. Not that I ever want to do everything, just saying it’s possible.

    Don’t want to prolong this point on my end, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Joel, I’ve been following this website for a few months, so glad it was recommended to me by a fellow author. I’m learning lots from it. Thanks!

  2. C. Michael Lorion

    I’m a newly self-published ebook author. My debut novel was published via KDP this past April. I used beta readers and myself to edit my book as I could not afford a professional editor. It is my desire to some day be able to afford such a service. That said, I think I see Mr. Lunt’s point. If I’m a writer, then, to some degree, I am also an editor. Couldn’t I train myself to be just as professional an editor as an actual professional editor?

    For example, I bought my book cover online from a book cover company. Couldn’t I, given enough time, energy, and determination, train myself and acquire the necessary skills to create my own professional book covers? I could, if I wanted to do that. But I don’t want to.

    Could this example be applied to me editing my own book? If I spend enough time, energy, and due diligence, shouldn’t I be able to edit my own work just a well as a professional editor?

    • Greg Strandberg

      A comment like that might make sense for some, unless they’re in the editing industry or cover design business. Then they’ll argue vociferously against it. Oh, not because it’s wrong, but because their livelihood depends on it.

      Yeah, maybe not one author, but what if everyone started talking like that? Then it might not just be Big Publishing under threat, but Big Editing too.

    • Joel Friedlander

      I think the entire premise of “I’m a writer, therefore, I am also an editor” is false. These are different skills, and the possession of one of them does not mean that you possess the other. Many indie authors have done the same as you, trying to rid their books of errors by relying on beta readers, friends, neighbors, high school English teachers, etc. This type of proofreading is valuable and, in many cases, is the only affordable solution for authors. But it should not be confused with editing, which is not proofreading.

      And why would an author spend valuable time learning cover design, editing, typography, page layout, press release writing, or any of the other skills needed by serious self-publishers, if they are only going to use these skills on an occasional basis? It seems like a poor allocation of resources to me.

      Put out the best book you can, that’s the most important thing. Work within your budget but strive for excellence.

      • Ben Lunt

        Well, Joel, you have lumped a great deal more into the conversation than I did. In the first place, for six or eight months I have worked enthusiastically and diligently to explore the science of Book Design. I have learned a great deal about it and, most importantly, that I possess no talent for the art and only barely understand the concepts. Not the obvious concepts, but the real, deep concepts. Fonts: it is one thing to pick out a handful of recommended from various recommendations – any monkey can do that – but to select the right ones for my particular project, at the right size and leading, on the right sized page, with the appropriate chapter headings and page numbering, is beyond my abilities. And that is the beginning of the problems – the first page of text – what about the front matter, the back matter? It is a seriously difficult occupation best left to those who are accomplished.

        Covers and cover art. Anyone with eyes can pick out pictures, even covers, they like. After several hundred hours of assembling dozens of covers, I feel no closer to skilled in that area than I am in book design. My need to hire professionals in those tasks is self evident.

        Now, I know you are a smart man, and I am delighted with all the information I find associate with your site, but I have to disagree with you concerning the linkage between writer and editor. Of course, there are plenty of writers out there who have no love of the practice and work the skill only as a means to an end. They have never wanted to edit and never cared to learn how. There are also situations where a skilled writer develops ‘fault blindness’ to some of their own inaccuracies or outright errors. As an investigator in various fields, the term ‘fresh eyes’ is a standard redundancy invaluable to expanding the dimension of the study of almost anything.

        I write because I love it. I have good talent, great depth and growing skills, and since I have, on numerous occasions, as any writer has, edited the work of friends. Short pieces only – laboring over other peoples efforts is not a happy think for me and I prefer to avoid it. A very dear friend is a proofreader for Penn State and has got me started in that skill as well. I love it. It is a detailed examination on a close level that gives me a particular degree of satisfaction to complete a page at a time.

        How adept I am at these skills is a matter unknown to you or anyone else, for that matter. I bristle at the automatic assumption that I MUST be inept, without even asking, because ‘that is how you see it’. All writers are, and there can be no exceptions.

        I would not respond so badly to this type article if it did not strike me as condescending and predatory. The title reads, ‘Hire an editor or you are doomed’. I’m sure you’ll say the words are different, but only marginally. The meaning is the same. The inversion of such a title must understood as, ‘Hire and editor and you will succeed.’ Of course, we all know that can only mean succeed at having a professionally edited book, and certainly not succeed at being a money making writer. I could write an epic on the intricate society of garden snails, get it edited, get a professional book designer – would you be interested? – spend $4000 on cover art, and still not sell enough books to buy coffee at Starbucks.

        I promise you, I KNOW editors of varied skills and levels will be essential for the vast majority of aspiring writers. If ten percent do well enough to quit their day jobs, it would be a miracle, but the fun to be had on the way would be worth it. That being said, it does not mean I am automatically incapable of writing, editing, and proofing my own project, and I resent having such a position pressed to me by people so remote to me and my life. I do not agree, I will not concede, and I will not allow strangers across the world to convince me not to try. I love the writing, and the editing, and the proofing, and I will produce the product I want, my way. I do hope my position and outspoken attitude has not injured a potential relationship between us to the extent that you would refuse to look at my project, should I send it to you for an estimate. If it has, I am sorry for it, and wish you well and all the success you deserve.

        PS Please try to avoid critiquing my skills, or lack thereof, in this post, as I am sitting in the dark on my boat and have not ever looked back and reread it.

        • Dan Bodine

          “…sitting in the dark on my boat and have not looked back”? Jeesh! You’re there, my friend! Look for a dock!

  3. Craig

    I think good editing is important, but for self publishers and indie publishers the costs can get out of control. That’s why I have created an indie publishing company that has a model that I think will overcome this problem. We have a submission system in which the author submits their work (for a fee), and then they either get accepted for publication with 70% royalties, or they get comments on how to improve the manuscript. They can then make revisions and resubmit the manuscript for another round of comments or acceptance. this can be done up to three times for one submission fee. Our promise to the author of no form rejections is one we can keep with this model. In this way we hope to improve the quality of the work and make the final product great.

  4. Julia Lund

    Great advice. I have just taken the plunge, raided my pension savings and, after meticulous research, paid for a professional edit of my manuscript. Best money I have ever spent.

  5. Mark Tilbury

    I am in the process of writing a mystery thriller and intend to try and self publish it. I have done a lot of research into editing and proofreading – do I do it myself, crowd-share or work with one editor? Personally I would prefer to just work with one other person, so I am going to go through the draft a couple of times before working with an editor.

    If have also researched editors, looked at many websites, read reviews of their work and prices and created a shortlist of authors that would be best suited to both me and my genre. That way I have a choice of equally qualified people to choose from.

  6. Ernie Zelinski

    Here are a few quotations to add a lighter side to the blog post and comments:

    “Write drunk; edit sober.”
    — Ernest Hemingway

    “George Moore wrote brilliant English until he discovered grammar.”
    — Oscar Wilde

    “The learned fool writes his nonsense in better language than the unlearned but it is still nonsense.”
    — Benjamin Franklin

    “The reasons so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.”
    — Walter Bagehot

    “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.”
    — Oscar Wilde

    “Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.”
    — Mark Twain

    “As far as I’m concerned, “whom” is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler.”
    — Calvin Trillin

    “At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammar and dictionaries are excellent for distraction.”
    — Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    “A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”
    — Baltasar Gracián

    “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”
    — Winston Churchill

    “Write something, even if it’s just a suicide note.”
    — Unknown wise person

    As for me, I have always operated with this adage: “Do it badly — but at least do it!” In other words, it doesn’t matter how it gets done, as long as it gets done.

    Here is the bottom line: There are some books with great content that are not that well edited that will far outsell the perfectly edited books with poor content.

    Thomas Carlyle stated, “The best effect of any book is that it excites the reader to self-activity.” My originally self-published “The Joy of Not Working” had 150 spelling errors in its first edition. Nevertheless, because it had great content, the first edition sold over 30,000 copies due to word-of-mouth advertising. I knew that it was a great book at that point because of all the letters that I received from readers who were excited to self-activity. (Only one person complained about three spelling errors she spotted, out of 150.) This year, 23 years after I wrote it, the book will still earn me over $20,000 in pretax profits. Incidentally, the book has earned me over $725,000 in pretax profits since it was released in 1991. How’s that for getting results with a book that was poorly edited when it was first released?

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 225,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Robert S. Tudor

      Arrgh! Arghh! I’ve been looking all my life for a reply like this!
      Thank you, sir!

  7. Will Gibson

    I think independent authors necessarily need extensive editing of their manuscripts if they are serious about their writing and about their chances of success in the marketplace. But, almost every article on this blog and others always receives blowback from self-publishers about this need.

    I know that I couldn’t have produced an acceptable book if I hadn’t used early readers as developmental editors and beta readers and a professional proofreader. I also used nine different ARCs from two different printers over a three year period before finally releasing my ‘second edition’ novel.

    I didn’t have the money for editing but I had the time. And we should pick one or the other.

  8. Greg Strandberg

    Getting that perfect cover: $200 to $500

    Making sure the book’s edited properly: $500 to $2,000

    A marketing campaign that will sell it: $250 to $1,000

    Knowing that one day you’ll make money in self-publishing: priceless.

  9. Dan Holloway

    Ouch, writing an article on the essentiality of editors that is itself so seriously in need of an editor is brave. I was lost at point 1 – I didn’t see the misconception even addressed let alone countered. What the author, I think, I means is that you get what you pay for and a professional editor is worth what they charge. Absolutely. That’s a very good point. But when you’re struggling to survive on benefits or on minimum wage, and simply don’t have money to spend on an editor, that doesn’t even address the fact that a good editor costs good money. The logical conclusion is that the low waged shouldn’t deign to self-publish, which is hardly what I’d call the indie spirit!

    • Shayla


      Thank you for your comment. I think that’s a really great point about authors who can’t afford an editor. I’d love to address some ideas on that in the future. I’d probably first suggest to save, save, save!

      And thank you for calling me brave. I needed to hear that! I think you’re brave too for publishing an unedited comment in response to an editor’s article. I’ll keep your ideas in mind for a future blog post.

    • Lauren

      Please show us examples of what you think needs editing in the article.

  10. Greg Strandberg

    I too find fault with this post. I feel #4 and #5 are in direct conflict and the short bit on each didn’t do nearly enough to assuage my doubts.

    • Joel Friedlander

      No idea what you’re talking about Greg. #4 and #5 are distinctly different attitudes found among less-experienced authors, there’s no “conflict” because they could well represent different situations.

    • Shayla


      I appreciate your comment. I’m not sure why you find them to be conflicting, seeing as how, like Joel mentioned, they are different attitudes found among different authors. In my experience, these are the top five things I’ve heard authors say, so my goal with this article was to counter the misconceptions with solutions. Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best of luck.

      • Greg Strandberg

        I guess it just seems like a Catch-22 to me.

        As an author you can never catch all of your own mistakes, so you should have an editor. But then editors never catch all mistakes, so…

        • Shayla


          An editor will catch more errors than the author—and more than you can imagine. The goal is to get it as close to perfection as possible; but editors know perfection isn’t possible, so there will always be an error or two floating around. It doesn’t mean the book is riddled with them; it means it’s not possible to create a perfect book. I hope I’ve cleared up this misconception, and I appreciate your response. Thank you!

        • marisa

          Would you rather have a book which is 99.9% clean or a book which is 50%-80% clean? That’s what my take on this is. I have found pristine books with 1 error in 400 pages (that I could find – I’m not a professional editor), but when a book is not edited and you are on your 6th mistake in chapter 1, you think the writer doesn’t know what they’re doing, didn’t care about the book enough to hire an editor, and possibly lose interest completely.

          • Shayla


            That’s a great way to explain it—you definitely broke it down well. I will lose interest very quickly when reading an unedited book; I certainly become frustrated too. Thank you for reading!

  11. Michael W. Perry

    In addition to writing, I do editing and layout for other publishers. I know all too well that everyone’s writing can benefit from editors and outside critics.

    That’s one reason I keep pointing out the clear signals from Amazon that, given enough market share, it intends to lower the current Apple-established 70% royalty rate to 50% and less.

    A 50% high-end is, in fact, the royalty rate Amazon has announced for its new crowd-sharing scheme. To get that, authors must sign a contract that gives up quite a few rights for five years. Those who don’t sign away those rights are likely, in the next few years, to get only about 35-40% of retail.

    That does not have to be. A realtor I once knew had her agency take care of her charitable giving by simply assigning 10% of her income to the charities of her choice. She never saw the money.

    I’d love to see ebook retailers offer something similar. An author could contract with a editor to refine and proof a book for a designated 10%. That’d mean no scarce money in advance and would give that editor a strong incentive to do good work. The cover, layout and formatting could be handled similarly. It’d give independent author/publishers many of expertise benefits of traditional publishers without the hassle.

    But to be able allocate 10% here and another 10% there, the royalty rate needs to be in the 70% range. Two 10% bites into 70% still leaves a substantial 50%. A 20% bite into an Amazon rate of 50% or 35%, will only pay a pitiful 30% or 15%. That’s not a viable business model.

    Apple does offer 70% and will almost certainly continue to do so. After all, that’s what they been paying for music and apps for many years.

    It’s Amazon who clearly wants to put squeeze every penny they can out of authors and publishers, duping the not-so-bright news media by claiming to want low prices. If Amazon really wanted low prices, it’d pay better royalties, allowing those who create an ebook to sell it cheaper and still get the same income.

    There’s something else that matters. In 2003, Steve Jobs said that Apple was breaking even with that 70/30 slice, making its profit on the hardware. In the eleven years since, the cost of providing web services like that has dropped enormously. I heard that from no less an authority than one of Amazon’s top server gurus at a seminar I attended in Seattle.

    My hunch is that ebook retailers could easily offer an 80/20 split. In a more competitive market, with Apple eager to attract authors, it might gain a competitive advantage by offering that. If nothing else, it’d mean authors would encourage their readers to buy from Apple.

    There is, however, not a bat’s chance in hell that the current Amazon would move to an 80/20 split. It dreams of a huge, essentially competition-free income from ebooks. It will say and do almost anything to achieve that goal.

    Amazon’s hefty download fee on ebooks priced $2.99 to $9.99 means its real high-end royalty rate is in the 60-65% range. Outside that range it pays only a pitiful 35%. Except for ebooks that are guaranteed to sell well, there’s no money for an author who is paid 35% to hire editors.

    The Hachette dispute is only the tip of the iceberg that is leering up in front of all authors and publishers. Amazon’s increasing overt policy of squeezing authors and publishers is bad news for creating high-quality books. It’ll force most authors and publishers into following the cheapest possible path and that path means the great bulk of writers laboring alone without assistance.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Michael, I understand that the Amazon royalty situation is of great interest and concern to you, but why post this here on an article about editing? It’s inappropriate.

    • Shayla


      Thank you for reading the article. I think your comments about Amazon are interesting. I’m glad you agree that writers can benefit from an editor. I couldn’t agree more!

  12. Ben Lunt

    I would feel MUCH safer in taking this advice if it came from an impartial source. Of course, I can expect industry professionals, even ‘editors for hire’, to expound the glorious advantages of hiring an editor, and carefully lay out the dire consequences of failing to do so. Mix this with the almost laughable reasons why one should not expect ‘perfection’ after paying the money, really makes me think this is an ad to promote business and not a true advice article at all.

    I will tell you a few things that pop into my head as I read: If I am paying a professional to execute his skills and talent on my project, I had better be impressed with the results. That means I need reason to believe he is better at the process than I am, and not just a ‘tad’ better.

    When people who are in the business of editing claim they hire editors, it sets a little alarm bell to work in my head. A house painter doesn’t hire a house painter to paint his own house, any more than Picasso had Warhol come over to ‘touch up’ his work before presenting it to the public.

    One of the judges in the board for either the Pulitzer or Nobel prize recently penned a scathing indictment concerning the ‘institutionalization’ of writing, specifically, American writing. He declares the prospect of expecting anything external to convention, anything new, daring, or exciting, (was my take) is very remote.

    I believe the guardians at the gates of publication in America are as much at fault as the colleges who teach ‘the right way to write’, and most of these guardians are no more than profiteers positioned on perches, much like bears in a salmon run, to grab whatever benefits they can from the traffic going by, whether it be outright cash or new ideas.

    If you believe my observations to be misguided or unkind, considering your positions, I understand and expect little. I do read everything on many of these sights and find a great deal of valuable information. Perhaps if I was here to slap together a cookie cutter comedy or syrupy romance and ‘just get out there making money’, I would, most likely inspired by laziness and unwilling to learn the skills for the trade, be more generous in my appraisal of the article, but I am not. I write because I love it. Loving it makes improving it easy and fulfilling. Admittedly, I don’t think much of writers who wish to forego the skill to write and rush quickly to pipe dreams of fame and wealth. They are the salmon who get picked off at the falls.

    • Michael N. Marcus

      Ben — Maybe an editor would have corrected your “I do read everything on many of these sights” [sic]

      • Ben Lunt

        Brilliant, Mike. You’ve found an error on what is, effectively, a spontaneous and unedited rant. Do you expect me to be impressed with your skills? Is a single word use all you have? Sites instead of sights. The author of the article says imperfection is to be expected by professionals. But your vision is that dissenters are required to be perfect. What an ass you are. I never even looked through this before posting. When you write as well as I, your criticisms may carry an ounce of merit. Until then, you are the pot calling the kettle black.

        • Michael W. Perry

          Actually, there are a host of serious, non-gramatical mistakes that a good editor can spot and correct, errors that can prove extremely costly.

          I recently edited a book that had much good to say about school reform at the administrative level. Unfortunately, it took Common Core as a given, even though CC had nothing to do with the reforms being suggest.

          Common Core, I warned him, is a red flag. Some will expect you to praise it as the answer. Some will expect you to condemn it. It’s irrelevant to what you’re saying, so don’t mention it.

          I didn’t manage to him to simply leave out Common Core, but what he said was changed to make it neutral. That wasn’t something he or the half-a-dozen friends he had to read the book before it was passed to could see.

          Friends as reviewers tend to focus on encouraging. A professional editor will look with a more critical eye and see things neither the author nor his friends will see.

          I might add that great writers value criticism and take it seriously. That’s one reason why they’ve become great writers. They struggle endless to perfect their art.

        • Michael N. Marcus

          Gee, Benjamin, you have a brilliant strategy. You try to deflect attention from your error by addressing me with a nickname I never use and calling me an ass. You must have been a formidable debater in third grade.

          You didn’t make a typo or a spelling error in your post. You used the wrong word! It was a stupid mistake and should have been corrected before posting. It is not an “imperfection.” It is an indication of ignorance, carelessness or both.

          Why do you expect anyone to be “impressed with your skills?”

          If you dismiss a criticism for using the wrong word as lacking “an ounce of merit,” you are egomaniacal, pathetic and rude.

          You inferred that my “vision is that dissenters are required to be perfect.” You are a lousy mind reader. You know nothing about my vision.

          You brag about your writing skill but admit that you posted an unedited rant. That is inexcusable. Even rants should be edited. Every word a writer writes is an audition — and you failed.

          By the way, Amazon and B&N show no books you’ve written. Is this “spontaneous and unedited rant” your first publication?

          You said, “When you write as well as I, your criticisms may carry an ounce of merit. Until then, you are the pot calling the kettle black.”

          If I ever write as well as you, I should have my hands amputated.

    • Shayla


      Thank you for reading the article.

      When you find a perfect, error-free book, not only will I take back my comments, I will eat the book.

      I noticed you said that I hired editors for my own writing, insinuating that I cannot edit my own work; therefore, you are indicating that I couldn’t possibly be able to edit someone else’s work. As you read in my article, I said that it’s not possible to be objective. While my writing may be grammatically correct and organized, it’s always possible for errors to slip through. I publish a monthly magazine and have an editor friend check it for errors. Like I said: I cannot be objective to my own writing. Now, I can for someone else’s, sure. But the English language means so much to me that I don’t trust myself to find every error in my own work; therefore, I have someone else check it for errors. As I mentioned, my brain will tell me words are there that are not.

      Thank you for your comments, and I appreciate you! Have a wonderful day.

    • marisa

      “I will tell you a few things that pop into my head as I read: If I am paying a professional to execute his skills and talent on my project, I had better be impressed with the results. That means I need reason to believe he is better at the process than I am, and not just a ‘tad’ better.” So hire an editor you’re impressed with.

      “When people who are in the business of editing claim they hire editors, it sets a little alarm bell to work in my head.” What is the alarm bell alarming you about? That writers don’t need editors, and they’re needlessly throwing away their money on making their book better? You don’t have to hire one particular editor. It’s like being alarmed that a professional painter should dare to point out flaws in your DIY painted house – you might know a lot about interior decorating but you can benefit from professionals in particular areas. (From a writer, not an editor).

    • Lauren

      An editor would have helped you with your metaphor, too.

      “A house painter doesn’t hire a house painter to paint his own house” is not apt here. “Hairdressers don’t cut their own hair” might be.

  13. Carol Fragale Brill

    Shayla , I totally agree that hiring a professional editor is critical to produce my best book. My editor was expensive, and worth it not only for how she helped me improve my book. She also helped me learn and grow as a writer. Next to my MFA, working with a professional editor was my most valuable learning experience as a writer.
    She “got” my voice, and helped me stay true to it, pointing out where I could strengthen a character, paint a better scene through specific detail, sharpen dialogue etc. She didn’t write the revision, she helped me see the need for it so I could rewrite it in my own voice.
    I also hired a professional proofreader, and both told me from the get go, there could still be some errors, because it’s really hard to catch everything. Proof of that, I frequently find an error or two in traditionally published books by well-known and edited authors.
    as for editing myself, even after proof-reading many, many times, I was amazed by how many things I missed in my own writing.

    • Shayla


      I think that’s great that you hired an editor who truly wanted to maintain your unique voice. That’s so important!

      Thank you for your kind words!

  14. Michael N. Marcus

    (1) I am a reader, blogger and book reviewer who frequently complains about unedited or inadequately edited books — and some of the worst of those books give advice about writing and publishing.

    (2) I am also an author/publisher of more than 40 books.

    (3) I am also the paid editor of about six books and countless magazine and newspaper articles.

    The ease and low cost of self-pubbing, particularly ebooks, has enabled thousands of people who can barely construct a proper paragraph and know nothing about the book business to become ‘authors’.

    They respond to online ads promising “free publishing” and think that “free” really means “free” — with no need to pay for editing, cover design, page formatting, market research, ISBN, copyright, publicity, distribution, etc.

    However, there are some of us who are not unskilled, ignorant, starry-eyed newbies and make a conscious decision to not hire an editor based on the economics of a particular publishing project.

    If I am publishing an important $15.95 pbook or $5.99 ebook that has the prospect of substantial sales — I hire an editor.

    If I am publishing an unimportant .99-to-$2.99 ebook that is not expected to have substantial sales, I simply can’t afford to pay an editor $500.

    My standards for self-editing are even higher than when I edit the work of other authors — because I know the traps of self-editing.

    When I am paid to copyedit a book, I go through it once or twice, but I go through my own books a dozen times or more.

    My editing (like all editing) is not perfect; but of about two dozen self-edited books exactly one reader has complained about exactly one error — and I quickly apologized and fixed it.



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