Insights, News

To Hire an Editor or Not…That is the Question

Indie Authors face a challenge when it comes to getting their work out there: do they hire an editor? Many independent authors see the price tag of hiring an editor and back off: is it worth it? After all, as a writer, shouldn’t you already be familiar with sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation? 

Each indie author approaches how to edit their book differently. Some will go and hire an editor. Others will work on their own. Some might do something in between (hiring for proofreading only, or using a friend/relative). Everyone will have a different opinion on this, and that is why I reached out to multiple people in the community to find out their thoughts. 

First…My Opinion 

Personally, I believe if you have the means to hire an editor, do so! There are many editors with fair prices out there, while also providing writers with the tools they need to succeed. On all counts, I have a relatively firm grasp of the English language, but there are obscure rules that completely pass over my head. In fact, I even tried to take a single credit grammar class in college, and some of the rules were so strange I barely pulled off a “C” in the class. (Granted, I will admit, it was just a single credit so I could get my loan money for the semester, so I didn’t take it too seriously.)

But that being said, I searched for an editor because I knew my ability to completely polish my prose was limited. I really wanted to see it shine. In addition, I have the means to hire an editor and found an amazing editor within my price range. Charlie Knight helped me clean my prose and make the story pop, and without their help, I don’t think I would have ended up with the story I have today. As an editor, Charlie not only cleaned my prose, but helped me find plot holes and strange spots that even my beta readers missed. 

That, I think, is one of the many important things to take into account: editors don’t just find your spelling errors…they also help you develop the story into something, well, awesome. When you hire an editor with the proper training, they will really help make your writing shine! 

How do you find an editor?

Research! There are so many editors out there, and only YOU will know who is best for your story.

But, heed the following warning from Editor Charlie Knight…for there is fraudulent activity out there, and sometimes the amount you pay for an editor won’t be worth.

Per Charlie:

Indie publishing is, unfortunately, very open to the scam of people who have written books or beta’d for friends calling themselves editors. I regularly get new clients who were already screwed by one of these people. Best advice for avoiding them: Get samples. You’ll know if the editor can do their job and if you click.

This isn’t to say that your writer friends can’t help you edit…but be wary. Years of training and education goes into becoming an editor. Just because someone has a good understanding of grammar or story structure doesn’t mean they really understand how to be an effective editor. 

What if I can’t hire an editor? 

If you do not have the means to hire an editor, do not let this stop you from publishing. There are tools and courses out there that can help your writing pop! Here are just a few of them that I know of off the top of my head. If you know any more, please comment below!

  • ProWritingAid – I will say, I use this one before sending my book to beta readers! It helps clean up repetitiveness, grammatical errors, and passive voice. There is a free web-based version that lets you operate with 500-words at a time, or a subscription based attachment you can download to MS Word or Google Docs. 
  • Grammarly – We see this one everywhere! It’s a web attachment that you can use as a basic spell check, or you can use its priced services to help with editing.
  • Hemingway Editor – I don’t know too much about this one, but I know it helps identify a grade level for your writing and find overly complex sentence. 

There are also tons of resources to learn more about editing…just remember to heed each with caution!

While I still don’t think different software programs or self-training can replace someone who is trained, if you cannot hire an editor, these are the next best thing! But, I do believe that if you can find at least ONE person to read your work before you publish, even if it’s your friend or relative, then do so. They’ll catch things you don’t see. When you edit, after all, you are far too deep into the weeds to notice every little error. 

In fact, don’t just take it from me!  My editor, Charlie Knight, has very similar thoughts!

If you’re going to self-edit, my biggest pieces of advice would be to take recommendations from software like Grammarly or ProWritingAid with a grain of salt (they can’t read for voice), read your drafts out loud, and use beta readers.

Other authors have had their only thoughts regarding self-editing. Most of the time it has to do with costs. A few authors on instagram have voiced how the price-tag for an editor is too high for them at the moment. 

Author Kaitlyn Legaspi told me that, as a college student, it is hard to afford an editor. So she works with her boyfriend to read through her books and make it shine! 

But, there are other reasons too why authors don’t always hire an editor.  

Author SG Bacon doesn’t hire an editor directly, because she has a group of close companions who are effective editors. Her process is:

I do the first round of editing myself, just to make sure I’ve fixed any mistakes that stood out to me. Then, the next round is done with my mom and brother. I know having people close to you edit is something some people advise against, but it all depends, I think. I know that both my mom and brother won’t hold back on their opinions, so I will still get a good result. My final round of editing is with a family friend who is absolutely fantastic at catching little mistakes and picking up on things that might not make sense to the readers.

Author Céline Gelpe has a more methodical approach, once again working with people close to her while tackling her books. 

I did six rounds of editing (developmental, line, copy, proofreading), then I had a uncle who is a poet to do a final proofreading. I did the developmental and line editing after long discussions with beta readers. Talking with my beta-readers was great. I really enjoyed their feedback and I think that overall, my story benefited from their inputs. I had to justify things my characters would do and discovered them in the process. One also took the “job” of a sensitivity reader and made me realize my own bias and my own limits.

But Céline Gelpe has a word to the wise regarding using friends:

My beta-readers were my friends and did this as a favor to me, […] but I had to check regularly to see how they were doing on their reading. I had to actively seek them out for them to give the feedback. It’s not a nice feeling when, once a month, I have to write to them to know how far they are. It takes a toll on my well-being, and makes me feel a bit like a stalker. All of them took more time than they had initially thought. It’s okay, not everybody is a reader but instead of publishing my story 6 months after the final draft was done, it took a whole year.”

As I am sure you can see, there are so many different approaches to editing. While some ways may be better than others, if you want to get your story out there, find a way! Just find the method that best works for you.

Insights, News

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly of Editing

 Editing: it’s probably the most important aspect of publishing a book. More than the book cover or sometimes even the story itself, editing can often make or break a good story. Why? Because editing helps polish the story and make it shine. Without editing, a good story could become unreadable, cumbersome, and looked over by readers. 

As the first part of my series, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly of Self Publishing, we’re going to talk about Editing. Everyone has had both good and bad experiences with their editing: between using software, hiring editors, and discovering typos…we all are faced with different hurdles throughout our publishing journey.

Over the next two weeks I’ll be sharing thoughts and stories from many different authors (including myself) in regards to their experiences with editing. 

What can you look forward to in the coming weeks? Let me tell you!

  • Insights on editing software
  • Insights on finding and working with an editor
  • Mistakes that authors have made along the way
  • And more!

So stay tuned while we begin to discuss all these topics and more. As a reader, you might understand more about the amount of effort put into an author’s work. As a writer, you’ll learn about all your options. We can all continue to learn and improve our craft.

So if you’re interested, stay tuned.

Insights, News

Insights: Why It’s Okay to Write About Dark Topics…and why I Edited a Scene Post-Publication

I’ve debated this post for awhile, as well the decision I ended up making.

In our current culture, there many sensitive topics. Which is good. We need to have conversations about these topics. But, it does leave creators with uncertainty: is it okay to write about sexism? What about violence or assault? Do I have put warnings on my books?

I do think warnings, such as what we have in film and TV, would helpful, especially for those who are extremely uncomfortable about these topics for various reasons. But that’s not what this post is about today.

Today, I wanted to address one thing: it is OKAY to write about dark topics. It does not normalize them, but instead allows us to explore these topics in a way that is health for human nature. If we never discussed these topics, never depicted them, then how would we know? Fiction lets us explore, to reach into the deepest confines of our minds, and create something…no matter how disturbing.

Some people will prefer more pure and “fluffy” type of pieces. There are areas of writing just for that. But do not condemn those of us exploring these topics, especially if we are doing so out of criticism.

I like to explore sexism in my writing, but not because I am (inherently) sexist. As woman, this is an area I can write about, even if I haven’t experienced it to the degree. I chose dark fantasy because it allows us to explore these areas. My villains are notably sexist, they’re being called out for their actions, and main characters fight it. Assuming you are rooting for the main characters, then you should be wanting to fight sexism too. So this is ALRIGHT. This is the goal of fiction.

Where depicting sexism or other dark topics does not work is for two reasons: shock value or when it is not condemning the action. If a scene is there for no reason, then the writer is just trying to draw out emotions, and it might seem gratuitous. But, what I think is even worse than that, is when a writer seems to believe what they’re saying. A writer who shows a woman not going to war in a statement of “historical accuracy” because “women belonged at home”, might actually be fueling sexism. Fantasy and sci-fi give us a chance to explore these topics, but we also have the freedom to create something miraculous and unique. It comes down to the author’s views.

That being said, I decided to alter a scene in my book.

Isn’t that going against everything you just said? No.

The beauty of self-publishing is the ability to change your work for the better.

This scene, and some people might know what I am talking about, became misinterpreted. I had spent countless hours trying to make it work. Multiple beta readers and my editor went through it with me. I no intention for it to be used for shock value and it wasn’t supposed to be interpreted the way many have read it.

I’ve gone back and forth with changing it, since I have faith in the story I want to tell, but the amount of times people misinterpreted it left me with heavy bouts of anxiety. That is not the legacy I want to hold.

Being a self published author means I can recognize these mistakes and change them. So I messaged my editor, and together we spent time review the small scene. We altered a few words, giving a scene a more definitive meaning, without altering the outcome that my character faces. It wasn’t supposed to be for shock; it plays into her development in the next book.

But with the scene so close to the ending, I didn’t want to keep it that way.

I won’t go into details on what the scene is, as I am sure some of you can deduce what this scene is based on what I’ve been talking about. I am happy to be making the change though. It reduces some of my stress over it. I usually don’t even read my reviews, but just this reaction left a taste in my mouth…about myself. Rather than fight the reviews, or respond to them, I made the effort to change the scene.

It’s amazing what altering a couple words can do.

I hope this will garner better reactions from the audience. If anything, I know I have done what I can to remove something gratuitous and shocking.

If you have read The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice, or already have a copy but haven’t read it, and want to see the change I made, feel free to email me at esbarrison (@) gmail (.com). If you have proof of purchase, I am happy to send along an updated digital copy. I can also just send along the updated chapter.

Until next time,

E.S. Barrison