Self-publishing but can’t afford an editor?

It’s a question we get asked a lot. It’s like being a musician and asking if you need a producer. Your feeling as a creative person is that you don’t, which makes you all kind of wrong. Roald Dahl had an editor. Jeffrey Archer has an editor. When I wrote my first book, I thought I didn’t need an editor. I was wrong. If you think you don’t need one, you’re wrong as well.

Make the book the best it can be

But why? What do they do? Apart from being unbiased about your manuscript (unlike your mum who thinks it is wonderful) they are trying to make the book the best it can be. I know you think you do too, but you can’t be unbiased about it. They pick up the obvious typos, they make suggestions about phrases that may work in a better way, they check quotes. All in all, it’s a bit like having your English teacher check your work, but they check only your work. You have their undivided attention and your book will be better for it.

You can’t edit your own work

Having established that, how much do they cost? I have seen every variation from £250 to £5000 for editing a 70,000 word book. Your job is to establish a good editor for a fair price determined by you and then find a way to pay that person. Letting an unedited book that is not also proof-read into the world is the same as committing commercial suicide. You can’t edit your own work. You have too much bias, too much insecurity and too much word blindness to do it. If you think having an editor read your work is scary, try letting your book out into the public without it being edited. An editor will give you notes. The public will be giving you reviews and there is a host of people out there who adore giving one-star reviews. Too many of those and your book won’t even make the 50p list at the local charity shop.

Worth a monthly investment

All of this sounds ominous so what if you don’t have any money to pay an editor? The only real option is to call in a favour. Perhaps you know someone who would help you out. Perhaps you know another author that can look at your work objectively or a friend that is a history teacher or a relative that is studying English at least at ‘A’ level standard. Be aware though, that you are asking a massive favour. One that will take them time, possibly three weeks to a month so also think of a way that you could repay them. Arrange an event or something you know would make them happy. You can also invest in software called ‘Grammerly’ that can be a big help in finding many mistakes. Be aware though, it does miss things and sometimes gives you options that seem bizarre. It is an American software package so that may create some conflict in a British book. It is very helpful though and worth a monthly investment.

Find a way

If none of this is an option then you have to find a way or release your book in an unprofessional way and as an author that isn’t something you really want to do, is it? We have editing and proof-reading built into our publishing packages. It does cost more but that reflects the time and care we spend on your book. We want it to be the best it can be as well. Which brings me full circle: if you’re self-publishing but can’t afford an editor I would have to suggest that you are not looking at the process in a professional way. For some people that is going to sound harsh, but the fact remains that you are trying to compete in a hugely competitive industry so ask yourself this. You have just bought the latest book by your favourite author. Within the first twenty pages you have found spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. How do you feel about spending £7.99 on that book and would you buy another by the same author? Now ask yourself, would your readers feel the same way?

As always if this has inspired more questions contact us at 3P Publishing on 01536 560410 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

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