Why You Shouldn’t ‘See if It Sells’ Before Hiring an Editor

Editing costs money. I get that. However, many self-publishing writers think that it is a legitimate career move to publish their book and ‘see if it sells’ before contemplating hiring an editor. Perhaps, they think, they can use the money gained from sales to fund editing at a later stage. That sounds like a smart move, right? WRONG. It’s a terrible idea. Here’s why:

You can’t tell how a well-edited book will sell by comparing it to its non-edited counterpart

Yup, to start with, it’s a logically flawed concept. Any marketing that you do will be a wasted effort once readers buy your book, realise it’s not in a publishable state and either a) don’t finish reading your book and never buy anything from you again, and/or b) leave a bad review. Both of these things will negatively impact your sales. (And that’s assuming people buy your book in the first place – they might look at the preview, judge it unfavourably, and not buy it at all.)

You will damage your reputation

You only get one chance at a good first impression. When it comes to choosing a book to read, there are a lot of options out there. Your readers won’t want to spend the time or effort looking past poor editing in hope of a good story. No, instead they’ll think you’re an amateur, and won’t waste any more time on your book, or subsequent books. They’ll swiftly move on to one of the professionally published novels out there. Ouch.

You have a responsibility to your readers

Some writers think that they can just re-publish their books once they’ve had feedback from their readers. Here’s the thing: a reader didn’t just buy your book and invest their time and energy into reading it in order to help you improve as a writer. They bought your book because they want an entertaining read. You wouldn’t be happy to go to a restaurant and get a sub-par meal, tell the chef why the meal wasn’t up to scratch, then leave happy in the knowledge that at least the next paying customer might get the meal they’re expecting. That’s crazy talk. Don’t inflict this on your readers, either. (Read Chuck Wendig’s excellent post: ‘Reader’s Are Not Good Gatekeepers’.)

My point: You’ve chosen to be a self-publisher. Part of that role is accepting the responsibility to produce good quality work. Publishing is a business, not a hobby. Lots of self-published writers approach editors after their books have been on the market for some time. (Take a look at this post by Jamie Chavez: ‘It’s Always Something’.) For all the reasons above, and more: Be professional. Give your readers what they deserve. And hire an editor before you publish your books. 

What do you think? Am I being too harsh? Are you fist-pumping the air in enthusiastic agreement? Leave a comment – let’s talk.


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By | 2017-09-05T13:49:23+00:00 March 20th, 2014|Novel Editing|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sophie Playle of Liminal Pages is a professional fiction editor. She worked at the largest publishing company in the world before gallivanting off to do a Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway, University of London. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and she trained with The Publishing Training Centre. Every now and then, she slips her laptop into her rucksack and works from a different country for a few weeks.

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