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3 Things Self-Publishing Authors Should Know about Working with Editors

Embarking on a self-publishing journey is an exciting and nerve-wracking experience, and authors who have opted for this route—either of necessity or choice—are often aware of the freedom and added responsibility that goes along with the independence of standing under the umbrella of a publishing house. I’ve been working with such authors, mostly nonfiction writers, over the past two years. I’ve witnessed the unique challenges and gratifying moments that come with this indie publishing path. In this blog post, I’ll share three essential insights for self-publishing authors as they approach the process of finding an editor to work with editors, touching on managing expectations of the editor-author relationship, understanding why your editor may seem so—*ahem*—shall we say hyper-focused on certain details that seem like no big deal to you, and understanding the nuanced roles of editors and proofreaders.

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Tip #1: Expect More Editing & Revisions Than You Are Probably Anticipating

One common misconception among self-publishing authors is underestimating the extent of editing and revisions required to polish a manuscript. Unlike traditional publishing, where editorial teams may handle multiple rounds of revisions, as a self-publisher, these revisions are between you and your editor, and being prepared, mentally and in terms of scheduling, for some extensive rewrites is crucial. If this phase of the process is overly rushed, it’s likely to result in frustration on the editor’s part because they feel the author is giving their extensive, thoughtful, and time-consuming suggestions short-shrift. It’s also likely to result in frustration on the author’s part when they reach the next phases of a project, and the proofreader says, “This really needs additional editing before it can be proofed.” Or, they may realize after publication that it would have been preferable to spend additional time on revisions.   


Be prepared to invest time and effort into multiple editing cycles—and preferably at least two different editors—to refine your work. That will likely mean working first with a developmental editor and then with a copyeditor.


Editors play a crucial role in identifying inconsistencies, improving clarity, and ensuring a cohesive narrative. Embrace the editing process as an opportunity for growth and refinement, understanding that each round of revisions brings your work one step closer to its full potential. Patience and open communication with your editor will be key as you navigate the intricate journey of perfecting your manuscript.

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Tip #2: Understand that Your Editor is (or Should Be) Helping You Prepare for Real-World Readers

There’s a saying in the editing world: Every editor should also have the experience of being edited. 


It’s sound advice because editors are in a—hopefully supportive and helpful—mentality of criticism and trouble-shooting. Most of them have no intention of discouraging an author; the role of editor shouldn’t be used as a sounding board for voicing opinions and criticisms just for the sake of it or as an attempt to feel superior. But, being so alerted to looking for problems of thought development and making sure that descriptions, word choices, and grammar are clear means that an author may get the impression that their document is being shredded.


Editors sometimes have to remind themselves to also comment on the positives, and if they don’t, consider prompting them with an email or phone call, stating that you appreciate their comments for revision but could they also let you know where they feel you are on target?


But keep in mind, a harsh editor is unlikely to be more harsh than a critical reader who decides to leave a review. 


Your editor serves as a bridge between your creative vision and the expectations of real-world readers. While preserving your unique voice, editors do their best to provide valuable insights into pacing, thought development, organization, and overall readability. They bring an external perspective that is invaluable in shaping your manuscript to resonate with an audience (an audience, don’t forget, that has plentiful book options available to them).



If you feel that you are working with an editor who understands your vision and message (and deciding whether an editor is compatible is for another blog post) and providing constructive feedback (also another blog post) then welcome their suggestions as an opportunity to enhance your writing, storytelling, and descriptions to connect more effectively with your readers. The goal is not only to create a work of art but also to captivate and engage your audience. A skilled editor is an ally in this endeavor, helping you craft a manuscript that stands out in the competitive realm of self-publishing.

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Tip #3: Know the Difference Between an Editor & a Proofreader

This distinction is crucial. While editors and proofreaders both contribute to refining your manuscript, their focuses and responsibilities differ significantly.


Editors primarily work on the content and structure of your manuscript. They address substantive evaluation, logic, development and organization, language usage, and coherence. 


On the other hand, proofreaders focus on the final stage, meticulously reviewing the manuscript for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Recognizing this distinction will help you plan for scheduling and resources effectively and ensure a comprehensively edited and polished final product.




By embracing the collaborative editing journey, understanding the motives of an editor and the distinctions among editors and proofreaders, self-publishing authors can approach the author-editor relationship with confidence, set themselves up for a successful pre-publication process, and increase the likelihood of feeling supported and informed without a publisher.

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