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Professional Editing—A Luxury, or a Must?

One of the biggest perks indie publishing offers aspiring writers is creative control. It sounds fantastic on the surface—write the story you want to write, choose your own cover artist, and manage your own expenses.

Newbie writers quickly find out that there are drawbacks to going it alone, and one of the biggest is sticker shock. Great covers, great editing and solid marketing plans sell books. And they cost money. Sometimes lots of money.

So, what’s a broke, unknown writer to do?

Most writers start out looking for the most affordable options. And there are affordable quality covers to be had, and affordable, ground-level ways to market your book.

But what about editing?

There just isn’t any way around it; professional editing is a big expense—potentially the biggest expense a novice writer will come across. It can cost hundreds to have an average-length book edited, even on the lower end of the pricing spectrum. And, since, realistically, anyone can put an editor had on and market themselves, you could very well end up paying a high price for a low-quality job if you’re not careful.

With that in mind, should you take a chance and go the DIY route? Or shell out for a pro?

The truth is, you can manage every aspect of a book on a shoestring budget, including editing, and still be successful. It’s not an impossible dream. Hang out in the indie writing world long enough, and you’ll run into writers who cobbled together a cover, made a low-cost marketing plan, and acted as their own editor, and still sold a lot of their first published books.

But here’s the thing about that; most of them knew professional editing was a necessity and planned to pay for it later when they had the means.

You can potentially be successful forgoing editing at the outset if:

· you write to market (preferably a very hot market)

· you have very decent writing and grammar skills

· you have a really compelling story people will love

· you have nice writer friends who are willing to beta read and advise you of issues

· you have years of writing practice, and have carefully honed your craft

Bonus points if you have worked as a copywriter, and are accustomed to editing your own writing, or if you are an editor who can look at your own work objectively enough to edit it well.

Even in these circumstances, going it alone is a risk. A book with too many grammatical mistakes or too many plot or consistency issues will put off even the most stalwart and determined of readers, and no matter how meticulous you are, you are very close to your work, which makes it easy to miss issues an editor will catch right away. In short, you run the risk of earning yourself some scathing reviews, and you could cause damage to your brand and reputation that will be challenging (but not impossible) to come back from.

Bottom line: DIY editing is possible, but risky. It is a much safer bet to save up for an editor if you can’t afford one right away. Take that time to do a thorough search for a professional who is well-recommended, well-versed in your genre, and works with your personality, and your budget.

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