I've been asked several times, why a writer needs an editor?  If a writer creates the story, develops the characters, invents the world where the characters live, and then tells the reader all about it - then what possible purpose could an editor serve?

It's a great question, and one that the self-published author must deal with for everything they write.

When you traditionally publish a book, you first find an agent and then that agent works with you and your manuscript to write query letters and locate a publisher. The publisher has specialists who work for him, who will edit your manuscript. He has cover artists, illustrators, marketers, formatters, and connections to get your book printed and submitted to the various eBook sellers.

The final version of your book that gets published is up to the publisher, not you.

The publisher will also contact foreign agents and sell the rights to translate your book into foreign languages, create an audio book and work to get your book into book stores. He will send pre-release versions sent to ARC readers and major newspapers, hoping for that special review that will launch your book onto the New York Times best seller list the day that it's released for general sale.

At least that's the golden dream that all traditionally published authors hope for.

The self-published author, gets to do all this himself.

Yes, it's a lot of work. Yes, it crosses the barrier between writer and publisher, but the rewards are worth it.

The traditionally published author gets a very small royalty on every book sold, and as a result, the publisher makes all the money. Sounds harsh, and many traditionally published authors will say that their publisher deserves it for all the work they do, however statistically only a small percentage of traditionally published authors make any money on their books. After the advance is gone - assuming there was an advance - they often don't see any reward for their effort for years.  If the book doesn't just take off, the publisher may not ever try to market it as aggressively as the author might—and the author ends up having to do all the marketing anyway...  and still only gets a very small royalty for every book sold.

The self-published author gets a much larger royalty, and deals with every step of the publication process along the way. If the book doesn't sell, there is no one to blame but himself. If the book is a success, there is no one to share in that success, but himself...  The control is what appeals to me. It's my book, my cover artist, my editor, my formatting, and my marketing that will either make this work or not. I'm OK with that.

The traditional publishing process can take a year from the time a publisher accepts a manuscript, to the time it's released to the public. This time is added to the time it takes to get a publisher to accept your manuscript, and most trade published authors go through dozens of rejections before being accepted for publication.

I don't want to let more than 30 days pass between my final draft, and publication.

Back to the title topic of this blog; Why do writers need editors?

The answer is really simple. Writers don't see their work the same way that editors see their work.

Now that is not to say writers don't edit, we absolutely do.  Here is the process I use, which I have written about before:

  1. Write a chapter
  2. Go back and edit the prior chapter
  3. Repeat 1&2 until the first draft is finished
  4. Edit the entire book
  5. Send it out to Beta Readers
  6. Edit the entire book again
  7. Send it out to my editor
  8. Apply the edits that I agree with from my editor
  9. Publish

Sounds easy, right?  

When I edit my story, here's what I'm doing:

  • I'm looking for spelling errors and extra words.
    Yes, the spell checker finds most of those, but it will substitute another word for the one I meant, and that won't get caught.  
  • I'm looking for grammar errors.
    Did I create readable prose, formatting within the constructs of the language in a way that lets the reader enjoy my story, or will my sentence structure and punctuation get in the way?  
  • I'm looking for story breaks.  
    Did I skip something that needed to be explained? Did I forget that Karoel's father was really a servant in the castle and not a warrior in the north?  Did I put a character in two places at the same time?
  • I'm trying to get a feel for what's exciting, and what's boring.
    Should sections just be removed that add no value to the story?  Is there too much back-story?  Too much dialog?  Is the climax fun and exciting?  Are there too many unanswered questions?  Not enough unanswered questions?

Yes, all of this goes into my edits of my book, from the chapter by chapter work that I do in the beginning, to the multiple full-book edits that I do at the end.

In spire of all of this, the independent eyes on my book are invaluable to me.

My beta readers find things that I miss; they find incorrect words, spelling errors, awkward sentences, repeated words, story breaks.  I can often read the same paragraph over and over and still miss something—because I know what I MEANT to say... and that might not be what actually ended up on the page.

When I finish processing the feedback from my beta readers—many of whom already know my characters and can also fill in many blanks in the story on their own—then it's time for an independent editor to put her professional eyes on the manuscript, and help me with the finer points of grammar, the misspelled or misused words that snuck in, and if there are still any story breaks. She will find all of this and more.

I am very fortunate to have found a wonderful editor in Kelly Hartigan, of XterraWeb. She edited Prophecy's Queen, and she will soon be going back through The Watcher's Keep and The Dragon Rises to help me polish those books and turn them into something that I can really be proud of.  Professional editing services are not cheap, but I believe that editors like Kelly, who not only get the genre, but understand my writing style and want to help me tell the best story I can, are priceless.

Help me with overuse of the Oxford Comma, how to correctly punctuate 'however,' whenever it's appropriate, and clean up those unnecessary run-on sentences and awkward fragments that manage to get through my editing process.

I hope you all love my books, continue to tell your friends, and take the time to leave a review whenever you can.  I need to sell more books, to be able to pay wonderful cover artists like Jen and incredible editors like Kelly.

Thanks again for your support!

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