Marchbooks' Blog

October 3, 2009

If You’re Not Willing To Edit, You’re Not Ready To Publish?

I have been participating in an interesting discussion about self publishing

To self publish, or not to self publish, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…

It is a big question, not to be taken lightly. For some, this may be the biggest endeavor of your life. Fortunately for us, even if the big publishing houses have closed the door on you, fate has opened a window. That window is POD. Self Publishing is now available to everyone, but that does not mean that it should be availed of by everyone. If your intent is to simply dust off your old manuscript, run your spell check program (I’m sorry to say that some people even omit this step), generate a Word document and slap a generic cover on it before sending it the printer, do the readers of the world a favor and put it back in  your sock drawer.

That might sound a bit harsh, but I think the world needs a little protection from substandard prose. Ever since the Gutenberg press, mass marketing of books has been recognized as an excellent way to exchange ideas and share stories. Everyone has something to say, but not everyone is willing to invest the time and effort that is necessary to make their words palatable to the public.

As I am sure I have mentioned, there are a multitude of steps involved in publishing a manuscript, not the least of which is the editing process. Unfortunately, that is often the step that new authors seem to omit, or skrimp on. Believe me, this is not the time to be miserly, with your time or money, if your intent is to have your publication compete with those put out by the big boys.

There are traditions which have been passed down in publishing that no longer have the relevance they once had (large print runs, blanket return policies and inequitable royalty structures). Editorial practices do not fall in this list.

Every publisher should have the benefit of a twelve person editorial staff. Few of us do, but that does not mean you should throw up your hands and refuse to do the step at all. Your attempts may not be perfect. Things may still slip through the cracks, but believe me, your effort will be recognized and appreciated.



  1. Wow, another great blog! I 100% agree. 🙂 There are so many people out there who just don’t get that the edit is so very important and that the author cannot be the only editor. I always feel like I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings when I say that. But really, this is recommended so the book does better. I was even warned that my husband, with all his literature experience, would have some trouble because he can ‘talk to the author first hand’ and ask questions, or know my way of speaking very well, so he would interpret things that I mean better than a stranger.
    Even with the wonderful luck of having 3 English teachers, 3 grade school teachers and 2 superintendents in my family, I still paid to have an editorial evaluation, and followed through on what was recommended. This includes multiple edits and revisions on my side, a content edit, and a proofread through the self-publisher. This was not cheap, but well worth it. I highly recommend to anyone thinking of going with a self-publisher to hire someone for at least one edit… at the very least. The more edits the better. An editorial evaluation will allow one to know what type of edit is needed. If all of this is out of one’s price range, then wait until enough money is saved and while they’re doing that query, because publishers will make sure the manuscript has been edited. See which happens first, the cash for an edit or an agent then a publisher. If one is aware that money is going to be an issue, hire the evaluator first, so there is time to wait and save. There should be a warning to all, don’t sign up for a package deal with a self-publisher first because they will not give anyone time to save money. Have the money for the edit saved first, and then sign up for a package deal with the self-pub. If anything needs to be cut, make sure it is not the edit! Edit, revise, edit, revise, have another editor go over it, then go over and over, proofread, have another proofread, then do it one last time… the more edits and proofreading the better.
    (A little note to those who do not know ~ iUniverse hires out for their editors; I’m sure other self-pubs do as well. They get them from the ‘big New York publishers.’ The more editors one hires with them, the more people in big time publishing offices are seeing this work. This is good for the author. They might get noticed and then picked up… if the author is looking for that.)
    I just wish that there was more of an open door for fiction in self-publishing. I believe the door is being opened a crack, but still non-fiction has a much better chance of making it with self-pub than fiction does.
    I read a lot of what you said on the other blog too, and I agree… again. I’m working on fans (but I don’t think an author needs to start with a fan base, it just helps a lot) and I’m out here ‘shaking cyber hands’ before the book is out in the stores… well on Amazon and able to be ordered in the stores. My fear is my cover. Yes, I have a cover copy polish team, but I still have the final say and I feel the most stress here… what if I pick wrong……..
    Thanks for the wonderful blogs. I always try to keep up with yours even when I’m busy,

    Comment by sarahwinters — October 3, 2009 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

  2. Great post. I totally agree. Good editing is the main reason people will trust a published book over a self-published book. But at least as a self-publisher you get the choice of your editor, which is something that could make all the difference.

    Then there are those strange stories of authors such as Matthew Reilly who selfpublished an awful writing mess (Contest, Area 7, to name a few) that happened to be fastpaced, was subsequently picked up by major publishers, quickly re-edited and repackaged, and continued to sell in the millions.

    Other self-publishers out there. We don’t need another Matthew Reilly 🙂 Editing is GREAT!

    Comment by Elena — October 7, 2009 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

    • Elana,

      thanks for your comments. There are always the flukes/anomolies. For most of us, it is best if we at least try to follow protocol. Obviously, content is of ultimate importance. All of the style and editing in the world will not redeem lousy story telling or subject matter.

      I like to equate the necessity for editing with flirting. If you want someone to like you enough to get to know you better, that will probably not best be accomplished if you are walking around in a moth-eaten pair of sweats with your hair in curlers.

      Most people would not go to the supermarket in raggedy clothes. Authors need to give their writing the same consideration.

      Comment by marchbooks — October 7, 2009 @ 11:59 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: