Helen Jones

I’ve recently made the decision to self-publish my first novel, Oak and Mist. In the interest of getting the process right, I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching and connecting with other self-published authors, wanting to make sure I present the best possible version of my book when it finally goes out into the wide world.

When you decide to self publish there can be a temptation, especially when it’s your first book, to just ‘get it out there’. But once it’s out there that’s it. Every future submission or search for your name will turn up that book, so it’s vital to make sure it’s as polished and professional as possible. Additionally, reviewers have no qualms in pointing out spelling mistakes and grammar errors, which can put potential readers off buying your book.

Every article I’ve read about successful self-publishing has stated that working with a professional editor is a necessary investment in the finished product. This certainly made sense to me. I’ve had some experience editing before, but not at the level I felt the book required. I also wanted someone to cast a fresh, professional eye over the plot, as the fact I was so close to it made it hard for me to see any holes that might be there. It was also important that the editor I worked with had experience in my genre, YA fantasy. A simple Google search turned up a list of names and one of them, Lucy York, stood out to me. She had proven experience working with both independent and large publishers, and her reviews were excellent. When I contacted her she had some time available to work with me, despite her already busy schedule.

The process was fairly simple. Once Lucy had seen some sample chapters from the book she was able to suggest the level of edit I needed, and I then provided her with the full manuscript. A few weeks later I was delighted to receive an edit so thorough it even picked up extra spaces and incorrect quotation marks. Her comments clarified some niggling doubts I’d had about the progress of the plot, and helped me to see where I could work through them. She also had some excellent suggestions regarding the plot overall, which I think will make for an even stronger book.

Working with an editor can be a confronting experience – after all, you’re entrusting them with your precious manuscript, so to have it come back filled with corrections can be rather deflating. But you don’t have to agree with every single thing your editor suggests. You’re the author, after all, and you know what it is you’re trying to say. However, if you’re investing the time and money to work with someone then I suggest you at least consider every change put before you. I know I agreed with about 99% of Lucy’s suggestions, and implementing them has made Oak and Mist an even better read. So don’t be precious, take a step back and, if there’s something you feel passionately about, go back to your editor and ask them about it. They might have a reason you hadn’t considered for making that change, so it’s worth taking the time to do so.

As mentioned, Lucy also had a couple of suggestions regarding the plot overall. Oh, nothing too dramatic – I don’t have to kill anyone off or rewrite the whole second half of the book. And, once I got past my ‘But…’ stage and was able to look at it objectively, the new scenes presented themselves right away, telling me that they are absolutely the right thing for the book. So I’m now working through the edit, adding in the new scenes and making notes so that, when I go back to Lucy, she knows which sections require further work.

Choosing to work with a professional editor has been a positive experience both for me and for my book. So if you are thinking of self-publishing, take your time, do your research and consider investing in a professional edit. It may cost a little more but could be invaluable in the long run.

You can read more about Helen’s experiences as a writer on her blog. Her first novel, Oak and Mist, is due to be published soon through Amazon. She is working on the next five novels in the series, with more ideas following behind.