How Indie Published Books Can Maintain High Editorial Standards

Last week I shared my planned editing process for my books with you, and we talked about the ups and downs of self-editing. Let's now look beyond self-edits and talk about other ways indie authors can maintain high editorial standards -- one of the biggest concerns people raise when criticizing self-published books as a whole.

The editorial options you choose will vary based on your type of book, your budget, and other factors. But here are some of the basic options available to indie publishers:

  • Self-editing
  • Beta readers
  • Developmental editors
  • Line editors
  • Proofreaders
  • Critique partners
  • Writers' groups

In an ideal world I'd like to mix and match at least three of these options for bigger projects. And I intend to have my fiction go through more editing steps than my nonfiction (for example using a developmental editor to help me with the story concept and flow before sending it to a copywriter to be tightened up).

Which of these editing resources or methods do you find most helpful? What does your editing mix look like? What other options do indie authors have that I haven't listed here? Leave a comment below to share your stories, tips, and favorite resources.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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6 thoughts on “How Indie Published Books Can Maintain High Editorial Standards”

  1. I’m fortunate to have a very sharp set of beta readers. Not only do they help me pick apart the flaws in the storyline they also catch any mechanical errors.

    I do use a line editor – for little oops and rough spots. But by the time it gets to her the manuscript is polished.

    There are people on Authonomy who will give a manscript a good going over for plot and character issues. Also I get a good idea of how the book will sell by the ranking it gets.

    I know a lot of people think that Authonomy is more trouble than it’s worth – but I think of it as the perfect place to knock the bugs out of a manuscript.

    And it’s free.

    • Through my freelance writing business (and former PR firm) I’ve put out several “information product” e-books over the years. And for those I’m much more relaxed about editing. Self-editing and a solid group of beta readers go a long way. I do expect more from print books though, so I also plan to deliver more. I sent off the first chapter for some early critiquing just this morning, so I’m getting into the editing a bit earlier than usual. 🙂

      I don’t think I’d personally be comfortable with something like Authonomy, but congrats on finding something that works for you. That’s half the battle. 🙂

  2. I’d love to be skilled enough to self edit, but it would probably be better to get a professional developmental editor for my first two or three projects while I’m learning craft and whatnot beforehand. After a few projects though, I hope I’ll be able to get the structure down to just rely solely on beta readers and critique partners with a professional edit/proofread. I can probably line edit if I took a long step away from my work.

    • I wasn’t sure about the developmental editor early on. I’ve made my living as a writer for years so the general issue of structure doesn’t phase me. But I’m trying something new with this project, so an extra set of eyes never hurts. And more importantly, I just happened to stumble across a developmental editor who has worked on books in my genre from some of my favorite authors. So I’m more than happy to spend $1-2k on those eyes specifically if she can work the project in when I’m ready. It’s about making the book the best it can be before readers get their hands on it. If it weren’t someone associated with specific books I loved in the genre, I probably wouldn’t bother.

        • I’m fortunate in that I made my living as a writer even before deciding to indie publish books. I’m still not sure who I’m going to hire for line editing / proofreading for the nonfiction manuscript (I’m on my first round of edits now so it isn’t ready for the third party clean-up yet). But because of that work history I have a huge network of freelance writers and editors. And my preference is to work with an individual rather than a firm with multiple editors. I like hand-picking people who have direct experience on similar projects — why I’ve already decided on a developmental editor before even finishing the first novel. She has worked on some of the best books in my genre — the ones I want my book to be able to compete with.

          That said, I may use a firm for a re-release of an information product type of e-book later this year. That’s usually a case where I stick to self-editing, colleague critiques, and beta readers. But a colleague had good luck with BubbleCow, so I may give them a try for those smaller projects moving forward.

          So for me it really comes down to my network and referrals. If you know other authors in your genre or specialty area, I’d suggest asking around to see who they used. Then read their books and decide whose style would best fit your own.


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