I believe that every author taking indie publishing seriously needs one or more editors. The biggest criticism we face is the so called ‘lack of quality' issue, which is easily combated by professional editing. With new technology giving everyone the opportunity to become an author, guest writer Matt Gartland examines why having an editor is more important today than ever before.
“I think every writer should have tattooed backwards on his forehead, like ambulance on ambulances, the words ‘everybody needs an editor.“ – Michael Crichton
Indie authors need a serious competitive advantage to earn respect and win readers' hearts and minds. Without one, the odds of tilting the indie author playing field in their favor to attract eyeballs, establish credibility and gain loyal readers are impossibly stacked against them.
So what's a smart indie author to do?
Change the game and improve the odds by teaming up with a professional editor. Why?
Because the role of editor is undergoing a metamorphosis just as the role of author. They're companions living in the same new book economy ecosystem alive with common causes and ideals. And when you consider a professional indie editor's complementary skill sets and points of view, the net competitive advantage they offer indie authors is plain to see.
Let's break down how valuable an editor can be to an indie author.
1. Overcome the amateur stigma.
Indie authors have earned an amateurish reputation. The deluge of underdeveloped books rushed into the marketplace fuels this stereotype. As Seth Godin puts it, “When you make it such that anyone can publish a book, which is where we are now, then anyone will publish a book. Which means that the vast majority of books are going to be junk.”
While true for many, this stereotype need not be true for you. Recruiting a professional editor onto your team is a surefire way to escape this stigma.
But it's not automatic. You'll have to work hard. That's the point.
Collaborating with an editor showcases how serious you take your work. Serious work always yields serious results. You'll benefit from constructive critiques. You'll be challenged to write smarter and re-write better. A good editor pushes you on all fronts: your book's nature and structure as well as your writing style.
Here's the big secret: being indie and professional aren't mutually exclusive qualities. You can be both. In fact, given current trends, you need to be both if you're playing to surpass the competition, earn respect, and win readers' hearts and minds.
2. Gain confidence in your book and self.
Self-doubt is the deadliest threat to an author’s work and well being. It decays your confidence, which causes chaos within your manuscript and mind. That leads to any number of unfortunate outcomes including lazy books casually published, incoherent messages that don't stick or spread, or promising books that wither and die on the vine.
Good editors inoculate you from such anarchy.
They leverage honesty to validate and build upon your good ideas. They employ toughness to mercilessly nuke your bad ideas before they metastasize like the cancerous cells that they are. They help anchor your book's premise and orient its direction, steering you in a controlled fashion toward a more considered, professional horizon.
Mind you, professional editors aren't woo-woo cheerleaders; first and foremost, they are stalwart sidekicks that see your potential and push you to unleash it. Legendary editor Robert Gottlieb puts it thus: “A good editor responses to the strengths and needs of the writer. Sometimes, if the writer is particularly strong, that’s just offering encouragement.”
3. Protect your blindside.
Blindsides. We all have them and fear them. And for good reason. Left unguarded, blind spots spawn blemishes, gaffes, mistakes and other agents of chaos.
In writing/storytelling terms, we're talking about open loops that don't close, unbalanced character development, monotone voice, imprecise language, embarrassing grammar mistakes, awkward transitions, stiff messages, and insufferable detail.
Such blindsides are often invisible to writers as they're too close to their writing to see them. Worse, they're prone to apply equal weight to all their writing, believing that every word, phrase, and paragraph is of equal importance.
Good editors serve as strong defenders and reality checks against these insidious forces.
Through skilled line and copy editing, they transform ugly manuscripts fat on modifiers into striking stories fit with decisive language. And through developmental editing, they, as Gottlieb says, “get inside the text and instinctively understand the terms and the vocabulary of the writer, and make changes in those terms and that vocabulary.”
Porter Anderson puts it more bluntly: “People who chafe and complain about good editing are too shortsighted (or too naïve) to understand that what is changed or cut out is never missed by the reader. … As soon as I got hold of that idea – that the missing is not missed – I’d learned to love good editors.”
4. Prosper from competitive intelligence.
A new breed of editor is emerging in the new book economy. Driven to understand innovative technologies, publishing strategies, marketing concepts, and distribution channels, this new editor is more than an editor – he's an editor/producer hybrid.
This advanced form of editor researches and analyzes self-publishing trends like a detective investigating a case. He talks with accomplished authors, self-published and traditional both, as well as literary agents, book designers, publishing mavens, new media theorists and other thought-leaders in the publishing revolution.
Allying with such an editor provides you with a wealth of industry intelligence that many other indie authors may not have access to. From crowdfunding books to profitable book launch know-how, this knowledge is ultra-advantageous to the indie author seeking to wisely navigate the new book economy.
You should self-identify with this hybrid nature and value its usefulness. As an smart indie author, you wear the hats of writer, marketer, publisher, and more. Teaming up with others that are multi-talented and specialized will only further slant the playing field in your favor.
5. Enjoy shared prosperity.
Gottlieb once said about editing, “My impulse to make things good, and to make good things better, is almost ungovernable. I suppose it’s lucky I found a wholesome outlet for it.”
Great professional editors share this sentiment down to their core. As such, your motivations are their motivations. Your readers are their readers. Your success is their success. Your dream is their dream, namely to produce the best book possible, no exceptions.
This ethos transcends book genre, format, even publishing model. Gottlieb, for one, was an editor with traditional publishers. However, I sense that this spirit is coming alive in new and amazing ways in the throws of the publishing revolution.
Now, independent editors co-creating directly with authors have more reason than ever to share intentions. That yields stronger, closer relationships and fuels greater shared prosperity. Such editors don't have traditional publishing employers to fall back on or use as excuses. They're on the front lines with you. That's a very good thing for you.
What's your advantage?
Professional editors aren't the only competitive advantage available to indie authors. But they're a top choice by many of the most talented and successful, Joanna included. She recently said “If you get a pro editor, and take their advice, your book will improve beyond anything you could imagine.”
Ultimately, you must choose how best to compete in our highly competitive new book economy. For what it's worth, Seth Godin offers this advice: “Pay for an eidtor editor. Not just to fix the typos, but to actually make your ramblings into something that people will choose to read.”
About the Author: Matt Gartland is the founder and editor of Winning Edits, an editorial agency helping indie authors win readers' hearts and minds. For more keen writing, editing and publishing insights, join his free DIY Book Development Dispatch, or follow Matt on Twitter.