When you go the traditional route in publishing a book, editing is one of the services performed by the publisher during the production phase of the book. However, more often than not, when you publish a book yourself, editing is a service that you have to seek on your own. After reading several self-published books lately, I have a bad feeling that many authors either skip this step or “edit” the manuscript themselves. I’ll be straight with you—not having your book professionally edited can damage your credibility and possibly impede traditional publishing opportunities in the future.
Many people think that because they are writers, they can also edit. While this is generally true, it’s only applicable to editing the work of others. Self-editing, while it is exist, is usually where authors fail. You can’t effectively edit your own work simply because you know what the text is supposed to say and you know the book’s composition.
For example, you know that the sentence is supposed to say “Bob took a moment to assess the situation.” So naturally you’ll probably read the following and think it’s correct and exactly what you want it to say, but look really close…it’s wrong: “Bob took a moment to access the situation.” Now you might have caught the error simply because you weren’t the one that wrote it. But had you been the self-editing author who wrote the latter version, I’m willing to bet you would have read right over the error and it would have gone to print as such. A good editor would not let this error make it to print.
Another problem I see with all types of self-published books, whether fiction or non-fiction, is grammar and style issues as well as organizational issues. Editors don’t just watch out for typos. An editor performs a variety of editing services including proofreading, copyediting, substantive, and developmental (you can read my post, Did You Know? Different Types of Editing for more information on each one). This is why an editor can be a huge asset to your book. They can look for grammar and style issues, such as voice (changing from first-person to third-person or vice versa), word usage, consistency with terminology, punctuation, and they can even do some fact checking. And you’ll certainly want an editor who can analyze the entire manuscript and help you rewrite or rework sentences, paragraphs, chapters, or the entire book to make sure it flows in a logic manner. As an author, it’s hard to see that the book that you’ve poured your heart and soul into doesn’t really flow organizationally. A professional outsider will identify that immediately and help you fix it.
The bottom line? If you’re choosing the self-publishing route, be smart and hire an editor, particularly one that offers various levels of edit. This is very important in the world of genealogy and family history—you don’t want the credibility of all your hard work and research to be questioned simply because your book has typos, word usage issues, and is difficult to follow. Don’t damage your credibility by trying to save a few bucks or a little bit of time. Believe me, it’s worth the time and money to present a polished book!