Should you hire a freelance editor?

Self-publishing a book is a lot of work. Doing it right is a lot more work than doing a book the “legitimate” i.e. traditional way. (I’ve done both.) It’s a lot more work than most writers are willing to do, in fact.

It sucks.

This is a cute elephant, and it’s awesome

This is a cute elephant, and it’s awesome

And sadly, a great deal of self-published authors don’t do the work they should be doing. The number of shoddy, poorly-written, error-filled hackfests on self-pub services are legion. Were they to develop a unified mind they’d form a giant cube and hassle the United Federation of Planets, but alas, they are mostly like me: dudes and ladies who don’t want to lift shit for a living.

Which is fine, really. I do it, and by “it” I mean I don’t lift shit unless it’s by choice, because I am small and weak and lifting shit is hard.

But one thing I don’t do is to crap out books just because I think they’re awesome four minutes after I’ve written them*, because that’s exactly the shoddy bull people expect from self-published books. Believe me, errors creep into my work. Both my self-pubbed works and traditionally published works have a gaff or two that have slipped through the cracks. It happens.

However, this all-too-typical part of the self-publishing world is something else altogether: Write a first draft, think it’s awesome but can’t have anyone (qualified) give it a critical reading first because yer so precious, put it out, and if anyone says anything negative about it they are a big meanie because this is my inspiration!

To anyone who does it that way, fuck you for ruining it for the rest of us.

Yes yes yes yes, allow me to cut you off at the pass. Of the nine books I’ve written or contributed to, five have come via traditional publishers. When Hitchcock’s Villains, Geek Wisdom, Stuff Every Husband Should Know, A Year of Hitchcock, and Stuff Every Groom Should Know were published, a team of professional editors combed them over again and again to stab any errors in the ass.

So they should be pretty good (but not 100%), and I’m blessed in that regard.

Cute rabbit. So adorable, right?

Cute rabbit. So adorable, right?

Meanwhile, Breaking Down Breaking Bad, Celebrating Mad Men, Lakehurst: Barrens, Blimps and Barons, and Dissecting the Walking Dead were all handled by yours truly. That means I had to trust myself to get it right, right?

Errr, no. Hell no! Bad idea. Terrible idea.

YOU CAN’T EDIT YOUR OWN WORK. I don’t care how good you think you are. You can’t. You can’t. I can proofread work by other people, I’m good at it. I can look it over and make it better and catch errors and all that shit, but my own work?

Nope. I’m susceptible to the same thing every other writer in the world is susceptible to, which is to mentally fill in the blanks as you read and correct things in your head without realizing you’re doing it. No lie, I can read my own writing with words missing and it will read just fine to me, because you self-correct in your head as you read. It’s why these blog posts tend to be so awful!

That’s why you need outside readers, and it’s why they need to be capable of editing and proofing rather than just reading. Reading is great, but having an eye for correcting and improving is another thing altogether.

For my self-published projects, I try to get at least two readers other than me to comb the piece for errors, three to four if possible, and invariably they are people capable of doing the work. Teachers, editors, published writers, and so on. It helps to catch all the crap I let slip by (and that’s a lot). (A lot.)

(A ton, really.)

Even they aren’t perfect. If I told you those books are error-free I’d be a liar. We beat the shit out of them to knock out all the errors, and even still I’m sure there’s stray nonsense that slipped through the cracks. It happens. It’s inevitable, especially when the final say rests on your shoulders and you (me) are a jackass.

This is a cute Rhino. Love!

This is a cute Rhino. Love!

That’s why having pros is better.  Always will be. Nothing is better than a professional proofreader. Putting stuff out without them looking over your work IS STUPID.

It is.

And I know this from experience, what with me being pretty stupid and all.

Don’t do it, because if you do you will suck worse than I do, and I suck a lot (figuratively speaking, of course).

*You know why this is here