Self-Publishing? These Editing Tips Will Ensure You Release a Quality Book

Self-Publishing? These Editing Tips Will Ensure You Release a Quality Book

We all hear too much how the self-publishing market is riddled with half-baked, poorly-edited books, and you don’t want to fall into that pile. But when you read advice from self-publishing gurus or million-dollar indie authors, you’re terrified at the budgets and must-dos they throw at you.

How will you ever have the resources to publish a great book?

You already do. While few creative people with big dreams are loaded with disposable income to fund their first few projects, we do have tons of valuable skills and expertise to trade and networks filled with other skilled and creative people.

Don’t miss a step when editing your book and click here to grab a FREE book editing checklist created by Self-Publishing School!

When it comes to producing a great book, self-publishers need only follow these two rules:

1. Don’t publish a crappy book

You want to produce a quality book your audience will love. You want to rally people around your message. If your book achieves those objectives, the other rules probably don’t matter, right? (Cue heckling from editors and grammar geeks!)

In most cases, atrocious punctuation and sentence structure will, in fact, distract readers from your message so badly your book will be ineffective. Standards are built in. Don’t write like you never went to high school.

However, in many cases, your readers will not notice whether you consistently place spaces around your dashes or not. Or whether your period is placed inside the parentheses or out. And they might even look past a couple of typos.

When you’re self-publishing, your audience defines what a crappy book is, not a gaggle of editing and publishing professionals. Align your writing process with your readers’ standards, and you’ll create the book that’s right for your audience and your brand. (Click to tweet this idea.)

2. You’re not a good judge of whether your book is crappy or not

This is the caveat, and, I hope, it’s where I win back the sticklers a little. Note that nowhere above do I say YOU get the last word on the quality of your book. It’s all about your audience.

You’re too close to your ideas and your manuscript to give it a fair review, so you do have to find a fresh set of eyes (or several) to do that.

But that fresh set of eyes does NOT have to be a top-dollar pro editor. (Sorry, editors.) If you have the budget and the need, go for it. If you don’t, you have other options.

Here are a few thrifty ideas to help you tackle the various levels of book editing:

Developmental Editing

At this level, you’re drafting the vision and goals for your book — the big picture stuff. You could pay a book coach or developmental editor to guide you, or …

  • Start a mastermind group where you can run your book vision by other people in exchange for feedback on their own ideas.

  • Join a writing, critique, or networking group to connect with like-minded people to exchange ideas and feedback.

  • Barter with a book coach to guide the development of your manuscript in exchange for hours of your life coaching/business consulting/website design/[insert your killer service here].

Content Editing

At this level, you’re ensuring your draft is readable and aligns with the goals you set for the book. To get it done for free …

  • Offer a free advance copy of your book to loyal readers in exchange for feedback. Give them a manuscript review form (like this one from Stacy Ennis) as a guide to ensure you get direct, usable feedback.

  • Offer yourself as a mentor for a budding writer or entrepreneur in exchange for his feedback on your book.


This is the editing most people think of as “editing”: adjusting mechanics, syntax, and semantics to polish your manuscript. To get skilled eyes on this thing …

  • Reach into your network and hire newbie editors to copyedit at a low rate in exchange for the experience, a testimonial and a referral source.

  • Enlist your English-teacher aunt (really, she does know her stuff) and give her a style guide for your manuscript. Give her free babysitting for a year, or copyedit HER next book in exchange.

  • Hire an affordable, knowledgeable contractor through a service like elance, oDesk, People Per Hour or the publishing marketplace


Once you think the book is finished, review it to catch any final mistakes in writing or design. For this final, detailed run …

  • Share small sections of the finished book with anyone you consider a competent reader (any eyes can notice an extra “the” or missing “a” in a sentence that you won’t catch.)

  • Join or start a writers’ group to exchange manuscripts with other writers you respect for proofreading.

How have you made sure that your self-published work is up to snuff?


  • Halo there, thanks for the information Dana. I’m am busy to publish my first book, but there’s one problem that I have: It is Just the money. I have one Question.
    How long does it takes before you get paid?

  • Stacy Thomas says:

    The world is indeed filled with crap books that people write in a few hours just trying to make a quick buck. Becoming a professional writer has been a dream of mine since I read Eragon at ten years old and heard it was written when Paolini was fifteen. That was ten years ago, but my dream never has faded. Thanks for the article, it’s probably got some good uses out of it!

  • Dana Sitar says:

    Elke, I’m sorry to hear that! We kind of assume a publisher will have our backs and put out the best books possible, but I guess they can skimp and slack as much as anyone else… Connecting with your own editors and critique partners, as well as understanding these steps in the editing process, is a great way to take control of the quality of your book, whether you self-publish or work with a publisher.

  • Elke Feuer says:

    Great tips, Dana! Ironically, my first book was traditionally published and was poorly edited. I considered it a great lesson learned for when I self-publish.

    I’m blessed with a great critique partner and beta readers, along with wonderful (affordable) editors I met online.

  • Alicia Rades says:

    Excellent tips! My first self-published book was OK, but I know I could have done better. This next one I’m going to put more effort in with beta readers, editors, etc. as you’ve suggested.

  • Thanks, Dana. The links you provided are as helpful as your advice. I’ve found that bartering works well for me.

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Happy to hear that, Kathy 🙂 There are a ton of resources available to help writers manage their editing process; it’s just tough to know where to get started! Feel free to reach out any time; I’m happy to share additional resources.

  • Joy says:

    So much work to do after finishing the manuscript. 🙂 The work of a writer doesn’t end on “The End.”

    I like the idea of bartering. I never heard about it before and I think it’s a great idea.

    • Dana Sitar says:

      Joy, I’m so happy to turn you on to bartering! It’s changed the way I do business. Sometimes you’ll connect with someone whose service is so much more valuable than money to you that you’ll PREFER to trade services over direct hiring. It’s a win-win when you’re on a tight budget, too 🙂

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