Editing for Self Publishing

open notebook with hands holding a pen and on a teal table with a cup of tea and two other notebooks stacked nearby editing for self publishing

One of the great things about being a self-published author is that you get to do everything exactly the way you want it. You’re in charge of your writing process and everything else after that. But that can be one of the drawbacks as well. Yeah, you get to make all of the decisions, but you also have to make all of the decisions. One of those decisions is how to approach editing for self publishing your work.

As a low-budget indie publisher, I still do everything myself, from writing, to editing, to cover design. Most of the advice that I’ve seen out there recommends that writers don’t do things like editing and cover design themselves, and that they will have a horrible cover and won’t sell any books if they don’t have a professional do it. While I do agree that quality editing and cover design and other services can be contributing factors to a book’s success, I also know that everybody has to start somewhere. And for a lot of people, that “somewhere” is going to be editing your own work.

I thought I would share a little bit about my own process for editing for self publishing in case it might help someone else with their own books. This is going to be an overview, and then I’ll get into more granular details on other posts.

The Process Will Change With Every Book

The first thing that I’ll point out is that just like writing, there is no one set in stone way to go about the self-editing process. When you’ve finished your first draft, you’ll probably know what kind of state it’s in. Did you write a messy first draft that will need lots of revising? Or maybe you tried to write a pretty clean draft that won’t need too much structural work. Maybe there are sections of both. Maybe it’s different from book to book. Trust yourself to know what your book needs.

Read Over The First Draft And Make Notes

I really like to print out my draft after it’s finished. Something about having a physical copy in front of me helps me orient myself in the story. Also, I really like making notes with my favorite pens. I’ve tried a few different variations on this. I’ve tried making lots of post-it notes and putting them on a divider together to address each issue later, I’ve tried making edits directly on the page and notes in the margins. And although I like printing out my story, I have to also note that when I’ve set a project down for a long stretch and come back to it, I’ll re-read it within Scrivener and edit and clean up what I have before resuming the rest of the project.

Making The Changes in the Electronic Draft

After I’ve made all my notes to myself, I go back to the beginning and start adding my changes to the draft in Scrivener. This is another chance for me to make a pass over the book and decide if I still want the changes, as well as a chance to add, delete, or change text to make sure my story is consistent. I also fix any typos and other errors that I made note of on the paper draft.

Last Proofreading Pass

Proofreading is, for me, the easiest part of editing for self publishing, because I like to do it and have always had a knack for remembering spellings and grammar rules. The last thing I’ll do before compiling my book into an ebook or print book format is to do one last read-through to catch any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors that were missed or introduced during my changes.

Always Keep Learning

So that’s kind of a general look at how I do my editing after I’ve finished the first draft. I try not to do too much revising or rewriting, because I like to follow Heinlein’s Rules and not rewrite a lot.  I know that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it really is what makes writing enjoyable and possible for me, because the idea of endless revisions would (and did) keep me from pursuing writing for many years. The important thing is that you find what works for you. So to finish this post off, I will share some resources that have helped me develop my writing and editing practice.

Yes, I listed three books from Dean Wesley Smith, but honestly, those books (also available as a series of blog posts if you search his site) are really what got me writing again and self publishing in the first place. If you need encouragement to go for it and to trust your writing, I recommend reading those books first before learning about editing.

Again, I hope this is helpful for someone, and I hope it gives you a peek into one way to do the process of editing for self publishing so you can get started on crafting your own.