If you are self-publishing, editing is your responsibility. That includes:
- Determining the type of editing you require,
- Finding and hiring the right person or people, and
- Paying for editing.
Exactly when an editor fits into your publishing plan depends on a few factors, first and foremost what type of editor you want to hire. Remember there are three kinds of book editors: developmental editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. (Need a recap of what each of these editors do? Check out this post.) This blog doesn’t address proofreading, as that is generally a quicker process and it’s not as critical to book that service quite as far ahead as the other two.
Because these editor serve different functions, they come into play at different stages of the writing/publishing process. Most important to remember is that experienced editors fill their calendars in advance, so you need to think about whom you want to hire and when well before you're ready for them to work with you. If you wait until your manuscript is finished, you might end up waiting for an editor to have an opening.
What gets tricky is that booking an editor too early in the process (aka before you have a good handle on when your manuscript will be ready) can backfire.
Example: Copy Editor
Let's say you start working on your book on September 1st. You hire a copy editor for the book to begin on November 1st. You write every day in September and produce about 30,000 words. You are shooting for 75,000 words. As of October 15th, you have 50,000 words. Can you realistically write 25,000 words in two weeks? Maybe. Will they be your best 25,000 words? Unlikely. Not to mention, there's no time for any beta feedback in a crunched timeline like that.
Where does that leave you? Hurrying through the last third of your book to get it to the editor on time? Or maybe reaching out to your copy editor and saying that your book won't actually be ready on November 1st? If you choose the latter, when is the editor’s next opening? If you push ahead and submit work that isn’t your best and hasn’t been self-edited, it’ll cost you more, as it likely has more errors, might not flow as well, and will take the editor longer to work through.
Strive for Balance
As you can see, it's a bit of a balancing act. No editor worth their salt once you to rush through the writing process just to meet a deadline. Hopefully it's becoming more clear why I urge author-entrepreneur clients and potential clients to build a daily writing practice so they know what their production might look like when it's time to actually write a book. This will help with scheduling every step of the way.
I check in with clients who have hired me but whose manuscripts I'm not yet actively working on to see if they are on track for on-time delivery or if we need to make adjustments. Most editors I know operate similarly. Open communication with your editor is a good thing at every step of the process. Editors consider themselves part of your book production team and want to see you succeed. They don't want you to rush the writing process just to stay on the agreed-upon time line.
Example: Developmental Editing
Let's take another example, this one for working with a developmental editor or book coach. This person is involved as your manuscript is developed, rather than after it's complete. Many author-entrepreneurs prefer this set-up because, in addition to the direction and feedback along the way, the editor or coach generally assist with setting the schedule. How is this beneficial, you might ask? Experienced developmental editors and book coaches get a good feel for each project and can help you construct both a writing schedule and production schedule to keep your book on track to launch when you want it to.
Experienced editors and coaches can help you construct a writing and production schedule to keep you on track - @jodibrandon
The other big benefit of working with an editor at this early stage is likely obvious to you: The feedback can be invaluable. If your manuscript is not structured in the most reader-friendly way, but you don't work with a developmental editor or book coach, the problem isn't obvious until a copy editor comes in and at that point making structural changes can throw off your production in a big way. (Alternatively, you might consider your schedule firm and rather than making the changes, you just ask the copy editor to “do what you can” with the manuscript. I do not recommend this, for what it’s worth, but I do see it happen.)
When Is it Too Late?
Technically, it’s never too late when you’re self-publishing. Remember: You are in control of the launch time line when you self-publish. Rather than thinking in terms of too late vs. not too late, think it in terms of quality: If you wait until the last minute and are intent on staying on your time line, unless you find someone who has an unexpected opening in her schedule, you might be choosing from editors who aren’t the best of the best. As is the case with most service professionals, the experienced, sought-after editors are often booked months in advance.
You can see, I hope, the value and deciding early on what type of editor you're looking for. That will drive your time line as far as bringing someone on board. If you are looking for a developmental editor or book coach, you need to look earlier rather than later so this person can work with you throughout the writing process. A copy editor, on the other hand, enters the process later so you have some wiggle room while you write to find and book someone.
Have questions about editing or book writing? I’m happy to answer them in a complimentary Book Brainstorm Session.