Authors, do you use editors? Proofreaders? I have a guilty secret… #amwriting #amediting

I published this little confession on my own blog ( last week, and it garnered so many interesting points of view, I thought I’d bring it over here too…

Since I joined the Indie publishing scene back in 2013, I have read SO many times the

advice, nay, instruction, ‘thou shalt not publish without having your work professionally edited/proof read/beta read’.

But I have a guilty secret…

I don’t use editors or proof readers.

Gasp! Isn’t my work trash?
Well, apparently not, if my reviews are to be believed. Here is a snippet from a recent review, from an Amazon Vine Reviewer, no less:

“This is a good, entertaining read with lots of originality. And THANK YOU to the author for the lack of errors and grammar that mar so many books these days!”

Okay, I admit to working with a writer’s group. They get to see my first draft and pick up on any obvious procedural errors (like the 36 hour day I once managed to write in), and suggest ways of strengthening the plot.
Then I finish the novel and have 2, or at most 3 beta readers. Only if they all say the same thing about any part of the book do I make any changes.

And after carrying this guilty secret with me for years now, I was hugely relieved to read this post from well known author Dean Wesley Smith:

This makes me feel SO much better about my writing. It’s how I began, how I’ve continued, and how I intend to continue.
I DO think editors etc. are an excellent idea for writers at an early stage of their careers, when they still have much to learn, but I’ve been doing this job professionally (writing non-fiction for magazines and books) for decades, and while I’m always learning more, I have a fair bit of confidence in my own ability to tell a tale, and tell it in reasonable English. If I break a grammar rule, I (probably) meant to!

How about you writers? Is there anyone else out there who shares my guilty secret. I know a small handful of other. Are there any more?

54 thoughts on “Authors, do you use editors? Proofreaders? I have a guilty secret… #amwriting #amediting

  1. Pingback: Authors, do you use editors? Proofreaders? I have a guilty secret… #amwriting #amediting | Matthews' Blog

  2. LIke you, I rely on my critique groups (I belong to more than one), beta readers and the eagle eye of my independent publisher. I found the cost of an editor was more than my meagre budget could spare. Teachers are using my books in their classroom so they must be OK. I went through my first two books, published 7 years ago, and polished them up recently. But I didn’t find many grammatical and spelling errors. The reviews have been good as well. Keep doing what you are doing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yay! Another one for the club 😉
      I know it can be tricky finding a good crit group, but when you do, they are so worth it.
      And of course you mention that marvellous ability we now have as Indies, to be able to go back and polish our work at a later date, as our knowledge and skills improve.
      Congrats of getting your books into the classroom – awesome!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thanks for sharing your post here, Debby. As always, it’s great to have other authors visit The Write Stuff.

    As for editors, I have to say I would never, under any circumstances, skip an editor, no matter where I had to cut corners to pay for one. (And they are out there in a wide variety of price rangers and skill levels.) This doesn’t mean others (like you) shouldn’t choose differently, but for myself, especially since I’ve only been writing four years, an editor is my best friend. I’ve learned so much (and had my memory refreshed so many times) about writing as a whole, and my specific problematic areas, I couldn’t begin to list it all. Even after I’ve revised and cleaned up my work substantially, I discover via a good editor that I’ve missed a dangling participle, or messed up with hyphens. (A personal failing of mine.)

    My first books especially had many areas where things needed to be trimmed, not because they were wrong, but because they were repetitive. I was over-explaining, having already said the same thing in the previous paragraph. Things like that.

    Even now that I’ve gotten some experience, and have books that are doing well, I’m trying to cram several decades of polishing my craft into the remaining years that I’ll be writing. Without my editor, I’d be flying blind.

    On Beta groups, I do mine differently than most. I have a wonderful group of betas who read my DRAFT chapters, as I finish each one, and give me feedback. I love knowing immediately if a chapter worked like I meant for it to, and whether they are invested in the characters and the story. I couldn’t do this without their input. When the draft is done, I revise and clean up, then submit to my editor. And no matter how good I think it is, there are always things I didn’t think about, or omitted, or made a grammatical mistake on. Since I want it to be the very best it can be, I like taking the extra step of having a professional make suggestions and point out errors.

    Bottom line, I think, is that there’s no one size fits all solution for the editor question, but I suspect (having seen so many, many errors in books lately) that far too many people who DO need editors, aren’t using them. Consequently, their books look and sound unprofessional, and I don’t usually read anything else by that author. A lot of folks who think they are qualified to edit their own work really aren’t. For those who are, like yourself, I salute you! 🙂 If you can do without, and still produce a solidly written book, with no errors–as you do, Debby–then go for it. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s really my point, I guess, that this isn’t a one size fits all situation. I totally understand where you are at, and the very different starting places we have, and that you’ve made the right choice for your writing, which is different from mine. I just get a bit fed up with hearing that it’s impossible to produce a good book without an editor, when that’s blatantly not so.
      It sounds like your beta readers do for you what my writers group does for me. There is no doubt we can be too close to our own work to see its faults, and a few critical sets of eyes helps with that – I wouldn’t want to do without that step.
      And I’m definitely not against editing per se, no indeed! I’ve also read too many bad books (some even traditionally published that HAVE been edited), particularly recently, which have led to me not finishing them – something I would never have contemplated a few years ago. If I bought a book to read, I would read right to the bitter end! I think an editor is essential when writers are starting out, but as we grow and learn, their input becomes less (hopefully), and I’m now happy to do without. I would just rather not be condemned for my choice by people who have not (unlike you) read my work.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sorry anyone would say something like that to you, especially without having read your work, so they could see the quality! That’s nervy, I must say.

        I don’t see any reason for condemning writers for much of anything. Even the ones who don’t do a good job at it. It will all even out in the wash, and well-written, entertaining books will always do better than the ones that aren’t. So it’s sort of a self-weeding process for the bad stuff, with writers either learning how to improve, or falling by the wayside.

        One size doesn’t fit all is probably true about most things in life, and certainly so here. Your books most definitely do not suffer from you not using an editor. Because of your experience and skill, you handle it very well. And your critique group gives you the feedback a writer needs to be sure the story works from the reader’s perspective. I doubt I’ll reach the stage where I don’t need an editor, since at my age, I only have so many more writing years ahead of me. I’ll take all the help I can get to be sure my stories turn out as good on paper as they sound in my head! 🙂 Had I started years ago, that would possibly be different. But for now, I’m happy with my choice.

        I do think writers need to be absolutely certain of their skills before skipping the editor, though, and too many are electing not to worry about it. But for writers like you, it’s a fine choice. And I, too, have read traditionally published books by big name authors lately and had rather glaring errors jump out at me. I suspect that’s because those publishers aren’t all offering the same level/standard of support that they once did. I’ve heard that some don’t no longer offer editing at all, and that it’s left up to the author to take care of that before submitting their manuscripts. Since I’ve no personal experience with that, I don’t know if that’s really the case, but judging by some of what I’ve seen, it appears to be a possibility, at least.

        And finally, I try to make it a rule never to argue with success. Your books work as is. So, obviously, the way your are approaching it is the right one for you. (BTW, I managed to read TWO WHOLE PAGES in The Prince’s Son last night, before I crashed. My days have been exhausting lately, but as things click into place, my reading time will expand. That’s my plan! 😀 )

        Liked by 1 person

        • LOL, it’ll take you a long time at 2 pages a night! They aren’t called ‘epic’ for no reason 😉
          I know writers are being advised to pay for editing before submitting to publishers, and my view is that’s the publishers trying to save pennies, as they aren’t doing so well these days! Damned unfair on all the people out there spending money on a manuscript that will never be published unless they choose to turn to the Indie route – which most of them should do, but don’t want to make the effort it takes in terms of learning the ropes, plus platform and marketing etc. What most of them don’t realise is, that they will still have to do that stuff even if they get published. The world has changed…

          Liked by 1 person

          • It sure has, and traditional publishers don’t seem to be evolving very well. I agree with everything you just said. And while again, each person has to do what’s right for them, I’m so grateful to be able to publish my own books. What I’m doing today would never have been possible for me, otherwise. Plus, I LOVE having full control. If it works, I can pat myself on the back. If it doesn’t, I know exactly who to blame.

            And frankly, having control over my own book COVERS is worth more to me than I can even say. I LOVE good cover art, but I hate, loathe, and despise many, many of the covers out there today. And with trad pub, that decision is often (probably nearly always) not in the author’s hands. Nope. If bare- chested, headless men with air-brushed abs are popular, then that’s what you’ll get on your book, whether it has anything to do with your story or not. Next thing you know, they’ll be on the cover of cookbooks!!!

            (NOTE: If a bare-chested, headless man suits your story, great. Go with it. I’m just saying that it should be YOUR choice and not your publishers. And also that you might want to consider there are already a kajillion of those covers out there, so your book could get lost in the crowd.)

            Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t find quantity important, it’s the quality of their feedback that makes them useful.
      Also, becoming a beta reader can be a great way to hone your own critiquing skills, and bring new perspective to your self-editing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I work on a very limited budget, too, and I worked out a deal to submit my chapters for editing one at a time, and pay for the work as it progressed. So every Friday, I would pay for whatever we had done that week. It was MUCH easier for me than paying it all in a lump sum. There are editors out there who will consider doing this, and a wide price range to choose from. Their charges don’t always represent their skill level, either, but if you do your homework, you can find an editor who’s right for you, if you want one. I use my betas, my editor, and sometimes a proofreader. Though I will say that since I started using the Read feature in Word, the proofing is not as critical as it once was. I hear missed or duplicated words at once, now, and get rid of them early on.

      Liked by 2 people

        • I predict you will find it very helpful, even with the monotone, robot-sounding voice. You’ll catch all kinds of little things your ear picks up, but your eye didn’t. Even words that you’ve been repetitive with. And if you can’t upgrade Word right away, there is a free app that works just as well. You just have to open the document in the app, instead of just clicking on Read in Word. But it’s an easy step, and FREE, and you can do it without upgrading. It’s called Natural Reader. Hope this helps! 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

            • I don’t know how I lived without it, Debby. Honestly, sometimes I stop while writing and listen to my last few paragraphs, to get a feel for how I want to go on. It has made an enormous difference in the number of small errors, for sure, and even in some larger places where I caught myself explaining too much. I bet you’ll love it. RUN, don’t walk, to your nearest app store, or find the icon for it on your Word program. Hearing those words is an unbelievably helpful thing! 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • Done! The programme doesn’t make it easy to find how to do it, but Google did the trick!
                And the voice is not even too robotic – a nice English lady with reasonable pronunciation 😀
                I had NO idea Word could do this, but now you’ve informed me, I think I’m going to really like this tool.

                Liked by 1 person

                • So glad you’re going to give it a try. I think you’ll find it very helpful. Like I say, I use it while I’m writing my draft, especially at scene breaks. And then, when I start revising, before I send to my editor, I use it again, plus all the other things I check for, like word searches for over used words or phrases. I also run each chapter through Smart Edit, to help me get rid of things I know I’m bad about doing. I want to send my editor the cleanest draft possible, so I’m trying to fix as many things on my own as I can. The Read option is the best of all of them, I think. (If I hear myself use a word like “rueful” three times in one chapter, for instance, I know I need to make a change. In fact, I’ve decided recently that three times in one BOOK is too much for that one. I’m seriously curtailing it in the future! Ha.) Let me know how you like using this, when you’ve given it a try. 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

  4. I too work on a limited budget, and have just started back at work part-time. I use some of my salary to pay for formatting rather than proof-reading, as being a medical secretary I am used to doing my own. However, I cannot do the formatting properly, and am so pleased I’ve found somebody who doesn’t charge through the roof!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t pay for formatting.
      I use Draft2Digital to publish to platforms other than Amazon, and you can put any Word document through their formatting software and download the resulting mobi, epub and PDF files for free. And it does a great job! I’ve never had any problems with it and use it even for work I don’t publish through them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Deb, do you have any input as to the layout, etc, that you want? Does it set it up exactly as you’ve written it? Because, even though I format all my own books, it takes time, and I just might want to look into this. Formatting ebooks is pretty simple really, but it definitely takes a few hours I could use to do something creative.


        • If you follow certain guidelines, like always inserting a page break at the end of a chapter, and using the ruler to create your indents, never the tab key, then it comes out just fine. It takes me all of 5 minutes on average, unless I’ve done something stupid in the original manuscript. D2D also automatically creates your TOC, and you can set up other pages, like ‘about the author’ and just tick a box to have that added.
          It’s pretty simple once you’ve got the idea, and really fast.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I can see where you wouldn’t need a proof reader, Stevie, but editing is a lot more than that. It’s content (does what you’ve had your character do in chapter two work with what he did in chapter one, and that kind of thing. Plus, trimming excess verbiage, and making your prose a bit tighter, if you’ve overdone something. Or even questioning why someone would act a certain way. Not all of these things apply, but they are a few of the things an editor does. If you can format for free via Debby’s suggestion, maybe you can use that money to work with a content editor, or something similar. Some editors do it all, some don’t.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hmm, while I agree that one-size-fits-all rules are rarely a good thing, I think a new fiction author needs a good professional edit for their first few works at least.

    I too wrote nonfiction in my profession and had won accolades from many a journal editor for my clean, clear prose. But that didn’t mean that I knew how to write fiction. I made mistakes as a novice, some really big ones, because I didn’t know any better.

    I’m the opposite of you though, Deborah. I hate critique groups. I don’t let anyone see the first draft until it is done! I feel that critique groups will do what Dean Wesley Smith is warning against in his article. They will pollute my voice and make me question my work when I shouldn’t.

    I use selected beta readers (i.e., selected because they have given good feedback in the past) and then a sister misterio press author (we are an author cooperative) critiques and proofreads.

    Then for longer works, I have a professional editor go over it, for content! She inevitably finds things that others missed that need fixing. I have learned a tremendous amount from her!

    Then my husband, who does not normally read fiction, does a final proofread. He is the ideal proofreader because I know he won’t comment on the content unless he is confused by something.

    And even after all that, some typos sneak through!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have a great team there, Kassandra. I think this is another example of the one size does not fit all – I’ve been working with the same crit group for 30 years (members have come and gone, but the core remains) and we are, all of us, traditionally published authors of one variety or another, so I trust them thoroughly. We’ve all learned a lot over the years, especially about which advice to take on board and which to ignore. We are all strong individuals too, so not prone to producing the ‘committee’ version Dean Wesley Smith so abhors.
      I am in total agreement about writers needing an editor in their earlier years if they don’t have the sort of back up I have, and I wrote several novels before I believed one was good enough to try for a publisher.
      I’m still learning about structure and refining it, but I have a pretty instinctive ability for ‘modelling’ – i.e. absorbing a technique subconsciously (from reading great books, in this case) and then reproducing it in my own work. It’s a useful technique in any field of life, and one I use in my daily coaching work as a sporting professional.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m pretty good at modeling too, but I’m just too close to my own work to know if I’ve done a good job on the subtle things, like character arc, for example.

        I don’t use the professional editor for short stories or novellas generally, but in one of my recent longer novels, she was the only one who picked up on the fact that the main character really hadn’t grown all that much during the course of the book and she wasn’t getting it that her acting-out, preteen daughter was felling lonely and neglected with two busy professional parents. The editor was spot on and I made some changes that really, really improved the story!! Made her fee well worth it.

        Liked by 2 people

        • That’s just the sort of thing my writers group highlights. Thank goodness for discerning readers, be they editors or beta readers, they can make our work stronger, we just have to be discerning about what to take on board.

          Liked by 2 people

        • That’s the part I like best about working with editors. I know if I’ve failed to get a point across, it will be called to my attention and I can fix it BEFORE a reader sits there wondering what the heck I meant. I’m guessing an experienced critique group can do that, as well, but I’ve found editors to be the best way for me to go, personally.

          Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how that happens, isn’t it? You’ve had a kajillion sets of eyes on the thing, and suddenly (usually after publication) you see this typo flashing in your eyes like a red neon light. I hate when that happens! 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  6. One thing that is truly important though is a point that John Wesley Smith made. One needs to have some confidence in your writing. If a suggested change (either from a beta reader or editor) doesn’t feel right for you, don’t do it.

    My belief is that all feedback is helpful, even if it only gets me to revisit my words and decide that I’m happy with them exactly as they are.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I agree on that, too. I take everything my betas say seriously, think it through, then decide whether a change is in order, or if I’m going to leave it as it is. (Always keeping in mind that if it reads “odd” to them, it might do the same for lots of readers.) I do the same with my editor, though I am aware that I override HER suggestions at my own peril, as she is right most of the time.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: Friday Roundup – 27th October | Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

  8. Pingback: Authors, do you use editors? Proofreaders? I have a guilty secret… #amwriting #amediting — The Write Stuff – Ahmad Okbelbab, أحمد عقب الباب

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