Recently, an author planning to self-publish his book asked me if I recommend he use a book-publishing packager.
After explaining why asking me – a freelance editor – this question was like asking a boutique hotel if you should buy a flight and stay at their establishment or go with a package holiday and not stay with them at all, I said it was really up to him!
Pros and cons of packagers
Packagers will be the right choice for some authors. The main benefit is that all the services you need to produce your files for self-publishing are all in one place. If you like the look of the packager and their fees fit your budget, go for it.
But the main drawback is that you don’t get to choose who you’ll be working with.
If you’re looking for cursory, mechanical editing, this might be fine. But in my experience, many – if not all – authors benefit from a couple of rounds of editing, with one of those rounds paying attention to how the story hangs together as a whole and the effectiveness of the techniques used to tell that story.
Not all packagers offer this level of editorial feedback, and even if they did, you’d still be unlikely to be able to choose who will be giving you this feedback.
The ideal editorial method (in my view)
My longest-standing client has worked with me on more than ten novels, and we always do two rounds of his books – a first round where I provide creative feedback, and a second round refining the sentences once he’s revised the manuscript. This is my favourite way to work with an author because it truly results in a better book – and my author agrees!
But even if you don’t want (or your budget doesn’t stretch to) two rounds of editing, I believe it’s extremely beneficial to work with an editor who connects creatively and emotionally with your work – even if they are ‘just’ providing a copy-edit.
Why connection matters
Novel-writing is inherently creative, and a nuanced application of grammar, punctuation and syntax is required to keep your voice, style and creative intentions intact – or enhance them.
When an editor ‘gets’ what you’re doing as an author, they’re more likely to spot plot holes, inconsistencies, unintended subtext, slips in voice …
And they’ll be able to offer creative solutions that feel true to your book.
If an editor doesn’t creatively and emotionally connect with your work, you’ll be missing out on these benefits at best. At worst, the edits will damage your voice and alter your meaning.
Something as small and seemingly inconspicuous as a comma can change the meaning or rhythm of a sentence, depending on where it’s placed. Trusting that your copy-editors knows and respects this is a big deal, in my view.
Choosing each other
This is why I only quote for about half the enquiries that come my way, and why I ask a lot of questions about an author’s manuscript and their goals upfront, and why I ask to see a sample of the manuscript too.
I need all this to get a sense of whether I’d be the best editor for you – whether I feel a connection to your work.
Not all editors are quite as discerning about who they work with, and that’s fine.
Personally, I want to feel just as invested in a manuscript as the author I’m working with. And I like to think my editorial feedback is on the creative, nuanced side of the spectrum rather than the lighter, mechanical side.
In this way, my authors get something valuable from working with me as opposed to any other editor.
And it’s all about that connection.