If self-publishing professionally is important to you, I whole-heartedly urge you to try and save some money for editing.
But I also understand that the cost of editing is simply impossible for some. So here’s my advice on what to do.
You won’t get the same value from these methods, but you’ll still get some important feedback that will help you improve your book.
Are you sure you can’t afford editing?
Really, really sure? I completely understand – it is a lot of money. (Here’s why.) But maybe you just don’t want to spend that amount. If so, think about the value you’ll get from editing. Think what it could cost your writing career if you didn’t get your book edited. So are you sure you can’t afford it? It might not cost as much as you think.
Writing groups and beta readers
Fellow readers and writers can’t replace professional copy-editing or proofreading (unless they’re professionally trained in these areas, of course) but they can offer you valuable feedback on your book as a whole. (See: What are Beta Readers?)
They might not have the same level of knowledge as a professional offering developmental editing, but it’s always valuable to have several pairs of critical eyes assess your manuscript and help you understand your weak points.
Quid pro quo
Not all editors will be open to this arrangement, but if you have a highly specialised skill that could be helpful to your editor, they might be prepared to make a trade. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, could you offer to create a logo for your editor? If you’re a web developer, can you help them improve their website? If you run a literary magazine, can you offer them free advertising? Worth a shot!
Pay for what you can
If you can’t afford to have your whole manuscript edited, pay to have a smaller section edited instead. Talk to your editor. They’ll be able to give you the best value for your budget. For example, perhaps you could pay to have 10,000 words edited, and have your editor provide extensive notes on what they’ve done and why so you can better self-edit the rest of your novel.
How wealthy you are shouldn’t be a barrier to publication, but investing in your self-published novel is often the best way to make sure you’re putting a high-quality product on the market. Even so, these methods will help you produce the best book you can if you’re on a tight (or non-existent) budget. Good luck!