The number one question that I’ve been asked by other writers looking to self-publish is:
Do I really need an editor?
Usually this comes up just after they mention how they read Strunk & White every night before bed, how careful they are, and how their spouse/partner/roommate/dog is an amazing proofreader. And all of that might be true. But the reality is, unless you’re a pro that’s been in the business for years, you’re going to suck compared to an actual editor.
I think my Reddit AMA answer summed it up best when I was asked if I hired an editor or did it myself:
First I did it.
Then my wife (who is a grammar nerd) did a line-edit.
Then I was professionally edited by Scott Nicholson.
Guess what? The manuscript needed the pro editing. I’m fortunate in that I write very clean prose, from a technical perspective. Also, my wife has a keen eye and knows her stuff. Unfortunately, none of that can compare to being edited by a guy who has been in the business as a professional for many years.
Some of what a professional editor will find is technical. You will be so close to your manuscript, and have gone over it so many times, that you will be blind to some of the technical errors. This happens most often in a sentence or scene that you are very involved with from a story perspective. Your focus tends to move to a different place and you just can’t see that dropped apostrophe or whatever.
The bigger value is in what is called ‘developmental editing’. This is the part where your editor points out that something isn’t working from a story/character/pacing perspective. Listen to your editor when they talk about this stuff. Unless you’re a best-selling pro, they know better than you do.
If you can’t afford an editor, and they can run from $1 to $2 per page (250 words), then look for a proofreader that may be less expensive. Failing that, join a well respected writing group, and have several people go over your manuscript.
It’s not ideal, but it’s better than trying to do it yourself.