One of the questions I get asked most often when I teach my self-publish classes and seminars is "Do I really need a book editor before I self-publish? Can't I just proof it myself and call it good?" The short answer is a resounding NO, you should never be the one to officially edit your own work. And YES, you should always hire a professional to edit your book.
To drive this point home this week's Offbeat Authors Guild interview is with book editor, Keltin Barney. I sat down with Keltin a couple of weeks ago in the upstairs offices of Dolly's Bookstore on Main Street in Park City and chatted with him about his passion, which just happens to be editing and writing books.
The Path of a Professional Book Editor
Keltin originally got his start in the literary world back when he was an English major in college. The turning point was when one of his English professors at the University of Utah tore up one of Keltin's papers and made him do it over. ("I was way in over my head, at the time," confesses Keltin.) After putting his heart and soul into the rewritten version, the professor not only gave him an 'A' on the paper, but later invited Keltin to assist him during student office hours. This gave Keltin the opportunity to help other writers realize their potential, which made him realize he was born to help authors bring their literary works to life.
Today Keltin works at the University of Utah Writing Center critiquing and editing the works of undergrads, graduate students, and college professors. He also makes a living as an independent book editor on a contract basis for publishers or authors who need extra help.
Book Editing 101
Keltin and I chatted for a good half hour, the meat of which was edited down to a solid 23-minute audio interview about book editors and editing, specifically for self-published authors. When I asked him what an author should look for when hiring a book editor, he didn't hesitate at all in his answer. "It's all about finding a book editor that you connect with; someone you can talk to and develop a relationship with." There's no doubt about it, you MUST select a book editor that sees your vision, or else it's like two people trying to communicate over a very staticky line. "The worst thing a book editor can do," he continues, "is take over and rewrite what you're doing the way they'd write it." He reiterates his point by stressing, "It's the editor's job to make sure the author's voice [in the written work] is prominent and as well presented as possible." If an editor wants his or her voice to be heard then they need to write their own book.
Other Book Editor Tips
Being the two literary geeks that we are, Keltin and I covered many book editor topics in our interview, including:
- The differences between copyediting and content editing
- The differences between editing fiction and nonfiction
- What an author should look for when hiring an editor (besides what's mentioned above)
- How to contract with an editor
- Some of the most common mistakes authors make when writing their books
He also confirmed that any book that is not professionally edited at some point before it's published will have a hard time competing in bookstores with all those other books produced by traditional publishers. Readers are fickle. There are too many books out there to choose from, so if a book doesn't engage a reader right away, that reader will immediately move on to the next book.
To give you a little taste of my interview with Keltin, take a listen to this three-minute audio clip, during which Keltin and I discuss the importance of copyediting and content editing, as well as what to look for when hiring a book editor:
To contact Keltin about having him edit your book (or just to tell him how much you enjoyed his interview), please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stacy Dymalski is an author and independent self-publishing consultant, who teaches self-publishing through the Life Long Learning program at the University of Utah. Her latest book, “The Memoir Midwife, Nine Steps to Self-Publishing Your Book” is a primer that walks authors through the self-publishing process.
She’s also an award-winning speaker and comedian who pens the popular humor blog “Nonsense to Mom’s Sense of Humor, How my life as a stand-up comic prepared me for motherhood.” She lives in Park City, UT, with her two teenage sons, who provide a constant source of comedic material. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.