Your book can turn you into an industry celebrity overnight. Speaking engagements, media opportunities, strategic partnerships, new clients … but only if you do it right. And to do it right, you need a great editor.

So how can you tell the great from the not-so-great? Read on for the top five mistakes self-publishers make when choosing an editor, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake No. 1 – Not hiring an editor

While most self-publishers now recognise the importance of a good cover design and quality printing, many don’t budget for editing. Think about it – you wrote your website, you’ve started blogging, and you’ve also got a friend who’s an English teacher who can check your book. Plus, there’s always spell check…

While your cover design makes the first impression and quality stock creates thud value, all of that can by destroyed by a typo on your first page. And any typos, repetition, rambling and gaps will be the lasting impression you readers have of your business.

Even if you’re a good writer, you need a second set of eyes to check your work. And no matter how good your friend is at English, without editing experience they won’t be able to provide specific, actionable feedback on your content and structure. Finally, Microsoft Word’s spell check is only right about 30% of the time, and misses many of the subtleties an editor will catch. In short, everyone needs an editor.


Mistake No. 2 – Thinking all editors are the same

There are many different editors out there, and their services can vary from a human spell-checking service to creating a new structure, removing repetition and recommending new content.

You need to know what’s out there, and how to ask for what you need. Your options are:

  1. Structural/developmental editing
  • Looks at your book as a whole
  • Restructures your content
  • Removes irrelevant and repetitive content
  • Suggests new content


  1. Copyediting
  • Focuses on readability
  • Reorganises paragraphs
  • Looks at sentence structure


  1. Proofreading
  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation, typos

Figure out what you need, and choose an editor who can deliver that service.


Mistake No. 3 – Choosing the cheapest editor

If you go to three editors and ask for “editing quotes”, you could get three different prices and three different timeframes. The reason for this isn’t necessarily that the cheapest or fastest editor is the best value; the reason is probably that your three editors are quoting three different services. And if you go with the cheapest editor, you might not get the service you need.

In the best-case scenario, you simply publish a mediocre book. In the worst-case scenario, you need to get your book edited again by someone else, which means spending more money and more time that could have been spent leveraging your book.

To avoid this pitfall, ensure you’re clear on the service being quoted:

  • Will they be looking at your structure and content, or just the language?
  • Will they provide feedback on the changes they make and suggestions for next steps?
  • Are they available to discuss your edits?
  • Is it a single round of edits, or can they do multiple rounds at a discounted rate?

Only commit once they’ve answered these questions.

Mistake No. 4 – Booking at the last minute

You finished your book last week and you want it published next month, so if you book an editor for next week everything should work out perfectly. Right?

Wrong. Good editors are often popular editors, and this means they book out in advance. So if you wait to the last minute to book your editor, you’ll struggle to find a good editor and could set back your self-publishing plan. If an editor does take you on at the last minute, they’ll likely be juggling your book with other projects and won’t be able to give it the attention it deserves, meaning you won’t get the result you want.

Instead, plan your publishing timeframe during the writing process, and start contacting editors when you’re close to finishing your first draft.


Mistake No. 5 – Not getting a sample of their work

You’ve asked your editors about their experience, the type of editing they do, their prices and their turnaround times. So how do you choose?

Get a sample of their work.

It’s hard to know what you’re getting based on a description and a price. Editors use different terminology to describe their work, and many have different understandings about what’s expected of them. If you don’t see a sample of their work, you might not be getting the level of service you need, which can lead to tensions during the editing process, and potentially needing to get additional edits in future.

Getting a sample means you can compare different editors more easily when you’re still shopping around, and means you know exactly what you’re getting into when you find “the one”.


Jacqui Pretty is the Founder and Head Editor of Grammar Factory, an editing company that helps entrepreneurs write awesome books. She and her team specialise in working with small business owners who want to build their credibility and establish themselves as leaders in their fields through getting published, and has worked with over 70 entrepreneurs in Australia, Singapore, the US and the UK.