I recently attended a publishing conference where someone spoke at length about how bookstore staff identify self-published books by ISBN quirks. I can tell you with certainty, when there is prejudice against self-published books, it’s not because anybody’s eyeing the ISBN. It’s because many—okay, I’ll say it—most self-published books look unprofessional. (And by unprofessional, I mean they look like crap.)
The common complaint about self-published books and ebooks is that they are poorly edited. Characters change names. Spelling and grammar go awry. Narrative threads get lost permanently. Every manuscript has its problems. These problems bother readers. Errors take the reader out of the story and hurt your professional credibility.
But hiring your own editor is not just mandatory for self-published authors burning to get their ebook out. When the economy went crazy, publishing houses fired much of their editing staff. For instance, I worked for a publisher with several lines of defence: acquiring editors, line editors, copy editors, and three walls of proofreaders. Now? Publishers still have acquiring editors, but they’ve cut back on the rest of the staff drastically. Yes, traditional houses still have editors, but they have far fewer of them. How much time and attention do you think your book will really get? There’s a math question easily solved.
Every publishing outlet, from newspapers to books, has less defence against typos and errors in execution. You see it every day. That’s why more authors—both traditional and non, ebook and pbook, published and non—are hiring editors to help with the heavy lifting. Editors make any book or manuscript better.
Whether yours is a manuscript or any finished book, it needs editing or no one will take you seriously. Consider hiring an editor for your project. A freelance editor’s work will enhance your chances of becoming published and reduce errors in the final product. Once your manuscript is out there to be submitted (or once the book is on the shelves) you can’t pull those errors out.
Your Aunt Betsy will delight in pointing out your every error. And she’ll be pretty damn smug about it.