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Thursday, September 18

How to Save Money on Editing Your Book

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Self-publishing your work means all the profits are yours, but it also means all the costs are yours. The two universally accepted areas where you shouldn’t skimp on quality are your cover and editing.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep your costs to a minimum when it comes to editing without sacrificing quality. Today I’m going give you tips that can help you save money no matter what level or levels of editing you need.

(I’ve written about the types of edits before, so I’ll direct you there if you need a refresher on the differences between a developmental edit, line edit, copy edit, and proofread.)

How to Save Money on Your Developmental Edit: Get a Plot Review and a Three-Chapter Critique

For a 60,000-word manuscript, if you receive a developmental edit that includes an editorial letter plus annotations within the manuscript, your cost will be somewhere between $750 and $1200. That’s outside of many people’s budgets.The longer your book, the higher the cost.

One way to reduce your costs is to instead ask for a plot review and a critique of your first three chapters.

In a plot review, you go through your book and write a paragraph detailing each scene. What’s the point of view character’s goal? What happens? What essential plot/sub-plot information is revealed in this scene? In what way does this scene affect the characters? What’s the total word count after each chapter? (This last one is important for structure.) Include as much detail as you can. For an 80,000-word novel, you might write 20-30 pages.

Then hand that document over to the editor for review. They’ll look for plot holes, loose ends that haven’t been tied off, episodic writing, and places where the pacing may be wrong. If you go into enough depth in your summary, they’ll also be able to comment on your main character’s motivation, the consistency of their actions, whether they’re active or reactive (you want the former), and much more.

In the critique of your first three chapters, your editor will point out your writing craft weaknesses and explain how to fix them.

When you combine the two, you have a “poor man’s” developmental edit at a fraction of the cost.

How to Save Money on Your Line Edit: Use Automated Programs

Because of how much time line editing takes an editor, it usually ends up being the most expensive step in the editing process. A line edit on 60,000 words can cost you between $1200 and $3600. You can take the do-it-yourself route by using editing programs or you can reduce how much a line edit will cost from an editor by running your manuscript through editing programs first.

Some programs you might want to check out are EditMinion, AutoCrit, ProWritingAid, and Cliché Cleaner.

How to Save Money on Your Copy Edit: Improve Your Own Skills

The worse your punctuation and grammar, the more your copy edit will cost because many editors price based on how much work your manuscript needs.

Learning grammar doesn’t have to be boring or painful. Many grammar books now try to make it both approachable and enjoyable. I recommend Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss, Woe Is I: A Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English by Patricia T. O’Connor, or my own Grammar for Fiction Writers: A Busy Writer’s Guide by Marcy Kennedy and Chris Saylor.

How to Save Money on Any Edit: Barter

I currently have a wonderful exchange system with a talented editor/writer friend so that we trade developmental edits, enabling us both to save money.

Consider what skills you might have that you could trade with another writer who’s also an editor. Can you build websites? Format print and ebooks? Design covers? If you know an editor/author who might be willing to trade services, don’t be afraid to ask. They might say no, but they might say yes. In the new world of the author entrepreneur, we improve our chances of success when we work together.

What other tips do you have on how to save money when self-publishing without sacrificing quality?

Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at

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About Grammar for Fiction Writers: A Busy Writer’s Guide

The world of grammar is huge, but fiction writers don’t need to know all the nuances to write well. In fact, some of the rules you were taught in English class will actually hurt your fiction writing, not help it. Grammar for Fiction Writers won’t teach you things you don’t need to know. It’s all about the grammar that’s relevant to you as you write your novels and short stories.

Here’s what you’ll find inside:

• Punctuation Basics including the special uses of dashes and ellipses in fiction, common comma problems, how to format your dialogue, and untangling possessives and contractions.
• Knowing What Your Words Mean and What They Don’t including commonly confused words, imaginary words and phrases, how to catch and strengthen weak words, and using connotation and denotation to add powerful subtext to your writing.
• Grammar Rules Every Writer Needs to Know and Follow such as maintaining an active voice and making the best use of all the tenses for fast-paced writing that feels immediate and draws the reader in.
• Special Challenges for Fiction Writers like reversing cause and effect, characters who are unintentionally doing the impossible, and orphaned dialogue and pronouns.
• Grammar “Rules” You Can Safely Ignore When Writing Fiction