The one vital thing that an author can’t bring to their own work, no matter how long it’s left in the drawer, is objectivity.
Even with a thorough writing and editing process, you’re emotionally attached to your novel, it’s an extension of you and probably, if my experience is anything to go by, you love it and loathe it a bit, too. You will know how the story has grown and changed, how the characters have shifted as you’ve become better acquainted, what sections were difficult, and how the timeline, or structure, has altered.
Aside from the typos and errors there are also things in your writing that will be hard for you to spot; every reader has their quirks, their go-to phrases or words, repeated rhythms and sentence structures which can spoil the flow of the prose. And again, a copy-editor’s objectivity, and hawk’s-eye, for these things will bring the emotional and physical distance needed to elevate your novel to the highest standards.
It’s also much better to get everything in order right from the outset – this way you can ensure you’re building an author brand that’s associated with polished novels. It’s true that the investment is a risk; the book might not recoup the expenditure, but the flip side is that if sales are better than you dared hope you might need to revisit the novel and tinker with it, when you should be writing the next book and keeping up the momentum you’ve established.
Also, the guidance you receive is a lot like professional development and you’ll be able to use the skills and knowledge you gain in your future works. I learnt a huge amount from both the structural and copy-editing comments on my novels and I took all of that feedback on board and I’ll continue to use it as a writer.
When a self-published author shouldn’t use a professional copy-editor
There are going to be occasions when a copy-editor isn’t what you need. For example, you don’t want to pay an editor to focus on the small details when you haven’t considered the big picture. It would be like colouring in a sketch of a landscape when you haven’t yet decided whether you’re keeping in the range of hills to the left, the forest to the right, or if instead you’ll scrap the landscape and pen a portrait of an oak tree. If you call in a copy-editor too soon then you risk having to put your manuscript through the process a second time.
If you’re looking for representation, or wishing to submit directly to a publisher, they might be impressed with your attention to detail and professionalism, but that won’t be enough if they don’t feel that the story works, or there isn’t a market for it. So, the same sketch analogy applies and, even if you have already done some structural editing, an agent or publisher will still provide you with feedback and most likely require further amendments.
If you’ve progressed your manuscript as far as you can, but you’re not sure if you’re ready for a copy-editor please get in touch for an informal chat.