Guest Post! Why Authors Can’t Self-Edit by: Christina Kaye with Top Shelf Editing

Perfect Book

Writerly Friends,

Today, we’re going to talk about why authors should never try to publish their books without having an unbiased third party review/edit it first. Who am I to have such an opinion you ask? I’m an award-winning author and the co-owner/editor of Top Shelf Editing, an elite editing service created for author by authors. We’ve been on both sides of the publishing world and we know how tempting it can be to self-edit to save time and money. But we also know firsthand the pitfalls an author faces when doing so. Let’s discuss.

So you’ve finished your novel after weeks, months, or even years of hovering over your laptop and ignoring everyone and everything else in your life outside of your fictional world and the characters you dropped into it. Great. You’re ready to upload it to Amazon. Right? Wrong. You need to have it professionally edited first.

But, wait! I’m this, like, awesome, amazingly talented writer! I’m really good at comma placement and catching typos. I have a good eye for mistakes. And better yet…I have Grammarly! Why on earth would I pay someone I don’t know to edit my work for me when I can do it myself for free?

Slow your roll. Pump the breaks. Hold your horses.

I have heard this rebuttal more times than I can count. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I heard something along these lines, I could quit editing altogether, and Stephen King and I could be sipping mimosas on the Maine coastline, burning our money on the beach for the fun of it.

So…I did some research and I’ve gathered some facts, statistics, and other useful information to prove to you that you absolutely, unequivocally, irrefutably CANNOT edit your own book.

Reason #1 – Your brain literally cannot process your own mistakes.

Ever heard of the phrase, “can’t see the forest for the trees?” You’ve written these words, and if you’re a smart, dedicated author, you’ve been over the entire manuscript at least once. The more you sit and stare at words you created on your own, your brain will quite literally zone out, and your eyes will gloss over the mistakes and even fill in/auto-correct the errors the longer you stare. It’s like one of those optical illusion paintings where, the more you sit and stare at it, you begin to see shapes and patterns forming that weren’t there before…or maybe aren’t even really there to begin with! The reason you struggle to spot your own typos is because what you’re seeing on the computer is competing with the version already formulated in your head.

Reason #2 – You aren’t trained/experienced/practiced at editing.

Unless you’re a trained editor, it’s doubtful you’ve taken courses or studied all those intricate little writing rules that no author ever learns until someone teaches them. I want you to close your eyes. No, wait. Open them. You can’t read if your eyes are closed. Anyway, just think back to when you first starting writing novels. Remember how you were just typing away words that sounded great together and weaving together this beautiful story you just knew the whole world needed to hear? Now…think back to the first time you learned that there are actual RULES to writing that go beyond what you learn in high school and college English courses. Most new authors have never heard of writing techniques such as “show, don’t tell,” etc. And that’s just one of dozens of “rules” we must follow. You may be a wonderfully creative storyteller. Hell, you may even be a natural born “grammar Nazi.” But let’s face it. Learning all those pesky rules, techniques, and devices takes YEARS of research, practice, and training. But even the most highly skilled book editors never edit their own work.

Here’s a fact/statistic to put things in perspective (if you’re a numbers kind of person). According to industry standards, even the very best of editors may still miss about 5% – 15% of errors in a given project. So if people who have spent many years of their lives and spent God knows how much time, effort, and money to train to be the best they can be in their field STILL miss things, how on earth is the average writer ever supposed to catch ALL of their own mistakes? They can’t. That’s how. It’s absolutely impossible.

Reason #3 – Bad Editing and/or Lack of Editing Leads to Bad Reviews and Low Sales

If you’re a published author, odds are, you’ve been there. You’ve published your book (or your publisher has) and you sit there anxiously refreshing your internet browser every day, waiting for those amazing 5-star reviews to start rolling in. And you get them! But then…then, you get that first dreaded less-than-four-star review. (Side note, I consider anything less than four stars a “negative” review). Your heart sinks to your knees. You break out into hives. You fight the urge to throw up on your computer. You also fight the urge to cyberstalk said reviewer and give them a piece of your mind! It’s true, there will ALWAYS be a Negative Nancy. Someone who finds fault in even the best of literary masterpieces. Hell, Stephen King gets bad reviews from people who think they could do better, while they sit in their mom’s basement all alone, unemployed, in their underwear, staring at the blank notebook, which should contain that next best seller they’ve been telling all their friends they’re writing. There is absolutely no way to avoid ever getting ANY negative reviews. Get used to it. Deal with it. Talk to your therapist about it.

However! There is one sure-fire way to guarantee you will get negative reviews and slow or no sales. Don’t hire an editor. Just write your book, type THE END, have your best friend/mom/brother/mailman “edit” your book, then slap it up on Amazon. Just sit back and watch the three, two, one-star reviews roll in and try not to jump off a bridge as you read all those scathing remarks about how poorly written/edited your book is. Because it WILL happen. Don’t believe me? Here is just ONE example of a scathing review for a poorly written/unedited book:

Don’t take any of this to mean that you are incapable of writing a brilliant and lovely book. Of course you can. But the bottom line is simply this. You cannot edit your own writing well enough that you will catch all possible mistakes, typos, and errors. And we haven’t even touched on content and developmental issues in this post. Hiring a trained professional to work with you and help make your book baby shine is the only logical route to take for any author who desires to not just write and publish books but to have them reach the masses and satisfy readers and keep them coming back for more.

Okay, great, Christina. You’ve talked me into not self-editing and hiring a trained professional like you to edit my manuscript before I publish it. Now what? How do I find the right editor? How do I know if an editor is for real or a wannabe? How much should I pay? How does it work?

Well, my friend, stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series where I will next answer all those questions and more.

In the meantime, be sure you’ve taken a minute to browse our pretty website. You can read all about us, our mission/goals, our success stories, our services and rates, and read testimonials. You can even check out our Author Resources Page, where we list ONLY the best and most affordable service providers which we have personally vetted and guarantee are among the best in their field. We only list a few of each kind of service provider (cover designer, formatters, promoters, PAs, etc.) because who wants to scroll through a really long list? And besides, we don’t trust our clients and their books to just anyone. Those listed on this page are providers we have worked with directly in the past, and we GUARANTEE they offer the best combination of skill and affordability.

And, finally, if anything I’ve said here has resonated with you, and you’d like to talk to use about what we can do to help make your book the absolute best it can be, visit our Contact Us page, where you can reach out to us by email. Simply say, “Hey, Top Shelf! I want to learn more!” And we’ll take it from there. Every interested author gets a completely free, no-obligation evaluation of the first 5 pages of your manuscript. Within 24 hours, you’ll get back a complete content and line edit of those pages, along with a professional quote for our services and an estimated turnaround time.

Talk Soon,

Christina Kaye, (Co-Owner/Editor of Top Shelf Editing)

***A Note from Amelia***

Top Shelf Editing is offering a special giveaway to three of my blog readers who email them at and type in the subject line “3PRIZES”

1) 20% off all editing services
2) A FREE sample evaluations of the first 5 pages of their book
3) a FREE $30 value social media blast from HEA (courtesy of Lydia Harbaugh)