With the advent of PubIt, Kindle, Smashwords and other independent publishing outlets, authors are stepping out of the traditional publishing umbrella. It's increasingly common to hear about authors contracting cover art, editing, and proofreading services before releasing their books to the public. I confess, I was initially skeptical about this sudden outflow of money. But after dipping my feet into the self-publishing waters, I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised.
During my first month on kindle, I've earned $12.53 in royalties -- not a whopping number by any means, but it's more than half what I invested in buying cover art rights for Dead Men Don't Cry. At this point, going independent shows clear potential as a profitable venture.
"Venture" is, I believe, the right word here. Independent authors are business people. We're going to have to start weighing the pros and cons of hiring professional contractors. For some of us, those investments will pay off. For others, they won't.
Which leads me to the very interesting realm of indie editing. Traditionally, authors have prepared their manuscripts with the aide of critique groups and help from friends. I never realized until I started editing how very different this process is from a concentrated, dedicated edit in exchange for money. Friends -- even good friends -- are unlikely to spend 40 hours going over your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb looking for ways to make each sentence stronger. Firstly, nobody has that much free time. Secondly, it would be presumptuous. Unless you've hired me to perform an edit, I'm not going to go through the manuscript hilighting every sentence that might potentially be written differently. That would feel just... rude.
Do I think an editor is an indispensable aspect of indie publishing? No. Good books will sell, even without extensive editing. But I do think a good editor is a valuable asset, even if you're an accomplished writer with a strong publishing history. Why? Because no matter how strong your writing is, you're going to have mental blind spots. You're going to make assumptions about the characters and the storyline that your readers won't necessarily share. You're going to write ambiguous sentences without realizing it. Everyone does, and most casual readers won't point them out to you.
When "A New Kind of Sunrise" is finished -- which, if current trends continue, might not be until the end of the next century -- I am going to hire an independent editor if I can at all afford it. I want someone to help me polish the manuscript before I send it out to agents and publishers. I want someone to help me put my best foot forward.