There are 2 things that are indispensable if you want to be an indie author. I’ve covered Skin in the game in the section on why Amazon Kindle Unlimited is fundamentally broken. Publishing an e-book is essentially a zero-cost proposition at this point, so I’m looking for any signs that you or someone else has invested into the book. If you don’t want to invest in your book, why should I want to?
- A good cover artist. This is your first impression to the World. If your cover art is bad/non-existent, I’m going to assume you don’t care. I’m hoping that there is an excel sheet similar to the one that is used for the beta readers list.
- A good editor. This can be further broken down into four categories:
- A good general editor.
- A good line editor.
- A good copy editor
- A good development editor
There is one big caveat to add. You also want an editor who is familiar with the conventions of GameLit/LitRPG or they may remove several sections that deal with that portion of storytelling.
If you want an even further breakdown of the types of editors, there’s a great post here. (H/t Daniel Stetson).
What are all these editors?
The different types of editors reflect the different type of work a novel needs. At the very least, you should have a good general editor. This means that obvious typos, continuity errors, and other errors should be fixed before anything else. Let’s look at the role of other editors.
Please independent authors around the World: Get a good line editor.
Line editors typically deal with word choice and phrasing at the sentence/paragraph level, hence “line” editing. If people complain that your novel has poor word choice, awkward phrasing, poor noun choice, redundant adverbs and adjectives, improper tense, etc., then you need a good line editor.
A copy editor is probably what most people think of when they think of an editor. They flag grammar mistakes, punctuation, run-on sentences, and track the internal consistency of the novel. You might think of a line editor as narrowly focused on a sentence while a copy editor is focused on the work itself at a high level.
As such, you should get the line edit done before doing the final review with a copy editor.
This is someone more often seen in nonfiction than fiction writing, the most famous recent case being the editor of Milo Yiannopoulos’s book. In non-fiction, they look for citations needed for statements, clarity of thesis statements to the rest of the work, supporting evidence, etc.
One famous example is Sol Stein, who works with both fiction and nonfiction books. A development editor is more akin to a writing coach than the other types of editors.
For fiction, this is someone who specializes in developing the plot, making the structure and pacing work, etc. This is also a person who will criticize the novel at every step of the way. Thus authors tend to have a love/hate relationship with their development editors.
Using Royal Road, WattPad, and similar services is a crowd-sourced way of getting a development editor in on the process, but mileage may vary with their actual helpfulness.
As you can guess then, a general editor is someone who does all of the above. It’s advisable to talk to a general editor and see what they charge for each service and to focus in on what’s most important.
The more skin you put in the game, the more confidence I have that the final product is going to be good. If your cover art is bad or if I find amateur hour writing mistakes in the first five pages, I’m not going to keep reading the novel.