A Self-Published Novel: How do you know when your edits are enough?

Me: I hate my picture being taken!
I finished A Proper Charlie ages ago. I lost count of the number of edits I took it through. I edited on the screen, then I printed it off and edited again. I forced my husband, a die-hard Chris Ryan fan, to read my romantic comedy with a red pen in hand.

I put it away for a several months while I concentrated on an idea for my third novel, before dusting it off for yet another edit.

Then I printed it off again but in a different font (someone advised me this was good practice) and I went through it word by word, letter by letter.

It had two professional edits, one from Cornerstones and another from fellow writer, John Hudspith. Not to mention writers on the popular YouWriteOn.com and Authonomy review sites pulling it to pieces.

I sent off my manuscript to my publisher, and was sent back a bound copy of A Proper Charlie for a final check and edit.

Here, I was able to see how my finished book would look. But that didn’t stop me from grabbing a red pen and sitting to read the book from start to finish. I didn’t find typos, but I could see where a particular scene wasn’t working. And I thought the end was a little abrupt. I duly corrected the proofs on my computer.

Then Christmas came, and the book was put to one side. In the lull between Christmas and New Year I dusted off my laptop and opened the Charlie file. I went through it all again. And yes, I found yet more things I wanted to change. I realised I was in danger of over editing. I was no longer looking for edits or consistency, but changing scenes and adding or taking away a comma or two.

With hindsight I realised it was a ploy because I didn’t want my book to go! I’m sure other self-pubbers understand my anxiety: We are rubbished before we are read.

“Proper” authors who use a traditional publisher with an agent’s backing, agents and publishing houses believe we are entering the publishing world through the back door and mistrust us.


And so for every typo, we are ridiculed for not being proper writers, and for every error we are pulled up on, we are made to feel inferior for choosing self-publication. For every tiny gaffe we give other self-publishers a bad name (yet, somehow “real” writers who fall short aren’t treated the same).

So you can understand my anxiety in letting Charlie go. 

Well, she’s out there now. I can’t edit it any more. My third book is crying out to be written, and I finally had to cut the apron strings on Charlie and push her out into the cruel world.

Deep down I know she’s ready. She’s funny, bright and lovable, and I’m sure readers, if they give her a chance, will like her too.

Let’s hope so. I don’t want to be “just another self-published writer”.

10 thoughts on “A Self-Published Novel: How do you know when your edits are enough?

  1. Louise allan, and Dan, I haven't changed from YWO. I submitted both stories at the same time. I'm happy with both in different ways.

    YWO took all the stress of loading up the story and cover away, but I still don't have a cover showing on bookseller websites with them. Amzn are quicker, cheaper for the author, but don't have anything in the book saying who published it.But I like having control of the cover and knowing every time someone has purchased the book. Also, you get royalties regularly instead of twice a year.

    Both have their positives, and I loved the quality of both A & UWO books.

    For me, selling and marketing myself seems to work, so at the moment Azn will be a cheaper option as I love giving books away in contests, just to get my name and writing known as I'm an unknown and self published author.

    I must admit though, that Amzn answers emails promptly and even replaced a missing order. That eventually turned up and I paid for the books, but they didn't charge me the delivery as it came after Christmas. Great customer service.

    I will be interesting to see which way sells more copies this year.


  2. Thanks Trish, is that why you changed from YWO to Createspace. I must admit it does sound easy!

    Dan, you say it so well! Totally agree with you about the guilt thing.

    Good luck everyone!


  3. Louise, Amazon give you all the help on CreateSpace to make the cover including picking the size from a template. It was easy as. Then if you don't like it, you can change it to another one. I had a ball playing with all the different ones with different photos. You just upload your manuscript like a photo and Walla, you have a book.

    To buy your own books is cheap at amazon too. and you can edit them as often as you like, but it takes time to go back on for sale when you do that.

    YouWrite was great too, as they did all the hard work, but I like having control over the cover myself for some reason. More choises.

    Dan, since Christmas, I have sold quite a few books. It's hard work marketing and promoting, but I already consider myself successful now. Only four years ago, I didn't know where a comma went. Now I have two published books and five-star reviews. All the kids in my family received one of my books for Christmas, including my eighty-one year old mum. She loves them and so do her friends in the retirement village where she lives.

    Guess what my New Years Resolution was last year? To be published. Well, I did it myself. And this year, I am going to sell heaps of my books and publish at least four more books, myself.

    Good luck to you all. I love self published authors. One girl I know has sold 1000 eBooks since November at $0.99 each. Another sold many more than that. It's all in the networking.

    My book on amazon is a paperback and an eBook, and it's also on Smashwords, which is a must for eBooks, then they can get onto Barnes and Noble.

    Go you self publishers! Christopher Milne was self published and he's a world best selling children’s author.


  4. Incredibly tricky one this. I know exactly what you mean – there should be a term, “self-publisher anxiety” for that deep-seated guilt that gets drilled into us for “daring to do that” – as though we've defaced the Queen's image or something. I spent a long time wanting to prove that I could self-publish as well as a mainstream publisher could publish, but I think it's healthiest of all to ignore the comparisons altogether. We are not “publishers only not quite as good” we are doing something different. We should set the standards we want to achieve, strive with every muscle to meet them, and if we do, consider ourselves to have succeeded.


  5. Louise, that's funny. I do that too. I get a Kick out of it.

    With my book, Star-Crossed Rascals, I thought that cover fitted the story with the stars on the cover, but I also added my own illustration of the rascals too. But with Velvet Ball, I took a photo of the fairy doll that inspired the story. I hung her from a gumtree in my garden and photographed her as that was the first scene in the book. It came out quite well for a cover, so that's what I'll do with my other covers. Use my own photographs.

    I found that to be the fun part, making a book cover, then seeing it on Amazon.


  6. Hi Trish, there is also another novel with that forest background for a cover. Although I think it fits Eden beautifully, YWO's lack of covers made me seek an artist for Charlie. Funny that you noticed it on GR though!

    Good luck with your sequels.

    Alan, I received two professional edits for Charlie, but was still finding things, not wrong, but not right either. Maybe I'm my worse critic? And yes, when I spot a mistake from a “real” book I have to say, “Ha!”.


  7. Hi Louise, I know exactly what you mean. I also self published two children's books just before Christmas. One with YouWrieOn and one with Amazon.

    I also found things I wanted to change after publication, but you have to stop somewhere, or you'd edit forever. My husband is always picking up errors from books that are not self published, so I wouldn't worry if it's just the odd one. It's the story that counts in the end.

    Good luck with yours, I bet you worked really hard on it. I know I did with mine and now I'm writing the sequels to both as well as editing another two books ready to self publish. You know what, Louise? I found you because of your book cover, on Goodreads. LOL. It’s the same as mine. Well, guess what? Great minds think alike. I’m an Aussie, but I was born in Northern England.

    Have a great year and sell lots of those books.



  8. In my experience I don't think you can ever be certain. I read and re-read my book and had ten friends do the same, some of whom are sticklers for grammar and punctuation.
    It wasn't until I saw the published version that some of the errors jumped out. I think that reading a manuscript again and again is necessary but your brain will sometimes accept something the first time and make it invisible on every other reading.
    What is pleasing is that although some reviewers on Amazon mention some of the flaws they quickly point out that they do not detract from the story.
    The only way to iron these out completely is to get professional proof reading, but even then, how many times have you read a book from a 'real publisher' and spotted things that have gone unnoticed?


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