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”.