If you are self-publishing a book for personal reasons then obviously self-editing will suffice, but if your goal is to be taken seriously then you will definitely need editorial services. Having your book stand out amid the myriad of self-published ones is already an uphill battle. Quality editing is one more step you can take that will help propel your book to the top. People that edit books for a living are accustomed to spotting mistakes in manuscripts while you, on the other hand, are not only biased towards your book, but also somewhat jaded due to overexposure.
Generally, there should be four rounds of edits for your book. The first round will be performed by you. One tip to improve the effectiveness of your editing would be to put the manuscript aside for a month before you start editing. This will allow you to achieve some degree of separation so that you can return to the book with a fresh perspective.
Another great tip for self-editing is to edit your manuscript in print form. This is easier on the eyes, and since you have likely been writing the book on a computer, the printed version will help you view your writing with a different mindset.
While we are still discussing the first round of self-editing, another helpful point you might consider is to join a writing group. This is a great way to get helpful feedback. You may not find someone willing to perform a thorough edit on the entire manuscript but at least you can get some fellow writers to provide some advice on structure and flow at the macro level.
The second round of editing will be performed by someone close to you, like a friend or family member. Let it be known that you want an honest opinion and that they should not spare your feelings. The second pair of eyes is necessary to catch any mistakes you may have overlooked. If this friend is also a writer, possibly a member of the writers' group you joined, then even better.
The third round of editing will be performed by a professional structural editor. This type of editor will evaluate factors such as theme, plot, point of view and characterization. Their experience with what constitutes a story worthy of being traditionally published will be exactly what you need to take your independent book to that next level of quality.
The fourth round of editing will be done by a professional copy and proof editor. This type of editor will check your book for issues such as grammar, spelling and punctuation. Hopefully your first two rounds of editing will have caught most of those mistakes. Since most editors charge by the hour, your previous diligence should ease the workload on the copy and proof editor and subsequently lower the cost as well.
If your primary goal as an author is to make a career of writing and to be taken seriously then you must edit your independently published book to the same standards as a traditionally published one. It’s that simple. I have heard some authors contradict this opinion based on the fact that even professionally edited books contain mistakes. This is because it is almost impossible to find every minor flaw. However, this very small margin for error is deemed acceptable by major publishing houses. If four rounds of editing did not spot the mistakes, then it is unlikely that readers will either.
Poor editing can have a profound effect on sales. It won’t take long before the unprofessional aspects of your book are pointed out in reviews. Good reviews have been shown to carry a lot of weight with shoppers. Any step you can take to increase the number of good reviews is definitely worth the effort.
A traditionally published book can take up to a year to get into print and this is mainly because of editing. After all the hard work you put into your book, it is better to err on the side of caution than leave anything to chance. The devil is in the details. So go ahead and take that final step of having your book professionally edited.