How to Edit a Book for Free

Congratulations! You’ve written a book. You actually think it might be good enough to publish, but now it needs everything else. And the more you read about self-publishing, the more money you picture flying out of your hands. See my self-publishing checklist on those steps.

Sadly, of all the steps taken till publishing day, editing can cost the most because of how long an editor has to spend reading and correcting. Just to read a book without doing any work on it can take five to eight hours.

Let me make one thing clear — to say you don’t care enough about your book if you don’t spend money on editing it is crazy. With things as they are today, it’s a miracle you finished your book at all. No shame on you for trying to make your book perfect for free. At. All.

So here are six tips on how to make your writing as error free as possible. (If you’re still not happy with it after following all ten steps, come back and slide the old credit card for a great editing experience with me. 😊)

1.    Self Edit

Take a break from your book for at least four weeks to clear your head and wash away the emotional ties to it. Then print it out — both sides of the page in a font size that’s easy on the eyes. Grab a red pen and read it out loud to yourself slowly, underlining anything that sounds off and any spellings you need to check. Add in missing periods, commas, and quotation marks. Then update your digital doc with the edits.

2.    Self Edit with a Read-Aloud Feature

You can catch a lot when you have your book read aloud to you because you can’t speed-read or skip over certain parts. Try the free Microsoft Word Speak command or Apple’s Text to Speech or Adobe Acrobat’s Read Out Loud feature and keep your notepad handy.

3.    Ask Friends to Edit

Think of your three most nitpicky, opinionated friends or associates and ask them if they would be interested in looking for mistakes in your book. Some people get a genuine thrill from finding things wrong and fixing them. But … no matter what they say, don’t assume their corrections are right. I had one client call me in tears after a “friend” bought her book just so she could find errors, and while she found one missing period, all other 30 “mistakes” were actually not errors at all. Basically, the friend was wrong 30 out of 31 times. Take all corrections with a grain of salt.

4.    Edit with Editing Software

A lot of people swear by Grammarly. I hate it, to be honest. While it is good at finding plagiarism, it corrects adverbs and passive sentences to where the ending doc sounds like it was written by a robot. It strips your fiction of a lot of its flow and tone. If you have it, use it and just correct the periods, commas, and capital letters and duct tape Grammarly’s mouth on everything else. I love PerfectIt though. It focuses on what editing should be about — grammar — and it does a darned good job of finding stuff you’ve missed. I use it once I’ve finished editing for a client to make sure I caught everything.

5.    Edit by Beta Readers

This is when you think the editing is acceptable but you want to make sure the public thinks so too. Free beta readers can be found in writers’ groups. Join a few on Facebook and see what they say about your book. You might get super lucky and find a wannabe editor who will do it for free if she/he can use your review for her portfolio.

6.    Publish It Anyway

NEVER do this! You can ruin all credibility by publishing a book full of mistakes, and if it’s really bad, readers will warn off others from reading your future books as well. While many authors publish books too soon, this is not a time to rush things. Do it right. The only one in a hurry is you, and if your book is a great read, anytime over the next ten years is a good time to publish.

A professional book editor will charge about 2c to 3c per word for a full edit and about 1c per word for a proof. As I’ve said earlier, it’s a lot, but my own recommendation is to do everything I’ve said above so that by the time it gets to a pro, all she/he needs to do is a proof because it looks so good already = half the cost.

Good luck!