After spending some money to have a fantastic book cover, the second thing a self-published author should now worry about is getting the book professionally edited. And I mean, professionally. This is not your mom, your husband, or your best friend. These people have your best interests at heart, and they do not want to hurt your feelings. I would not want to tell my best friend that her book sucks and potentially risk the friendship. But if I was a professional editor, I would have no problem doing this for a client. Of course, I wouldn’t use the term “suck.” I would tell her what to work on, how to improve, and what to rewrite.
The people you ask to look at your book might have passed high school English and maybe even taken some classes in college, but they are not professionals. Professionals are those who have an extensive collection of grammar books, actually enjoy obsessing over usage issues, know the little particularities of language that others get wrong, have edited a couple of books in the past, and charge a decent amount so that they can make a reasonable living at their profession. Yes, it might cost more money to hire a professional editor than it would to have someone you know look over it, but it’s worth it.
In the past, I worked for a self-publishing book company. Some of the books were well written and just needed a few tweaks, but others were horrendous and in my opinion, not publishable. Some of them did not make sense as I was reading them. In one, I had to write down each character and details because the author kept confusing the characters. Some of the story lines were hard to follow or would be so random that there was no point of that scene being in the story. One author forgot the main character’s name and switched it mid-book. Some of the characters also did unrealistic things such as a police officer who found a crime scene and just left it, without calling for back up and for someone to help investigate. While he left, this gave the criminal time to come back and burn down the house to hide the evidence! How ridiculous.
Other books that I edited sounded like a third-grader had written it. It needed to be completely rewritten, and it should not have been published until the author took a couple of writing classes or spent significant time with suggestions on how to make it better. I also came across well written books that needed a lot of help with the grammar, spelling, and mechanics. You would not believe how many times in one page I had to correct something.
Even if you think you don’t need a professional editor, get one anyway. Everyone needs an editor, even professional editors at times. Spend the money so you have a professional book that people will read instead of getting annoyed with because of the poor writing or errors. I recently came across a book that had been edited by the author’s wife. There were probably about three to four errors on each page, and I became irritated and stopped reading. You don’t want this to happen to your book.
And even if you are getting your book published traditionally, I would still have a freelance editor look at it for improvements before submitting it to the book publisher. It should be free of grammar and usage errors. You will want to submit the best work you can. The book publisher or agent will work with you for bigger issues and for fine tuning.