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What’s the difference between an #indie editor, and an #editor from a #publishing house?

By 11/11/2014March 13th, 2016Uncategorized, writing
Writing, notebook, blogging

Writing, editing

I’ve been speaking about indie authors— and if women outnumber men in the self-publishing world. This made me wonder about the difference between indie and trad publishing, and while browsing, I found an article by Roz Morris that piqued my interest:

When you self-publish, you choose the editor who most closely suits
your style and vision. There’s a lot more room for you to be daring and
different, if that’s what you want. An indie editor will discuss what
you want the book to be. Or they can help you find it. They won’t try to
force you in a direction. They will help you come into your own.

She also goes on to say:

But this is another reason why indie publishing, at its most careful
and respectful, is more likely to produce genuinely original books.
Traditional publishing will edit a book for the good of a defined
clientele. Sometimes everyone is happy, of course. But in a traditional
publisher the priority is the company interest, not the author or the
book. I’ve seen enough occasions when this created a ghastly compromise.

Indeed, readers are far more adventurous than publishers can
accommodate. The reader couldn’t define for you what they want; they
know it when a skilled author invents it.

That last bit made me think. I know I’ll be in the market for an editor soon, and I’m wondering about the pros and cons of hiring an indie editor.

Do you have any experience with indie editors? Have you ever worked with an editor at a publishing house? Would you like to weigh in on this?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damiyanti, I only just got the notification that you’d quoted my post. Thank you for sharing it with your readers! I’ve now subscribed to you too.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for the follow, Roz! I love your work, and follow your posts on your blog and FB.

  • Stay true to yourself and your words. Good editors don't hack books, they improve them. I'm of the belief that there are good and bad editors in both traditional and indie publishing. The goal is to find the best editor for the specific book. It's not a one size fits all, because editors are people and people have their own ideas. Authors need to find editors who help them become better authors, and editors need to choose clients who help them become better editors. Communication is vitally important on both sides of this fence.

    • D Biswas says:

      Absolutely, Teresa. I think chemistry is vitally important for an author, whether it is with an editor, or an agent.

  • The difference is there and you are fight trad publication does compromise a lot of things.
    All the best for your book. If you need any help or a blog tour, do let me know.
    Hope you find your Editor.

  • Very true. Someone doesn't know they want something until it exists as an option. Big Industries were once certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that people would not want a computer in their home. It would NEVER be marketable. The very notion was absurd.
    People who went with their gut and said, "well, I'm gonna make it anyway, and we'll see what happens" are now among the world's wealthiest and most famous.
    That's the gift that indie gives the world. Creative people being far less restricted. That's where greatness is born.

  • rsagarcia says:

    My indie editor at Dragonwell Publishing was Australian, tough and the best thing that happened to my book. Her name is Edwina Harvey, and unlike most editors she's actually qualified and has had a hand in award-winning speculative fiction magazines. I know you don't write speculative fiction, but I think she's the kind of editor that can assist in any genre. She didn't try to change my book–only made it better. So yes, I think indie editors are far more interested in making your book good than in making a certain kind of book. She takes on separate projects, so if you're interested in her, you can check out her website:

  • I've worked with numerous editors from different publishing houses. Some I've loved. Some I felt made my story better and one made me want to reach through my computer and punch someone. I'm not with that publisher any more. I feel like the three publishers I work with right now really want my career to do well, not just make money on my books. But I know they also want to make money. Because I'm not paying them, I feel like they won't even tell me what I want to hear rather than what I need to hear.

    • D Biswas says:

      Susan, the very fact that you work with three publishers means that you have good, open relationships. I have had friends fall prey to publishers who made them sign binding, unfair contracts.

  • I've worked with two indie publishers: Double Dragon & Solstice Publishing. Both employ their own editors. However, they are usually rather inexperienced and often of no use at all in my experience. When I finish writing a novel and am happy with what I've written, I submit it to a critique group one chapter a week. In return, I critique other writer's work. I'ts a process beneficial to us all. The Internet Writers Workshop is free to join. It takes about 6 months from start to finish, but my writing has improved tremendously, and other writers have pointed out things I wouldn't have considered.

    • D Biswas says:

      I'm looking to find just such a crit group– it will be a long, trial and error process, but I'm convinced it is one of the things I need.

  • Susan Scott says:

    Hi Damyanti,

    my co-author (who was visiting from the States to here in South Africa) and I recently met with an independent editor with masses of experience behind her – she's been highly successful in the publishing business but is now an independent editor. It was a costly hour and a half but well worth it. She'd received by email and read the first 3 chapters so was armed when she met us … she gave extremely good advice for our planned ebook – even though she suggested a re-write to bring in 'tension'.

  • Morgan says:

    How interesting. I've never thought of there being a difference between an indie editor and a bigger house editor–as far as editing and content. But, I can see that. What an insightful post. 🙂

    • D Biswas says:

      Thank you Morgan– whenever something new strikes me, I try to bring it to my blog– I learn a lot more on the subject that way. 🙂

  • Birgit says:

    I never thought about the editor but you raise an excellent question. I would think an editor at an established place will go by what is needed to sell and not go by your unique way of the book but I really am just talking from my gut here

  • Andrew Leon says:

    The problem with hiring an editor is that the vast majority of them out there, especially the affordable ones, think they are are qualified simply because they read a lot.

    • D Biswas says:

      Andrew, I hear you on the quality of indie editors. But just like Indie authors, Indie authors come in different stripes. I've heard pretty good things about some of them.

  • I'm a freelance editor. My clients range from new writers to bestselling authors like Roni Loren and Rebecca Hamilton. I work with writers seeking traditional publishing and indie authors. Here's my website:

    Lynnette Labelle

    • I don't know why there are extra spaces in my post. I've tried to correct this, but it doesn't show up this way when I preview it. Strange.

    • D Biswas says:

      Thanks for leaving us your contact, Lynette. Would you like to do a guest post to talk about your editing journey and the kind of services you offer?

  • I was sponsored in an Indie magazine online and was wondering if being published in an online magazine can be considered as a publishing credit. I know it's not an actual book or magazine per say but the public does have the opportunity to read said work. It would be nice to be able to say I have been published, especially since it didn't cost me anything.

    • D Biswas says:

      Harold, I've been published by indie publishers, and most journals these days are small efforts, and start as indie organizations. I'd say you're published. Of course, you'll keep submitting and get published in other places too! Good luck!

  • This is a very interesting post. It contains useful information as I wasn't aware of some of the editorial differences.

  • I think editors at smaller publishers also give a little more leeway. That's been my experience working with mine anyway.

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