Finding work with self-publishing authors

September 22, 2019 By The Editors at Copyediting
Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

Fewer copyeditors still work in traditional publishing. Newspapers and trade book publishers, once our biggest employers, are laying off copyeditors by the dozens.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any work for copyeditors. We just have different opportunities than we’re used to.

The upcoming issue of the Copyediting newsletter covers two big opportunities for copyeditors: editing web copy and editing copy for writers whose second language is English. Today’s Tip covers a third big opportunity for copyeditors: editing for self-publishing authors.

Because job boards tend to charge the employer to advertise, most self-publishing authors won’t advertise their jobs on them. Instead, they’ll search for an editor.

Your job is to ensure you can be found.

Get Listed in Directories

Start with getting listed in publishing-related directories. Authors ready to hire will check out directories of editors and other publishing professionals. Organizations to consider becoming part of include the Editorial Freelancers Association, Freelancers Union, and Editors Association of Canada.

Sites that provide authors with hiring or publishing advice as well, such as The Bay Area Editors Forum, are good choices. Such sites work to educate authors, which helps build trust with those authors, a trust that can be transferred to you.

Write your directory listing specifically for the type of authors you’re trying to attract, and give them several ways to contact you. If you have a website (and you should), list it.

Hobnob with Authors

Participate in writers organizations and forums that you qualify for. Get to know other participants, and build positive relationships. We all know how important a good author-editor relationship is. It’s even more important with self-publishing authors, because you will likely be the first person to read their work. Start building the necessary trust before they need you.

If you can afford it, place ads in writers’ publications. Smaller newsletters tend to have more reasonable rates and fewer ads, allowing you to stand out more. I’ve advertised in the newsletter of a regional writers group and received several calls from it. It’s been well worth the money spent.

When you can, attend live events to get to know other members in person—and don’t forget to bring your business cards. Most of the self-publishing authors I’ve worked with like the personal touch. If we haven’t met in person, we’ve chatted frequently by phone and email. offers a long list of writing communities you can research. The key is getting in front of your audience and getting to know them.

Work for a Publishing Service

You may consider editing for a publishing service, especially if you don’t have any experience in editing books or don’t have enough contacts yet. But you need to know two things.

First, you will be paid peanuts and work under a tight deadline. If that’s acceptable to gain experience, go for it. Someone has to do it.

Second, many of these services have questionable business practices, not clarifying what they actually do for the money they charge or doing a poor job of it. I’ve cleaned up manuscripts that were edited by these services. These services are in the business to make money (naturally), and don’t always put what’s best for the book or the author first.

Check out Choosing a Self Publishing Service 2013: The Alliance of Independent Authors Guide by Orna Ross, Ben Galley, and Mick Rooney for details on how self-publishing works and the pitfalls to watch out for. Also check out WinePress Publishing’s white paper on self-publishing for a clear explanation of why, despite some disreputable companies, an author would still want to hire a publishing company to design, edit, or publish their book.

This article was originally posted on the Copyediting website on July 23, 2013.

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