How do You Launch Your First Novel if You Can't Afford Professional Editing?

So, I have this really great novel just sitting here on my hard drive. Several of them, in fact. They get rave reviews (storywise) from all readers. In fact, most of the commentary in general is positive,  but they need editing. That’s where the problem arises. Professional editing is expensive, and although, as freelance writers go, “I do alright”, I have eight kids and precious little opportunity to peel off $600-$800 for a thorough edit, which is not an unfair price, so, what’s a writer to do?

I decided to ask some pros.
I suggest that all of you immediately join “writer’s group” on Facebook, it’s the one with over 30k members and it’s a nest of snakes on a good day. There are whackos and wannabes and rude people who think they are a gift from the gods to writing, but that’s not why I think you should do it. Among the writing sites I have frequented through the years, it is the one place where you are likely to meet writers that are actually earning a healthy living with their craft. 

Why does this matter? Because they know what they’re talking about and most of them will share their wisdom without the need for you to sign up for a course that costs a grand. So, I asked around. I have found three or four guys that I can see are legit. They write novels for a living and earn enough to be respectable about it. I asked them what they recommended and while they said straight up to hire a real editor if you can, they also offered the method they used for their very first novel. 

None of them used professional editing the first time!
Turns out that without fail, they used a combination of editing software and critique sites that allow you to trade a bit of your time in critiquing others for some good advice on your writing. I have tried a few, with almost no results, but I finally found one that seems to have a framework that actually works. is a crit site that seems to actually maintain an active community, so I decided to jump into it and I recommend you give it a shot too.
·       The site is well organized and features useful to writers. There are tutorials, and forums, as well as contests in addition to the critiques.
·       The point system is equitable. For 5 points, you can get three point driven critiques, so it’s almost an even trade, since it takes 3-4 critiques to earn that spot.
·       With the free membership you can actually get started and get some free critiques out of it, whereas the free memberships on several other sites have netted me nothing even after actively engaging and waiting for months.
·       The paid membership is reasonably priced at only $9 a month and you can get a lot of critiques for that money, since you are unlimited on the number of points you can earn and the number of pieces you can have up for critique at a time.
The critiques I have gotten have been thoughtful and helpful so far.
I’m just getting started, so, I have gotten three critiques on my first chapter at this point, but there are several things that all three critiques have pointed out. I can also follow up on the critiquer’s writing on the site to see what their skill level is, allowing me to determine how much credence to place on their opinions.
Here’s my plan from this point forward
I intend to launch every chapter of my book this way, to get the bulk of the editing out of the way. Then, I’ll probably hire a proof reader, once everything in the story and flow is working. While it won’t completely eliminate the cost, it will reduce it tremendously, and give me several opinions to confirm that my writing is good. The general consensus of the pros I consulted, is that this is a good way to get your first book out and making money. Then, they were able to reinvest some of their royalties to hire professional editing for their second book and so forth.


  1. Hi Mark,

    Congratulations on publishing "Jacked". I just downloaded it. I'm new to and am hoping you will report more on your experience with it. Chapter 2 (1st revision) of "Jacked" was my second foray into critiquing there. I'm an experienced reader of sci-fi, but have not written anything of publishing quality yet.



    1. Thanks for the comment. Hope you enjoyed the book. Part two is supposed to be out tomorrow, we shall see.


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