Editing is one of the essentials in the book-creating world. Each book has to be edited carefully by a professional editor—not by the author themselves, nor by a friend who really likes reading. Even editors’ books are edited by other editors. Unfortunately, many self-publishers tend to skip this step to reduce the cost. This is a huge mistake.
Editing is more than just proofreading. Yes, making sure that all the punctuation is correct and all the right letters are capitalised is important, but that comes near the end of the process. The first stage of editing considers your story as a whole:
Does it make sense?
Does it deal with a subject lots of people will want to read about?
Does your tone stay consistent throughout the book?
If your book rhymes, is the meter consistent and easy to follow?
Are your jokes funny?
You probably think you know the answers to all these questions (they’re all yes, right?), but it’s important to have a professional’s opinion on them as well. After all, you’re not the one who’ll be buying your book! You need to make sure it sounds as good to your audience as it does to you. And a professional editor who works with children’s books all the time may know about some issues and trends within the industry that could affect how many books you ultimately sell.
A professionally edited manuscript will make a big difference to your readers, no doubt, and a book people want to read is a book that will sell more copies. But it’s not only that. Editing at the manuscript stage also saves a lot of revision time while creating the book. If you decide to make changes to the story after the illustrations are complete, you’ll have to pay for new illustrations—and there goes that money you saved by not having an editor.
It’s great to start with a perfectly edited, polished, and finished manuscript before you get to the illustration and design process. But with picture books, it’s important to remain open to changes that may come about because of the illustrations. The author may have imagined illustrations and discussed ideas with the illustrator, but when the illustrator reads, he or she thinks in a different way than the author. Most of the time, the pictures say something the words do not say. Illustrations and words should complement each other, not duplicate. If the reader can read the illustration very clearly, there may be no need for the words to say the same thing. Without watching for this, the book can become redundant. So when the storyboard (a preliminary layout of the book, in sketch form) is ready, a bit more editing work (but just a little bit) wouldn’t hurt.
And finally, after all illustration work is completed, and the text has been added to the layout, a final check would be great. Otherwise it’s possible to see a dolphin as a main character of a book which is about a whale. (It’s a true story, but of course not a Tadaa story. We would commit suicide if it was.)
The bottom line is this: yes, it costs money to hire an editor. But it will very likely save you money in production, and the increase in the quality of your book might even boost your sales, so that more people read your book—who could ask for more than that?