Is Crowd-Sourced Editing the Future of Self-Publishing?

Crowdsourced Editing: The Future of Self-Publishing?

Sites like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and other “crowd-funding” platforms have been all the rage lately.

Without ever leaving your home, you can tap into your networks of friends, family, and followers, and raise startup capital for things like your fantasy board game idea, a local food truck, and even an initial print run of your fan-fiction book release.

It’s a crazy concept, but one that’s been wildly successful for many people.

Could the next logical step be “crowdsourced” work?

Specifically, could we, as authors, tap into these same networks for help with the more mundane and time-consuming (and expensive) tasks like cover design, book layout, and editing?

I decided to put this question to the test, in at least a small way:

After I finished my second and third drafts of my thriller novel The Golden Crystal, I let it sit for a few months while I sought out the perfect professional editor to take my mess and make it a masterpiece.

It turned out that editors are expensive.

I didn’t have the few thousand plus it would take to get even a general proofread, so I threw my hands up in despair—my book would need to be released as is, without that final polish.

However, two things then happened:

1. I got an offer from a reader of my blog to edit the novel—saving me thousands of dollars.

2. I thought about my growing newsletter/mailing list, at the time around 2,500 subscribers.

In the former case, we worked out a deal, and the project began. In the latter case, I decided to submit my book for “peer review” using the very network I’d been building for a year.

Fast forward another year, and the book is finished.

It was edited extremely well by this aspiring editor, carefully, thoughtfully, and expertly. I was more than happy with the result, and I know the book is significantly better because of it.

The other half of the story is this:

When the book was finished being edited, I sent an email to the mailing list with the book attached, and asking these questions:

Would you be willing/able to read and review my upcoming thriller? And if you feel compelled, would you want to leave an honest review* on Amazon or Goodreads afterwards?

The results were wonderful—over 200 people downloaded and (hopefully!) read the book, and I got many emails thanking me and mentioning that they liked the book.

There were also more than a few emails of a different strain: readers had found typos here and there, missing words, repetitive phrases, etc. These emails asked if I would like to hear about these things or if it was out of line.

My response to them was the same each time: “Of course I want to hear about them! If you’re happy to send them, I’m more than happy to address them!”Through these email chains and comments, I was able to have a “second-pass” edit of the manuscript, filling minor holes and catching the tiniest of errors—overall making my book that much better.

What a novel idea (pun intended).

Is this is the future of self-publishing?

Is this the direction we’re heading?

What if this “crowdsourced” editing strategy was extrapolated and used on a larger scale?

Rather than soliciting for reviews, what if authors simply asked for help from a large base of readers who would love to be included in the process, or better—included in the acknowledgements section or thanked personally somehow?

While these are mostly rhetorical questions, imagine—as an author—what it would be like to have your book vetted, critiqued, and improved upon by thousands of readers simultaneously, rather than by a handful at a time through surveys or beta reader critique groups?

I know from experience that this process would have two major effects:

1. My book would drastically improve.

2. My ego would be tested, and I would learn grace and humility.

Both of these outcomes, in my opinion, are desirable. There are, however, a few caveats with this idea as well.

First, “crowdsourced” editing, at least on the individual level, probably will never be as high-quality as a trained professional. Things will be missed, left out, not expressed well enough to the author, etc. But that’s the power of crowd sourcing—through numerous iterations and near countless individuals, you’ll probably get a lot out of the process and make a large dent in your book’s editing needs.

Second, it can get messy. Imagine 200 people reading through a 1,000-word first draft and sending you emails about each typo, grammatical error, and inconsistency they find. Aside from “editor opinion” and “usage-led” grammarians, getting 200 emails about “hey, you misspelled this word” can be annoying.

Finally, there’s the issue of “losing buyers.” If your mailing list, network, or Facebook page has 500 likes, subscribers, or whatever, and you decide to send them all the book for free, there’s a significant chance you’re cutting down the number of people who will be inclined to buy said book when it’s finished. Why pay for something you’ve already received for free?

I’m sure there’s more I’m missing, but this is a good start.

If you haven’t heard of crowdsourcing, or haven’t looked into it, it’s worth noting that it’s not a new idea—nor is the idea of crowdsourced editing. It hasn’t been widely adopted as a viable alternative to “traditional” editing, as far as I can tell, but that could be due to the concerns expressed earlier or something else entirely.

I’d be willing to bet that if an enterprising young company or developer wanted to set up a dedicated “crowdsourced editing” hotspot online, we’d very quickly have some more data. It could be the wave of the future . . . or it could very well be just a fantastical idea not worthy of seeing the light of day.

At Turtleshell Press, we’re working to build some of these ideas into our service lineup. It’s not ready yet, but you can sign up to get first access when it is.

What do you think about all of this? What ideas do you have for improving the speed, quality, and accuracy of the writing process, while possibly lowering the cost of rather expensive services?

Leave a comment and let us know!*Asking for the review in this way was crucial—I didn’t want to “solicit” reviews or imply that I expected only 4- and 5-star reviews. If you ask for help in this way, I recommend using something like this as a template.

Tell me your opinion: Do you think crowdsourced editing could become a valuable resource for authors?

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

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About Nick Thacker

Nick Thacker is a writer, blogger, and marketer who blogs about self-publishing at LiveHacked. He also has a completely free 20-week course that helps people write a novel, and has recently released his first thriller The Golden Crystal available on Amazon.


  1. Hello everyone, I am a newbie here and to writing. I love all of the great advice and information that is shared and gained here! I have a question related to this post. If anyone can offer me some advice it would be greatly appreciated. Are there any other options for finding critique partners that are trustworthy?

  2. I just got done reading your article, and really enjoyed it, thank you. You can see some fun self-published books at where they are in paperback, digital and audio also now. all of them are indie and self published, any questions or help, please ask me, I do this full time and would love to help anyone that needs help or advice, thank you, Vince Stead.


  1. […] recommend reaching into your community to crowdsource the editing, feedback, and other support your ebook needs, but if you have the funds and prefer to hire, try […]

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