My book project Perfect Bound: How to Publish a High-Quality Book That Sells (previously Manuscript to Book: How to Avoid the Potholes on the Road to Publication) has recently undergone a major shakeup. That is part and parcel for the manuscript development stage. It’s an exciting time! After taking the book apart and putting it back together in a new format, I now have a structure that is tight, dynamic, and compelling.
How did this happen?
After some consideration, I decided to enlist the help of beta readers. I could have hired a developmental editor and saved time. However, by using beta readers, I was able to save a fair amount of money. I felt this was the right option for me because I knew most of the pieces of the book were in good shape. As an editor and practiced workshop leader, I had a firm grasp on how I wanted to present my information, but I also wanted to hear from my target audience, others not so familiar with the publishing world, and someone who could vet my information. I found four people who fit those varied roles.
From all four beta readers I received excellent feedback on the quality of the information and the writing. Mostly the organization was also well liked. There were a couple of glitches — too many cross-references, a bit dense in parts — but nothing that required a full rewrite. And then one of the reviewers gave me the bad news: “This book needs a tighter focus.” That is one of the key evaluations that manuscript development entails and it is something that can’t be accomplished with a few recast sentences.
It was tough to hear, but if I was honest with myself, all of the criticisms were problems I had noticed at one point or another but had brushed aside. Now I needed to figure out a way to solve them.
How can I move forward?
After rereading my beta readers’ notes, I realized that by satisfying the larger criticism about focus, I could also resolve the minor points that were irking the other readers. I was invigorated by the prospect of making a better, more dynamic book and couldn’t wait to get started.
As part of my revisions, I shuffled and combined chapters, cut material that was too dense for the book I wanted to write, and avoided the numerous cross-references by placing like with like. The result: Eight chapters that describe the complete book production process, from deciding your route to publication all the way to printing and e-book conversion. Each chapter also contains a subchapter highlighting the relevant potholes that so often send a good book idea skidding off the road at that stage. Throughout the book, interviews with published authors and other industry professionals keep the book grounded with real-world advice. The new format is focused, compelling, and easy to read.
I continue to revise the manuscript to ensure I have resolved the types of problems that can arise after a major shakeup. Issues of flow, incomplete information, and duplicate material are all under scrutiny. When I have completed this revision, I will be ready to move on to copyediting.
Like this blog? Look for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, coming Fall 2014