Would You Take Back a Manuscript Before Your Editor Finished Working on It?

Several times throughout my freelance career, I have had reason to suggest an author take back a manuscript and work on it some more before I continue with my editing. The reactions I have received run the gamut.

The first time this came up, I had been hired for a developmental edit and project management. I had done plenty of project management but was new to manuscript development, and it wasn’t until I had put in about 10 hours of work that I realized the project really amounted to a ghostwriting assignment.

WorriedGhostwriting costs a lot of money for a number of reasons, the two most obvious being it takes a lot of skill and it takes a lot of time. It definitely costs more than development. With my client’s pocketbook in mind, I suggested he take back the manuscript, do some work to transform what had been a transcript into a narrative, and then come back to me for editing. Even though I was confident this was a better tack for the author, I was nervous to make the suggestion because it meant changing the terms of our agreement. It turns out I was right to be nervous: the client was irate.

Although I did my best to explain what my motivations were, the client felt I must somehow be trying to get out of the work I had agreed to do and make him do it. In his mind I was running a scam to get more money out of him. The funny thing is, if I had been crooked, I would have kept my mouth shut, racked up a bunch of hours doing shoddy work, and returned a manuscript that was passable but not good. If he hadn’t been so angry, he would have seen that what I was suggesting would save him time and money because I wouldn’t have to query every sentence I wrote and I wouldn’t have to charge him for ghostwriting when he had hired me for development. His fear of being taken advantage of prevented him from reacting in a rational manner.

That project petered out, not because of this encounter — after 30 minutes of heated discussion the client finally understood what I was suggesting and why — but because the author simply stopped returning the edited/ghostwritten chapters. He found out writing a book is more work than he first thought.

That experience left me gun-shy, but a few years later, I again determined it would be in my client’s best interest for me to return the manuscript for revision before continuing with the editing. I had made significant, large-scale changes to the first two chapters and suggested the client apply some of the basic principles of good writing that I had highlighted. This time, the client agreed. I was thrilled. We worked out a new table of contents and a new framing for the story; the author was completely on board. I knew execution was going to be the critical point, but I crossed my fingers and marked my calendar for four weeks out, when I expected to receive the revised manuscript.

Surprise! One week later the author returned the entire 400-page manuscript, “fully revised.” To her credit, she had made some of the most important structural changes. However, the writing was not improved. Whereas some authors will see the kinds of changes I have made and apply them to the rest of the book, effectively learning something about what makes a strong sentence and what their crutches are, this author was unable to take advantage of the same opportunity. Alas, editing proceeded but the book was never as good as it could have been.

Not too long ago, I once again offered to return a manuscript for revision before I completed the editing. As always, I did this with a little trepidation. I know my motivation is with the author’s best interests, but I also realize it may be insulting to have someone say your book needs so much work, you should just take the whole thing back. The impression that somehow I am shirking my duty as editor is another factor that fuels my fear. But this client and I had a history, so I decided to take the chance.

CooperationThis time, there was no need for fear or insecurity. The client felt no threat and understood exactly where I was coming from. Yet, he passed up the opportunity for one more revision. In this case, he had his hands full with other projects and felt confident enough in what he had submitted and in my ability to improve it. For him, the time and money he was spending on editing fit his schedule and budget. Although I felt he could have improved the book in ways I couldn’t — and if he made some of the more basic revisions, then I could focus on other aspects of storytelling — in the end the project proceeded as scheduled. I respected my client’s decision, but I did feel he could have made a more powerful book with one more thorough revision.

I have also worked with authors who are willing to take my challenge, and the results can be astounding. In one instance when I was hired for a copyedit, before I had finished my first pass through the manuscript, it was clear the book really required development first. (For a discussion of the differences, see Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief.) I wrote the author and explained what I had found: time line problems, inconsistent characterization, and a weak ending, among other issues. I provided detailed notes about what the problems were and how I thought he might fix them. He agreed to do a full revision based on my comments.

A month or so later, the client returned his revised manuscript. Having already experienced authors who did not employ any of my suggestions or make alternative changes to solve the problems I had highlighted, I did not know what to expect. What I discovered on reading the new manuscript was thrilling. A full revision, with time line problems addressed, characterization strengthened, and — what’s this? — a completely reimagined ending for the novel. Better than simply making the changes I suggested, he had taken my guidance into consideration, played with it for a while, and come up with something all his own. Now this was a work both the author and I could be proud of!

So what would you do if your editor, partway through a project, suggested you take back the manuscript, perform a thorough revision, and resubmit it? Would you assume you were being scammed? Would you stick to what you had and let the editor do his or her best with it? Or would you take up the challenge, approach the project with renewed vigor, and take your manuscript to the next level?

In each of these instances, I suggested the author thoroughly revise his or her manuscript before continuing with editing in order to achieve the most efficient use of the client’s time and money — and to some extent, my time as well — in pursuit of the best product. I know that often, if the author does more work, then he or she will have to pay me less. The line will never reach zero, but many writers can save significant amounts of money and achieve much higher quality if they are willing to revise their manuscripts under the guidance of a professional editor. Some writers are astute enough to capitalize on this opportunity. I hope that more will do so in the future.

Perfect BoundLike this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

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The Ban on Adverbs

DandelionsWhen I first got involved in the writing side of the publishing industry, in 2012, I soon heard a mantra of sorts: Never Use Adverbs. Having been an editor for a dozen years before that, it struck me as one of the most arbitrary and useless rules I’d heard. Today, I at least understand how the ban on adverbs got started, even if I don’t agree with it.

What’s interesting to me is that many of the so-called rules that some novelists live by are not the same rules as those their editors profess. In fact, they are often at odds with each other. A writer might say, “Never start a sentence with a conjunction.” An editor will say, “That rule has gone by the wayside, and thank goodness. Clarity is more important.”

The uncompromising ban on adverbs is another such rule that editors are unlikely to support. It is famously summed up in a quote from the author of On Writing:

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. —Stephen King

He goes on to liken adverbs to dandelions, saying one is pretty but soon your lawn is taken over by them, so you must get rid of all of them.

And that right there is the problem. We cannot rid our writing of an entire category of words. We can use them sparingly, because one is pretty but a hundred are not; however, there is no reason to give them up entirely. It isn’t even possible to achieve. (Full disclosure: I once gave my mother a bouquet of dandelions. She loved it.)

Now that I have edited more new writers and seen just what a field of dandelions an author is able to grow, I understand the temptation to throw them all out and just say no, don’t use adverbs. Some writers sprinkle every sentence with two or three adverbs when the sentence would be stronger without even one.

Quickly rounding the bend and hurriedly entering the dining room, I found the decorator busily arranging the centerpiece on the beautifully laid table.

It’s easier to live by an all-or-nothing rule and cut all adverbs always. But easier isn’t always better. I have seen several manuscripts in which the author bent over backward to avoid an adverb and it left me scratching my head.

I rounded the bend at a fast pace and entered the dining room in a hurry to find the decorator arranging the centerpiece at a fast clip on the table laid with beautiful decorations.

To me, moderation is key to all things in life — even adverbs. Adverbs help writers to express how someone is feeling or the manner in which an action was done. They intensify adjectives and tell readers when and where an event took place. Yes, weak adverbs abound, but they aren’t all weak. Some are tantalizing. And even the weak ones can be useful at times.

I sped around the bend and entered the dining room to find the decorator hastily arranging the centerpieces. The decorations were lovely. Beautiful in fact.

So cut your adverbs freely, make sure that each one has earned its place in your writing, but please, do not weed them all out. Writing benefits from diversity and decoration. A ban on adverbs eliminates that.

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettLike this blog? Find more advice and insights in the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Left Bank Books, and other fine retailers

Beta Readers Aren’t Editors; Editors Aren’t Beta Readers

If you have spent any time in the writing community over the past five to ten years, you’ve probably heard about beta readers. These are unpaid people who read your manuscript and give you feedback. The type, quality, and extent of feedback you receive depends on the readers you have enlisted to help you. Editors, of course, are professionally trained and educated to correct a wide range of problems in a manuscript to get it ready for publication. Although beta readers can greatly enhance the revision process, they do not replace editors. Similarly, an editor should not be thought of as a paid beta reader.

Beta Readers Are Not Beta BitsEditors

The feedback you get from your beta readers can be hugely helpful for identifying and resolving problems with plot, characterization, pacing, or a weak argument. These readers give you the opportunity to share your work and find out how it strikes the average reader. They do not usually make the corrections the way an editor will, but rather offer suggestions for you to implement. When you choose your readers, I recommend finding a range of people with differing skills and backgrounds so that you get a well-rounded view of your manuscript.

There are a number of sources for finding beta readers — critique groups, colleagues, writing partners, people you connect with via Goodreads or a Facebook group, among other places. Each will have something different to offer, and you will need to assess and evaluate their critiques individually to determine what feedback to accept and what to reject. These people are not professionals; they are simply giving you their opinions as to how you can improve your writing.

Some authors think that if they get enough beta readers, they can skip editing. This is generally not true. In the case of really good readers and a talented writer, the beta-reading stage can lessen or eliminate the need for a developmental editor. As mentioned, beta readers may uncover big-picture issues such as an inconsistent timeline, poor pacing, poor organization, or unrelateable characters, and the author may be able to address and resolve these problems on their own.

However, unless one of your readers is a professional editor who has done a complete line edit on your manuscript, you will still need a copyeditor at some point. If you find a publisher, the publisher may take care of the copyediting; if you self-publish, you will need to arrange the editing yourself. (For guidance on how to do this without getting taken, see my series of posts How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps.)

Employing beta readers in your writing journey is an excellent idea that can save you time and money. It is essential, however, that you know the limits of what such readers can do for your manuscript.

red penEditors Are Not Beta Readers

One major benefit beta readers do offer is a fresh set of eyes when a  writer feels she has taken the manuscript as far as she can on her own. Perhaps this is why some authors seem to think of their editor as a paid beta reader. Again, that is incorrect and may lead to problems.

In most cases, an editor should not be the first person you share your work with. You can go that route, but you can likely save yourself some money — potentially, a lot of money — if you get the outside, free opinion of beta readers first. Find out what average readers think and get the manuscript nailed down as much as possible on your own before investing in editing. Editing is expensive, and the more refinement you do on your own, the less you will have to pay someone else to do. (Read this article for more thoughts on this topic.)

Beyond that, working with an editor is different from working with beta readers. For instance, editors need a certain level of understanding about what it is you are trying to achieve with your book so that they can help you achieve it. Whereas you may want your beta readers to approach the manuscript with no preconceived notions, editing is more efficient — and better — when there aren’t a lot of surprises. So if your book has a twist at the end and you aren’t sure it’s working, you will get to the solution faster if you tell your editor what you suspect. It means revealing the twist, but that’s OK. If you aren’t sure it’s working, your editor can keep that in mind while she reads. If she agrees, she can then let you know why it isn’t working and how to improve it.

In addition, the corrections and suggested changes you receive from your editor deserve more weight than those of a traditional beta reader.  With both editors and beta readers, you as the author have to decide whether the changes further your vision for the book. However, professional editors have years of experience and training in their field, and if they see a problem, it’s likely other readers will too. If they have changed your grammar, punctuation, and syntax, it likely was incorrect. If they have suggested ways to strengthen your argument, you likely need to address that problem.

That does not mean you need to take every suggested change from your editor, but you should make an educated decision. If you don’t know why a change was made, ask for an explanation before overriding your editor. Assuming you have vetted your editor (see step 2 of How to Hire a Freelance Editor in 5 Easy Steps), you know you have chosen someone with the credentials to help you make your book the best it can be. Avoid negating that expertise by ignoring your editor’s feedback.

Beta readers aren’t editors. They don’t have the training, the experience, or the expertise. And editors aren’t beta readers. They want to get to the solution as fast as possible, and that means revealing aspects of the manuscript you may be hesitant to reveal to a general reader. Beta readers offer opinions; editors offer a professional’s perspective. Each of these roles has something to offer writers on their journey. For best results, do not confuse the two.

 

Like this blog? Find more advice and insights in Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Four Kinds of Editors: In Brief

Editors go by many different titles. Here are job descriptions of the four main types of editors you will come across, along with their alternate names and how much you can expect to pay when you hire them (based on industry averages).

Book coaches

Manuscripts in progress. Focus your writing and shape the overall direction of the book. May work with you from inception. Can guide you through the publishing process or for just a few months until you have your writing on track. Also called book shepherd.

Average rates: $100 to $300 per 1.5-hour session

Developmental editors

Very big picture. Shape the content of the book. Review organization of the book as a whole as well as organization within chapters; highlight areas that need work, need rewriting, require expansion, stray from topic. May overlap with copyediting. Also called content editing.

Average rates: $10 to $15 per manuscript page, or $45 to $75 an hour

Copyeditors

Big picture. Work with completed manuscripts. Fix errors of grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense, as well as flow of paragraphs and word choice. Highlight further areas of development. Will do some rewriting; query places that don’t work, don’t make sense, don’t say what you think they say. Can overlap with development. Also called line editing.

Average rates: $4 to $10 per manuscript page, or $18 to $45 an hour

Proofreaders

Finer details. Catch whatever the copyeditor may have missed. Fix grammar, punctuation, style, consistency, sense. Very little rewriting. Usually pages have been typeset so making changes becomes costly and time-consuming. For best results, do NOT use the same person to copyedit and proofread your work.

Average rates: $2 to $5 per typeset page, or $15 to $30 an hour

Whenever you hire a vendor of any kind, be sure to clarify what their services include. Open communication is the best way to ensure you are getting what you expect.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Launch Day Is Here! — Updated

Nothing goes as planned. Find out what changed and get the live links to all the happenings from last week and this one.

We Made It!

Today is the official launch of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro and we couldn’t be more excited! To celebrate, we have a blog tour and special events scheduled all week and throughout the month of September. Here’s a roundup:

Monday (9/1): “Easy Tips to Help You Save Money on That Necessary Edit,” guest blog post hosted by Susanne Lakin at Live Write Thrive

Tuesday (9/2): “5 Steps to Increasing Your Book’s Marketability with Research,” article published by Publishing Perspectives (Tuesday’s Featured Article)

Thursday (9/4): “How to Be a Good Client,” article published by Walrus Publishing

Friday (9/5): “Author-Editor Workability: The Crucial Element for a Successful Editing Experience,” guest post on Writer Beware

Kensington Row EventFriday Night: Launch Party at Kensington Row Bookshop, 3786 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20895, 6 to 9 p.m. Come out for a night of food, fun, and books! All are welcome.

Monday (9/8): Excerpt from Chapter 3 of Perfect Bound, “Looking at the Big Picture: Manuscript Development,” published by Jane Friedman

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Perfect Bound, “To Sign or Not to Sign with an Agent,” published by Vonnie Winslow Crist.

Thursday (9/11): We travel to St. Louis for the Midwest book launch at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108, 7 to 10 p.m. Again, all are welcome.

At the end of the month, Saturday, September 27, I will be having a book signing at Novel Books in Clarksburg, MD. Attendees can enter to win 25% off my next workshop.

This has been an amazing journey. We at Hop On send a heartfelt “Thank You!” to everyone who has helped us, especially the publishing professionals and authors who were interviewed for the book, as well as our family, friends, and colleagues. The book wouldn’t be what it is without you!

Get your copy of Perfect Bound through any of these booksellers:

page-0Hop On Publishing, a division of POP Editorial Services

Amazon.com

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Left Bank Books

Also available through iBooks, Gardners, Novel Books, and other sites around the web!

What You Can Expect from Your Copyeditor

In Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, I take authors through the complete publishing process. Each chapter includes a section on what you can expect and what is expected of you. The following excerpt is from the chapter “Cleaning Up Your Manuscript: Copyediting and Query Resolution.”

What You Can Expect from Your Copyeditor

Copyeditors tend to be practical, straightforward people, and that’s generally the approach they take to editing. Your CE will be reading the manuscript with the intent of cleaning up errors of punctuation, grammar, syntax, and word choice. That means cor­recting comma errors, fixing such problems as dangling or mis­placed modifiers, rewriting convoluted sentences, and replacing words that have been used incorrectly.

red penCEs also read for flow and style. Correcting flow means fix­ing or querying transition problems, rearranging paragraphs if needed, and adjusting sentences so that one thought flows natu­rally from the one before it. Style refers to either the house style, if the book is published through a press, or an agreed-on style for self-publishers. Quite often editing for style means selecting one of two equally valid options, and it ensures consistency through­out the manuscript. Most trade books follow The Chicago Manual of Style, although there are plenty of others to choose from. If you hire a copyeditor, be sure he or she is familiar with this style guide or the guide of your choice. Points of style to keep in mind include whether or not to spell out numbers between ten and one hundred, whether or not to use the serial comma (i.e., the comma before the conjunction in a list of three or more items), and the spelling or capitalization of specific terms related to your field or, in the case of fiction, created universe. Traditional pub­lishers will have a stable of freelancers who are familiar with their house style. Self-publishers should plan to discuss which style to use with their copyed­itor before editing begins.

Finally, CEs read for sense and consisten­cy. Sense, of course, means that what you are trying to say is what you actually are saying with the words you have chosen and that your plot or argument—whatever it may be—stands up to reasonable evaluation. Consis­tency covers a range of problem areas, from consistent spelling and treatment of special terms to consistent characterization and time line in a novel.

All of these changes, from grammar and punctuation to sense and consistency, are key in getting your book ready for publica­tion. To find out whether editing, or a lack of it, affects sales, you need only to read reviews on Amazon to see that readers do notice and will deter others from buying books that contain these basic errors. In your quest for a high-quality book that sells, copyediting is essential.

Your copyeditor will also be on the lookout for passages that may require permission. Ideally you have already secured permis­sion for long excerpts or any quotes from poetry and music. Those who worked with a developmental editor have probably at least begun this long process. If not, you will be asked to start now or else rework the text to eliminate the material requiring permission.

Writers of fiction and creative nonfiction may find the copyedit­ing they receive to be much lighter than what a business, sports, or self-help author may experience. This is due to the creative nature of the work. These writers will still find plenty of changes to gram­mar and punctuation when clarity is at stake, but allowances are made for the author’s voice and the voice of the characters. Some authors are concerned that a copyeditor will change dialogue from pidgin to standard English, for example, or otherwise take out the flavor of a character’s way of speaking. Generally, these fears are unfounded. Good copyeditors understand the difference between what is intentionally incorrect and what is a mistake on the part of the author. And if it is not apparent, the CE will ask for clarifi­cation. For those who are self-publishing, a sample edit from your prospective copyeditor will allow you to determine whether he or she will change the voice of your characters.

PerfectBound by Katherine PickettAs mentioned in the previous chapter, editing can be an emo­tional experience. Do your best not to take it personally when the CE changes your words. If you didn’t go through development, it’s possible that the CE has made significant changes: moving para­graphs, rewriting sentences, and adding transitions. If this gets your ire up, be sure to go through the manuscript a second time before returning it, so that you can temper your angry notes to the copyeditor. If you are working with a production editor, or PE, remember that the PE is not the person who made these changes and therefore should not be the target of your hurt feelings. All in all, publishing a book requires a thick skin; use yours now.

It bears noting that for traditionally published authors, the copyediting stage is often your last chance to make major changes to the manuscript. If you went through development already or per­formed the tasks outlined in the Potholes for Chapters 1–3, as well as the two at the end of this chapter, you should have a minimum of large changes to make. Even still, consider any global changes as well as the smaller points you want to fix when reviewing the copyedit­ing. As I told countless authors when I worked in-house, “Making changes later in the process is costly and time-consuming.” If you don’t make the changes now, they likely will not be made at all.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Road to Publication: Page Proofs

What do you do when you get page proofs for your book from your designer? Quite a bit, actually. Here’s the rundown on all that happens when you have page proofs in hand, as I experienced it:

  • I received first page proofs for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro April 15 via e-mail. I immediately printed four sets. My husband and I each had a copy, and two copies  were sent out for advance reviews. I e-mailed the PDF to three more people, one of them being the proofreader and the other two being more reviewers.

    IMG_1834
    The page proofs have arrived!
  • While the proofreader was working away, my husband and I were each reviewing our sets of the pages. I read the book from beginning to end, then looked at some specific problem areas, such as the table of contents, the running heads, and page breaks. I followed my own advice, as set out in a previous blog post.
  • Two and a half weeks passed while the pages were being proofread and reviewed. Then, a few days before the proofreading due date, the proofreader scanned and e-mailed to me the pages with her corrections. I then compiled her edits as well as my husband’s onto my master set. I looked through everything once again, resolved the discrepancies that crept up among the three of us, and sent the entire set of pages back to the designer.

Because my copyeditor and I had done so much work early on to get the manuscript in shape, the proofreader had limited changes and was therefore able to (1) finish faster and (2) avoid shipping the complete set of page proofs, saving me time and money on both counts.

  • The designer had ten days to input the changes and get second proofs to me. While that was happening, even more exciting developments came my way, namely, I received reviews back from three of the five people I had approached. Two reviewers declined to review the pages, stating that the book was not appropriate for their audience. But that was OK. The three reviews I received were terrific, and I promptly added them to the front and back covers.

    The final front cover with endorsement
    The final front cover with endorsement
  • The second round of page proofs arrived a day early, which was great because that gave the indexer an extra day to complete the index. Time was getting short and I was anxious to make sure something as routine as an index didn’t cause us to miss our desired pub date. The indexer had asked for a week to complete the index, and that gave us only a few days for final revisions. If any major problems arose, we would miss the files-to-printer date. Turned out my worry was for naught: the indexer completed the index in three days!
  • While the index was being created, I checked corrections from first pages to second pages and then checked the table of contents and running heads again. I also spot-checked a few areas, reading all of the chapter-opening and -closing boxes and rereading the introduction and epilogue. As always, some small errors had slipped through. Good thing I took the time to review the pages again.

If you are self-publishing, be prepared to go through at least three rounds of page proofs. For whatever reason, it often takes until the third or fourth set of proofs for a person to notice an error in display text.

  • Corrections to the revised proofs and the edited index were e-mailed back to the designer (yes, you have to edit an index), and, lickety-split, we had third pages. We were getting close now. One more round of corrections and, as of yesterday, the interior has been finalized!

The pace of book production, once you receive those first page proofs, is mind-boggling. Just when it looks like you will never finish on time, the stars align, designers and indexers beat their deadlines, and you start to wonder why you ever doubted the outcome.

Final files go to the printer on Monday. Next up will be printer proofs. The end is in sight! The end of production, anyway. As the author, you’re never really done with a book, are you?

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

MS2BK: Copyediting

MS2BK: The Design Process

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Save Your Reputation: Edit Your Writing and Hire Pros When Needed

It might not be clear to all aspiring authors that their reputation is at stake with everything they put out into the world. A typo in a cover letter, a small factual error in a novel, a few misspelled words in a short story — who will notice? Who will care?

The truth is, although many people won’t be bothered by little errors here and there, enough people will be, and it is often these people who are the most vocal or are in a position of power.

The repercussions can include having your query to an agent dismissed, your short story rejected from a literary mag, or your novel blasted on Amazon and Goodreads. Unfortunately, you won’t get a second chance with an agent, and those online reviews never go away. Furthermore, once your reputation is tainted, it can be a major feat to get it back.

The ease with which a writer can become published via an e-book has magnified this problem. With an e-book, you can bypass every other kind of publishing professional, upload your first draft to Smashwords, KDP, or any number of other e-book sites, and — voila — in 24 hours you have an e-book. There are no gatekeepers and no one to save you from yourself. You can put out a low-quality product and ruin your reputation as a writer with the click of a button.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take matters into your own hands and shore up your reputation by producing the highest-quality writing you can. Here’s how:

  1. Perform thorough self-editing. There are lots of tricks to this. You can read my take on it here.
  2. Work with beta readers. Belinda Pollard has a nice article cleverly titled “How to Find a Beta Reader” with some helpful tips.
  3. Hire a professional editor. Editors abound. Find a good one to help you with whatever kind of writing you do.
  4. If you are self-publishing, hire a professional designer to help with layout or, at the very least, buy a template from Joel Friedlander.

While the professional design won’t help with textual errors, it will help your reputation. When you are self-publishing, anything you can do  to improve the appearance of your book will also improve your perceived professionalism and, therefore, your reputation.

Given how difficult it is to get noticed as a writer, the one thing you have to rely on is your reputation. Respect, integrity, professionalism, follow-through — no kidding, good editing can help you demonstrate all of these important characteristics through your writing. Mind your reputation from the beginning so that you do not have to fight to get it back.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Road to Publication: Copyediting

Oh my! So much has happened in the life of Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro in just the last four weeks.

For one thing, we have chosen the final title (see above). Phew! I’m happy to have that figured out.

More important, however, the manuscript has gone through the copyediting and design processes. I’ll tell you all about design in the next post. Continue reading below to find out what it’s like to have your manuscript professionally edited.

Everyone Needs an Editor

If you have good writing and editing skills, it’s tempting to think you don’t need a copyeditor. If you already know the rules, why not just do it yourself? I’ll tell you why: you are too close to your work to see all of the errors. As an editor with 15 years of experience, I have been around long enough to know everyone needs an editor, even editors.

I asked a former colleague of mine to do the editing for Perfect Bound, and she happily agreed. I was nervous to send the manuscript out into the world, even to someone I know and trust, so I did my best to clean up as many errors as I could. I gave myself a week to read the manuscript one last time, from beginning to end, then sent it off. My husband took photos to commemorate the momentous occasion.

I was nervous to send my manuscript to the copyeditor.
I was nervous to send my manuscript to the copyeditor.
But I knew it was what my book needed.
But I knew it was what my book needed.
And off it went!

Although we are friends, I knew from my time working with her that this copyeditor would pull no punches, and I was right. She did a terrific job, uncovering errors I would have sworn I had fixed, questioning places that didn’t make sense or were incomplete, and prompting me to revisit some sections. I laughed to see that she found every instance where I had rushed my writing or thought, “Oh, that’s good enough.”

In the end I was surprised that after all of my time with the manuscript, combing through it and making changes, I had left so much for her to catch. But she earned her paycheck and saved me loads of embarrassment and grief. I cannot imagine having moved forward with the project without the help of a professional.

Reviewing the Editing

My copyeditor asked for an extra week to complete the project, since she is not a full-time freelancer. To help keep the project moving forward, she returned the chapters in two batches. That way I could begin my review of the early portion of the book while she finished editing the later chapters. It worked out great.

The manuscript (as is industry standard now) was edited electronically in Microsoft Word using the Track Changes function. Queries were embedded in the text, which makes them easy to find and delete. I went through each chapter, reviewed all of the changes, and answered the queries. Sometimes my answer was a simple “yes, edits are correct” and I could delete the query. Other times I needed to add a few sentences or rewrite a paragraph to resolve the problem. I made my changes directly in the file, tracking them so that I could easily see my corrections and preserve a record of the changes the copyeditor had suggested.

It took me about ten days  to review the editing and answer all of the queries in the full 240-page manuscript.  With my husband’s help, I also fact-checked the manuscript one more time to ensure it was as accurate as it could be. Once those steps were completed, I commenced my final revision.

One More Pass Through the Manuscript

By this point it was difficult to begin reading the manuscript again. I lamented having to read pages of text that I had read and revised ten times already, but I knew it had to be done. The copyeditor, my husband, and I had made significant changes that I needed to review. And so I dove in.

As always, I found plenty I wanted to change. Now, at least, the changes were smaller and easier to implement. I did rearrange a paragraph or two, but most of the revising consisted of adjusting word choice, finessing a transition, or catching spelling errors that spell-check had missed. This was my last chance to make major changes before the book went into layout, and I took the opportunity to fix all of the needling problem areas I found.

When I had done as much as I could do, I ran spell-check one more time, removed any inadvertent double spaces between words, and sent it off to the designer for layout. That was Monday. Now I have a short break before page proofs come in and I have to read the book all over again.

Copyediting was a fun and stressful time. I am happy to have the safety net of a professional edit, and I know the book just keeps getting better. And I am one step closer to having my book.

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

 

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Don’t be “scared.” They’re only scare quotes.

Are you ready for some “fun”?

Here, have some “free” chips.

These are “delicious”!

Have you ever noticed someone using quotation marks like this? Some writers seem to pepper their documents with quote marks, leaving their readers baffled at all the hidden meanings. There is a name for this type of punctuation. They are called scare quotes, and they are used to put the reader on alert that a different meaning is intended from what is commonly understood by a word. They are especially handy for indicating skepticism or irony.

When quote marks are used this way, it’s as if the writer has inserted so-called before the word. The reader stops and considers what else that word could mean. For example:

The “hero” who showed up at the crime scene turned out to be the person who set the fire.

When used needlessly, they can result in some raised eyebrows and possibly a snicker or two.

After a short chase, police officers arrested the “man.”

Quotation marks have several great uses — to indicate direct quotations, definitions of words, titles of certain works, dialogue — but emphasis is not one of them. That is the job of italics, underlining, and exclamation points (though, please, do not use all three).

Not sure whether you need quote marks around something? Ask yourself these brief questions:

  • Am I quoting someone?
  • Am I defining a specific word or phrase?
  • Is this dialogue?
  • Is this the title of an essay, article,  poem, TV episode, or chapter in a book?
  • Am I being ironic?

If you answered “no” to all of the above, you probably don’t need quote marks. Look to one of the other ways to emphasize a word, or try no emphasis. Often, the reader will understand your intonation without any “help” from you.

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