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

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Copyright Tips and Tidbits: How and When to Register, How to Format Your Notice, and What Not to Do

Self-publishers, take note: While it’s true that you hold an inherent copyright to your work just for the fact that you wrote it, should anyone try to infringe on your copyright you will be best served by registering with the US Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov). That may sound intimidating, but it is actually a fairly straightforward process.

How to Register

Start by going to the US Copyright Office website. The Copyright Office accepts both online and paper applications, and the applications come with easy-to-understand instructions. The filing fee (as of 2015) is $35 for online registration and $85 for hard copy.

In addition to the application and the filing fee, you will be asked to provide a copy of the “deposit” — what the Copyright Office calls the work to be registered. If you file electronically you can send an electronic file or a hard copy of your work; file with paper and you  have to send a hard copy. (The Copyright Office prefers online applications, but you are not bound by that.)

When to Register

You can register your book either before or after publication. Although simple, it can be a lengthy process, as getting the certificate can take nearly three months for the electronic application and nearly six months for paper applications. During particularly busy times, those lags can be even longer.

The good news is, unless you have reason to believe you will not be granted copyright, you don’t have to wait until you receive your certificate before publishing the work. The date of registration is the date the office receives the completed application, not the date you receive your certificate. Still, copyright registration is not something you want to let slip through the cracks. I would recommend beginning earlier rather than later.

Upon publication, if you have a print book, submit a hard copy to be held in the Library of Congress.

What Not to Include

When you apply for copyright, you are making a public record. That means anyone can view the information you supply. The Copyright Office website offers this pointed advice:

Personally identifying information, such as your address, telephone number, and email address, that is submitted on the registration application becomes part of the public record. Some information will be viewable in the Copyright Office’s on‑line databases that are available on the Internet. For this reason, you should provide only the information requested. Please do NOT provide any additional personal information that is not requested, such as your social security number or your driver’s license number.

As identity theft is a real problem in this country, heeding this advice only makes sense.

How and Where Your Copyright Notice Should Appear

Your copyright notice belongs on the reverse of the title page in your book. A valid copyright notice includes the word “Copyright” or the symbol “©”; the year of registration; and the copyright holder’s name, in that order:  © 2015 Katherine Pickett

Some publishers choose to use both the word and the symbol for copyright as well as the word “by” — Copyright © 2015 by Katherine Pickett — but that is not required.

Pitfall: Preregistration vs. Registration

The Copyright Office provides the option of “preregistration” for works that have not yet been completed. (Important: This is separate from registration of unpublished works.) The fee for preregistration is a whopping $140. I suspect this fee is intended to be a deterrent, as even the Copyright Office notes that preregistration is not helpful for most people. Rather, preregistration is recommended only for those who meet these two criteria:

  1. You think it is likely someone will infringe on your copyright before the work is made public, and
  2. The work isn’t finished.

Note also that even if you preregister, you will still need to go through the registration process. Except in extreme circumstances, you will most likely want to register your work rather than preregister it.

 

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, Left Bank Books, and other 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.

Learn How to Make Your Book Commercially Competitive — Now Save 25%!

In the past, I have offered two related workshops, one that presents information on how to make your manuscript more marketable and another that teaches you how to take your manuscript through the publishing process. I gave these workshops often when I lived in St. Louis, and now that I am settled into life in Maryland, I am resurrecting them here!

Saturday, November 8, 2014, please join me at Kensington Row Bookshop for Crafting a Marketable Manuscript. This interactive workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and includes personalized guidance on how to make your manuscript more marketable.  Registration is required. Visit http://www.popediting.net/ServicesandWorkshops.html to reserve your seat.

This workshop is ideal for:

  • Writers who are interested in selling their books, either to publishers, to agents, or directly to readers
  • Writers who are in the early stages of writing (idea stage, first draft, manuscript development)

What you will learn:

  • How to catch the eye of publishers and readers
  • Why having a marketing plan upfront makes you more competitive
  • Practical advice on how to craft a marketing hook, define your audience, and research the competition

Why take a workshop from me? Read my bio here.

And these are the notes I received after presenting this workshop to the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild:

“Thank you! Loved it!”

“Excellent presentation! Thank you!”

“Thank you, Katherine, for your input and valuable knowledge on Crafting a More Marketable Manuscript! I enjoyed the class and will certainly use the marketing tools and resources from your handouts.”

Kensington Row Bookshop is located at 3786 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20895, between Silver Spring and Bethesda. $70.
Now just $50.

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

 

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

Why a Sample Edit Should Be Cheap or Free

OK, everyone. Get ready for a rant.

I have recently come across several editors who charge for sample edits, with some charging more than $100 for a ten-page sample. One woman said outright, “I do nothing for free.”

I respectfully disagree with that approach. Why? Because the sample edit is as much a tool for the editor as it is for the writer.

money-300x271A ten-page sample edit might take two hours. To give that away for free is the same as handing over between $50 and $100, depending on the editor’s rates. But is that so much to give up when a project could garner the editor $1,500-$3,000? Before paying for a sample edit, writers should understand that the editor is trying to get their business. They should also know that the editor learns as much from the sample as the writer does.

It’s true some editors will tell you that the sample is for you, the writer, to learn about the work they will do. And that is one very important aspect of a sample edit. But for the editor, the sample is also invaluable. From the sample edit the editor learns

  1. What level of edit the piece needs
  2. How much it is likely going to cost the writer (and earn the editor)
  3. Whether this writer is someone the editor even wants to work with

On several occasions I have returned a sample edit with a note letting the potential client know he or she is not ready for editing. In those cases a writing class or critique group was going to be the more helpful — and cheaper — way for the author to improve the manuscript. If I were to edit it, I would have had to rewrite the whole thing to make it good, and that is not the place for an editor. A ghostwriter, sure, but not an editor.

I have also turned away work from people who are unprofessional, are writing on topics that don’t interest me, or are potentially unbalanced. When I was a new freelancer, ten-plus years ago, I didn’t hair-pulling-womando sample edits, and I often regretted it. Now I insist on it. If I were to then also charge the author for something that is only going to save me handfuls of hair, I would consider that a ripoff.

So, editors don’t want to give away their time. I understand. I don’t want to give away my time either. But I am not convinced that performing a sample edit for cheap or free is the same as giving away time. The editors may not be making what they would if this were an actual client (rather than a potential client), but they are learning crucial information about the project they are thinking about taking on.

In freelance work there is such a thing as non-billable hours. Sample edits, if you ask me, should be filed under that category. It is a small injustice to authors to ask them to pay for something that makes the editor’s job so much easier. It’s not like there is a dearth of editors in the world, either. Finding a good editor who doesn’t charge for a sample edit is absolutely possible.

Writers, think twice before agreeing to pay for a sample edit. It’s not necessary. And more than likely, that $100 means more to you than it does to the editor.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro.