Welcome to Day 2 of Carving Our Own Destiny! Yesterday had some amazing posts--we took a class in Publication 101; learned what happens once we have a spanking new book; and the lovely Ms. Tiffany King, YA Author, stopped by to give us her testimony on why she chose self-publication! If you missed any of the posts, you can find a list here.
Today we have even more awesomeness. First up, Ms. Theresa Stevens, editor extraordinaire, is here to give us tips and advice on Editing For Self-Publishers. You may know Theresa from the blog Edit To Rent. I love that blog so much I hired her to help me on my first manuscript. It generated a lot of agent interest and full requests, but never sealed the deal. Now, with Theresa's help, I know why!
I asked her to join us because, in my opinion, editing is the most important aspect in the publication process--and one worthy of investment. For me, the cover is what gets me to pick up a book, the editing is what keeps me turning the pages and coming back for more. But can a self-pub author get an editor? Do they cost an arm and a leg? If you really just have no money you can spend, are there important tips you should look out for in your manuscript? That is what Theresa is here to discuss and I can personally vouch for her mad skillz. Remember to enter to win a free ebook from our Giveaway Prize Back, be sure to comment below or tweet this post. Even better, do both! More details can be found here.
Take it away, Theresa!
Editing For Self-Publishers
Book retail models have been transformed in recent years. The traditional chain of distribution moves the book like this:
* from author to publisher, then
* from publisher to distributor, then
* from distributor to retailer, then
* from retailer to reader
Different ways of rerouting the books, such as book clubs and direct sales, have always existed, but those were driven by the publishing companies. Now, for the first time, we have methods that are driven by the retailers and which allow authors to skip the publisher and distributor at a substantial increase in per-copy profits to the author.
However, skipping the publisher and distributor means losing out on the advantages of having a professional partner handle things like accounting, cover art, marketing, and editing. It falls to the remaining parties to make up these differences, and for most of it, that means it actually falls to the author. Many authors are now becoming savvy in the ways of Photoshop, InDesign, blog tours, press releases, reviews procedures, and all sorts of things previously left to their publishers. But the one area that will actually suffer from a can-do DIY attitude is in editing. Editing your own manuscript for publication is something akin to performing surgery on yourself: painful, counterproductive, and wholly unnecessary.
I used to work as an in-house acquisitions editor. In fact, I ran an editorial department and supervised the work of editors, copy editors, and of course, authors. Now I perform the same basic tasks as a private editor for authors who are self-publishing their work via Kindle Direct or the Nookstore and similar venues. The work I do on the actual manuscripts is virtually no different now from what I did in-house. I identify and correct problems in manuscripts in preparation for publication in either case. And I do see a lot of the same mistakes come up over and over again.
If you want to try to go it alone, without the help of a trained editor, here are some things to watch out for:
* Will people cheer for the characters? It’s not enough to give the characters a clear goal. You also have to make the readers care about the characters reaching that goal. If the character is dull, cruel, unfocused, or baffling, that won’t happen.
* Is each scene tightly focused around an event with an uncertain outcome or effect? Wandering scenes with unclear purposes are a common problem in manuscripts, even from seasoned authors. We all get off-track sometimes, and we can’t always see when that happens. Scene charts and maps can help you spot flab in scenes.
* Does the book end on a strong note? A weak ending will do more than just damage the reader’s opinion of this book. It will also keep them from buying your next book. You should put at least as much thought and care into the final three chapters as into the first three chapters.
* Does the plot evolve so that the problems become more complicated and difficult as the events unfold? This is what puts the “rise” in rising action. If problems in the middle are trifling or too easily solved, if characters are overreacting instead of proacting, the pace will suffer.
* Is the writing strong throughout? This means good sentence structure, no dangling participles or other misplaced modifiers, strong verbs, commas used consistently and appropriately, and so on.
It might also be useful to consider the different types of editorial input. There are four basic stages of editing:
1. Content editing looks at plot, theme, character, pacing, and structure.
2. Line editing looks at sentence and paragraph mechanics.
3. Copy editing looks at grammar and usage.
4. Proofreading checks the final text for typesetting errors.
There is some overlap between these four functions, but it might be possible that you have a critique group that can perform the role of content editors, and you need help with line and copy editing. Maybe you have a friend or family member who is willing to act as proofreader in exchange for a free advanced reading copy. I would note that fictive grammar is different from academic grammar. If you’re writing fiction, you need someone with good skills in fictive grammar, and it might be harder to find a volunteer with that particular skill set.
If you wish to hire an editor instead of relying on volunteers, there are plenty of us out there. What should you look for in an editor? Experience is a telling factor. If all their experience is with business reports or newspapers or similar nonfiction, you might not want to hire them for your novel. Look for a list of clients or of books edited for publication. Sometimes that information won’t be easy to find because our clients often want to remain anonymous, but referrals or acknowledgements can give clues where a client list isn’t available.
Another important consideration is cost. Most editors charge between $1-15 dollars per page, depending on their skill level and the complexity of the task at hand. Tasks like line editing will be more expensive than content editing, and items like cover copy or dissertations will be more expensive than prose fiction or mainstream nonfiction. When you’re shopping for an editor, be sure you’re comparing rates for similar products from editors with similar skill sets.
Then there will be other factors that can affect price. Until recently, I kept my rates on the low side of average because I was in a building phase and want to attract new clients. As my roster grew, my rates for new clients has risen to reflect that. Even so, I would caution anyone from selecting an editor on price alone. In some respects, you get what you pay for. Those of us who are good at this know we can charge more – and we do. I know, for example, that my clients get more than just an edited manuscript. They also get clear guidance in how to improve their writing for the next manuscript, which is a side benefit from my experience as a writing teacher. Not all editors use the manuscript to teach new skills, but then again, some editors can turn around a full manuscript in a day or two, and my turnaround time is nowhere near that.
So, now I'm going to throw this back to you. What questions or concerns do you have about editing? What do you think of all these new distribution models – are they good or bad for writers?