Who will edit the manuscript for your self-published book? If you haven’t thought about the question you should.
There were 347,178 new print books published in 2011, the last year for which complete figures are available. With ebooks added the number probably approaches half a million. How will your book stand out from that torrent of others?
Professionally edited page of Joanna Penn's How to Enjoy Your Job courtesy of The Creative Penn under Creative Commons
You might begin to answer that question by thinking about a slogan Ford used in its advertising a few years ago, Quality is Job One! How will you assure that your manuscript is of the highest quality it can be? The simple answer is, make sure it is well-edited.
You get it, but editing is costs money and you have a limited budget. You have a family member who was an English major in college or you belong to a writing group where you have gotten a thorough critique of your work. You have used their feedback to thoroughly revise your draft. The changes really improved its quality.
Before sending the files off to the printer you might want to give some thought to best-selling author Guy Kawasaki’s advice in his recent book about self-publishing, APE: How to Publish a Book.
A high-quality book requires extensive testing and copyediting. You can get these processes done without a traditional publisher, but you cannot eliminate them. Your goal is a book that looks and feels as good as any book from a big-time, traditional publisher.
Your friends, relatives or writing group can give you valuable feedback, but they can’t replace a professional editor.
How can a professional editor improve your book? There are essentially three stages in the editorial process. Each of the three is important for a different reason.
- Content Editing (also referred to as developmental or substantive editing) seeks to improve the overall manuscript. In nonfiction a content editor looks at the book’s structure and the development of your argument and support for it. In fiction the content editor examines the effectiveness of characters and plot. The content editor works closely with you to revise the manuscript by adding where detail is needed, cutting where it will result in greater clarity, or moving parts of the text within the manuscript to make them more effective.
- Copy Editing is more focused, concentrating on language and making sure your style is clear and consistent.
- Proofreading is all about correctness. The proofreader catches any errors including misspellings, errors in style, punctuation, grammar or formatting.
The ability to do each of these things is a learned skill rooted in sound training and honed by years of experience. Expecting family or friends to perform these tasks with the same level of proficiency as a professional is shortsighted.
As Guy Kawasaki observed, “This is one of the dumbest places to try to save money…” Making sure your manuscript is the best quality it can be is worth the price.