- A good freelance editor is essential
- Find a proofreader
- Getting a few beta-readers
- Formatting your files to market standards
A good editor is a critical member of your writing and publishing team. And it will take you a little time to find a good one to help you. Start looking for one as early in the process as you can and get used to the idea that it will cost you a lot of money.
“No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.” – J. Russell Lynes
In the new digital publishing world, there are billions of websites, blogs, and articles published each year. It doesn’t matter how good your marketing is, or what size your platform is. If your book is substandard, your readers will make you pay. You’re the writer, so make sure you sell a product that is the best that you can produce. That means getting the best editor that you can get.
Search for them on Twitter, or using Google. Check that they’re actually editors with vital industry experience, and they can offer references. Send them a chapter or two to edit and see what they send back.
Your editor is not your spouse, mother or friend. Having a degree in English is lovely, being a lecturer in English is a nice job to have, but not applicable to editing a novel. These skills don’t make them an editor, it only makes them good at English. A good editor will know how to polish your book with the view to make it sell. They will do this all the while trying to ensure that your voice shows through.
Be prepared to learn
My first novel, CELT, was about eighty thousand words long and my editor hacked it back to forty-eight thousands words. I was crushed, but he provided a fantastic editorial document explaining the emotions I would be going through, and how to bring them back into perspective. Added to this document was a chapter-by-chapter breakdown listing what was wrong and why sections were deleted.
I suddenly felt better. The story was great, it was just my newbie writing that wasn’t. It’s the best investment of money I have made to date because I learned so much. Five reworks later, and twelve months on, and I had completed a full novel again.
It’s a journey, and your editor is part of your team to get your work published. You cannot get there on your own. A good editor knows how to polish your work so readers will not only love your writing but recommend you to others. That sells more work.
After ten or so reworks I become spelling blind to my own work. Many of us do. This is where your second team member comes into play. Have a look on Twitter for a good proofreader and go through the same reference check and sample chapter exercise as you did with your editor.
You only engage their services once you’re ready to publish. Once they send the updated files back, you can check the changes, and publish. Don’t be tempted to start reading it over again. No changes are allowed once it’s been proofread.
I also use a proofreader for my short and long book blurbs that get uploaded along with the books. People will tolerate a couple of spelling or grammar mistakes in the book. Mistakes on your blurb scream newbie writer and readers will not risk their cash.
After the editor has polished your novel, and you’ve updated the changes, and done a few more edits, it’s time for the beta-reader. These are readers who are willing to do a little more than just read the manuscript.
I have a growing mailing list, and all of my beta-readers come from there. I put out a general call for help, and volunteers come forward to help in return for a signed printed paperback once the novel is done. If you ask nicely, they may even give you your first online reviews.
I print off bound manuscripts and post it to them. I tend to limit beta-readers to people in the UK because of the cost. Postage can be high for large packages, and you also need to provide a pre-paid addressed envelope to return the manuscript. I insert a covering letter asking for certain notes to be made in the margins of the manuscript. I need them to check logic, structure and character strength. Another task is to get them to rate the chapters out of 10 for excitement or emotion (they are action thrillers after all).
Once they’re all returned to me, I scan through all of them and look for common issues or comments. If one person doesn’t like something, I take it onboard but might not action anything. If several readers all point to the same flaw or mistake, you bet that I rewrite the section
Your digital file needs formatting to one of two main digital formats. A Mobi file for use on Amazon, and an epub file for everything else. They have to be in these formats so the various e-readers can display the book according to the reader’s preference (font type, font size and eyesight). Although I have a background in IT, I just don’t have the time to wade through the document again and make sure it is the correct format.
It would take a few days, and I could better spend that time writing or marketing. So I’m very happy to pay a professional $50 – $100 for a tried and tested external service. I use Ebook Launch, and can highly recommend them.
Re-read the sixth page in the Writing Tip series – Part 6 – Sitting down to write
Or, move on to the Publishing Tips Section
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