5 Motivation Tips for New WritersApril 10, 2023
The Importance of Being Edited: A Guest Post by Tracy Lombard.
“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” Mark Twain
Playing around with words is literally what I do every day.
I am an editor because I love nothing better than to be immersed in word land. It’s my happy place. In this post I hope to impress on you the wisdom of getting your book professionally edited if you are going to self-publish. In fact, sometimes writers will get their manuscripts edited at least once before approaching traditional publishers or agents.
Why should you get your book edited?
To get the best possible outcome for all the hard that you put into your book, and I am not talking about typos and grammatical errors. What I can do for you as an editor is take what you spent hundreds of hours writing and make it stand out in an ocean of non-edited books.
There is nothing worse, for me as a reader, to be encouraged to buy a book that has a great blurb or synopsis and then 4 sentences into chapter one, it’s all I can do not to throw the book in the bin. First, you have wasted my money, second, my time. I am also very likely to leave a negative review and I will demand a refund. I’d rather give my money to someone who has taken the time to make sure that their story is not only enticing, but also polished and grabs my attention from the start. That goes equally for fiction and non-fiction.
There are various types of editing that can ensure your book has the best possible chance of succeeding.
Also known as substantive editing, focuses on structural issues, sequencing, pacing, point of view and looks at the book as a whole.
For fiction, developmental editing will also focus on character, plot, setting, theme, style, POV and conflict.
What you can expect from a developmental edit is a structured breakdown of the books content. Your editor will highlight issues and problem spots that you need to revisit. You will be provided with a substantial document of notes. It will be a thorough breakdown, chapter by chapter, pinpointing problems and suggesting solutions. A developmental editor is going to ask the big picture questions when reading your book for the first time. Does this book meet the needs of its genre and target audience. I call it the deep dive.
What a developmental edit doesn’t do is look at spelling, grammar or punctuation.
A copy edit will look at the effectiveness and correctness of a sentence. The editor will correct grammar, spelling errors and edit sentences to be as effective as possible. Here they will also look at sentence structure, tense, imagery, flow and showing vs telling.
Proofreading is looking for any final errors that could crop up in the final formatting of the book.
Making sure that the book is completely error free.
However, the editing process starts with you, the writer. If you give a copy editor your first draft, you run the risk of your voice being edited out. You’ll also be paying someone to do a job you could have done yourself, and no, I am not talking myself out of earnings by telling you that. I want to maintain your books integrity.
I have had a client who did not want to do the ‘homework’ side of a developmental edit, as in the re-writing, and it cost them almost double because I essentially did a lot of the rewriting.
If I get an edited manuscript, it leaves me free to elevate your book to the next level. Polish it. That in turn will mean more sales for you.
How do you know when to hire which type of editor?
Writing a book is like painting a wall. Your first coat will be a bit patchy because the plaster usually absorbs most of the paint. The second coat corrects the patchiness, but it’s the third coat that really makes the colour pop and look like the image where the colour first caught your eye or matches the colour swatch.
You need a developmental editor when you don’t know how to proceed on your own. You might think that your book is perfect, or you may have identified some issues, but you can’t identify what they are. Both are good signs that it’s time to get a professional editor. You have done all you can with your book and now is the time that you would benefit from a second pair of eyes.
After the developmental edit it’s time to action the feedback and notes. The good thing here is that you will have had a decent break from your manuscript, allowing you to look at it again with fresh eyes. Here is where I tell my writers to make a few more passes at the manuscript and it is perfectly normal for you to write another 2-3 drafts, or more, at this stage. A lot of the time you’ll find that you make changes anyway, as your brain continues to process what you have written, even when you haven’t touched it in weeks, months, years even. You may have thought of a better way to say something you previously wrote. Your writing will also improve hugely because of the guidance of your developmental edit notes.
It is also important to take the pressure off yourself by being mindful that the only deadline, is the one that you have set yourself. If, however, you do want to work to a deadline – some of us work better under pressure – be realistic and flexible with yourself and your timeline. Start your project by factoring in all the many stages of getting your book ready for publication. Do some research, talk to other authors who have written something similar to what you want to write if you have no idea where to start.
Once your developmental edit is done, you should revise your manuscript on a sentence level, that way when your editor starts to do their line/copy edit, they are polishing your writing, taking it up a level. If I get a messy manuscript I can correct it, but you run the risk of having your voice edited out. On the other hand, give me a polished manuscript and I will make your voice really shine through, sing, thereby grabbing your reader’s attention and holding it to the very end. Which will mean more sales for you, because you will get great reviews and recommendations.
As an editor it’s my duty to maintain your style of writing and your voice, whether your book is fiction or non-fiction.
I’ll polish your manuscript by fixing any parts that are clunky, awkward or convoluted. In non-fiction, I’ll do research and fact check. I’ll also be checking for any copyright infringements that could potentially crop up.
I had a client who referenced Cleopatra’s death in a chapter of her non-fiction book. She had written it by recalling the movie version that she hadn’t watched in decades and there were a lot of inconsistencies that her readers could have picked up on. A little bit research and some correcting gave the chapter far more impetus, helping her make the point that she was driving at so much more powerful.
If a developmental edit is not possible in your budget, then opt for an edit, but I suggest that you write, re-write, re-write, then re-write some more. As many times as it takes for you to be confident that your manuscript is as polished as it can be before you put into the hands of an editor.
You will absolutely need a proofreader, or two, for the final stage before printing. Especially if you are self-publishing and going to format the book yourself. Hire your proofreader after you’ve formatted the book. If you’re hiring a typesetter or an interior designer, then you need a proofreader first. Typesetters don’t want a book that isn’t proofread because if any changes must be made after it’s typeset, that can mess up the layout and you will have to hire the typesetter again, costing you more.
I’ll finish off with some figures for you, based on research.
- 80% of self-published books never sell more than a handful of copies- mainly to family and friends – because they haven’t been edited.
- The top 10 percent of self-published authors earn 75% of the revenues available via self-publishing mediums because their books are edited and marketed well.
- Half of self-published authors earn less than $500 a year.
- The average self-published title earns under $100 for the entire lifespan of the book’s availability.
Don’t let your book be one of those statistics.
If you have a project that you would like to discuss you can find me at:
or e-mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org